The past few days have been difficult ones for anyone who makes their livelihood in the arts sector (or gig-economy in general). Each morning our social media and inboxes have been flooded with a kaleidoscope of changing plans to sanitize openings and classrooms to putting workshops off a week or two to finally, with our province declaring a state of emergency, indefinitely postponing all workshops, classes, openings, talks and even closing museums and galleries.
Disappointing, but absolutely the right thing to do - as an instructor, my first priority is the well being of the people in my classes. Your health is important, my health is important as is the health of our loved ones. Painting, letterpress and linocut can wait a few more weeks.
Some thoughts for all of you who have received those disappointing emails over the past few days. If your financial situation has become more precarious since all these closures and announcements have come - please take refunds if they are offered and then sign up for things when your situation has improved. If you are doing okay, please keep yourself registered so that class can resume. If you are doing okay but the new date doesn't work, consider transferring your registration to someone who could use a pick me up or donate the registration fee to the organization who is hosting the workshop.
We artists and instructors are going to be hit by this in the coming months, so if you are in a place to buy art or theatre tickets or sign up for interesting classes just know that you will be helping a lot of people who might need it. Contract workers and freelancers tend to fall through typical safety nets during times like this, so every bit of art related support helps us all in the end.
For those of you who are fellow artists, instructors or are also put in a place of financial instability from this pandemic, let's have each other's backs through all this. Make a commitment to liking and sharing each other's posts and commenting support through our social media channels.
I'll be totally honest about the last part I typed - this morning I was feeling pretty down about all these postponements and worried about people and organizations that I truly love. At some point, I just decided it was time to spread some sort of positive feeling on all the posts I came across. Let's all just decide to do that in the coming days. I know I felt better immediately and a little more in control of how I felt about all this.
Stay safe and healthy, wash your hands, make art, sleep more, get some sunshine and don't hoard toilet paper. We are all in this together and I promise that soon enough things will start creaking back into a normal routine. When it does, I'll be waiting and ready to teach that darn workshop that just got postponed!
I have stalled on writing this year end/beginning blog post. I think because, for a while I was thinking about the past decade and it really tripped me up. Long story short, I have not made the gains in the past 10 years that I would have wanted for myself. In fact, I'm in a totally different head space now than I was 10 years ago. So, in order to move this blog post forward, forget the past decade, that post would have been too whiny.
Back to 2019 - what an unexpectedly good year. Here are some reasons why:
1. St. Louis is an amazing city and the Ladies of Letterpress Conference was filled to the brim with fantastic people, big machines and thousands of things to learn. I want to try my best to return this year. I feel like I only brushed the surface of potential those days can hold. I came home with many treasures and ideas that will keep me out of trouble for the bulk of 2020. I suspect.
2. I returned to my role at Heritage Park as a Trades Interpreter for the Strathmore Standard Newspaper Office. This was meaningful in a multitude of ways - working and learning on the letterpress equipment, broadening my historical knowledge of printing and most importantly the friendships that have come out of my time there. Plus, knowing that pictures of me wearing my Edwardian costume, clicking away on the Linotype are being posted to random tourist social media accounts worldwide is highly entertaining.
3. After taking a break during the year I was recovering, I resumed my membership at Alberta Printmakers and found lots of ways to become involved - serving on the Board, printing manhole covers, demonstrating linocut printmaking and teaching a Letterpress class! They won't be able to get rid of me in 2020, I have my eyes set on using their sweet Vandercook a whole lot more in the new year.
4. I became acquainted with the Making Treaty 7 Society and had a chance to show a piece that explores my First Nations heritage. This, along with group shows at the Calgary Stampede, The Leighton Art Centre and Alberta Printmakers, I have had a wonderful variety of venues to work with and audiences to reach.
5. Speaking of venues, along with those mentioned above, I need a special shout out to Bluerock Gallery in Black Diamond for not only carrying my work, but hosting a pop-up for me at Christmas. I also need to say thanks to Inglewood Art Supplies and Studio for having me in to teach so often and for being so flexible and fun to work with.
6. I am no longer in "recovery mode" - while I am not the same person I was a few years ago, I think I am far stronger and functional than I have been for many years. The small deficits that I have noticed are being worked on how to work around them (and that in itself has been a fun challenge to meet head on). Add to this that my family has had a good year without too many challenges as well - life truly is good.
Of course there are more things to celebrate, but these are the big things that come to mind. So what is ahead for the coming year? More of the same, but with more refinement. I'm looking forward to teaching more, making more and sharing more in the months ahead. I am really wanting to push myself again (something that has been hard for a few years). I've been looking at a lot of art, reading lots and talking through some exciting projects. Hopefully 2020 will an even more exciting year!
Oh and one other thing -
Students: I have a whole slew of classes posted on my main page, ready for you to register for (and more coming soon) Click here for more info.
Organizations and Art Groups: I have a bunch of new workshop and class ideas posted on my booking page (and customization is totally possible) Click here for more info.
I have very much enjoyed becoming a more active member with Alberta Printmakers this year. They are comprised of amazing artists and supporters who are super inclusive and encouraging. One of their yearly fundraising efforts is the Not So Mini Print Exchange and Exhibition. It is an international call and artists submit an edition of 10 prints. Of that edition, 8 prints get given to other artists and 2 go up for auction with the proceeds going to fund further A/P projects.
My piece, The Fox and the Crow, was a return visit to an old theme that has been popping up in my work for about a decade. It's based off of a fable by Aesop - in it a crow has a tasty morsel of cheese in her beak. A sly fox decides to convince the crow that her voice is beautiful and that he wants her to sing. As she starts to caw and croak, the cheese drops to the ground and the fox runs away with the cheese. This has always been interpreted by me as a stark warning about flattery and other wasted words.
I have a hard time receiving compliments, I tend to be very awkward and uncomfortable when this happens. This is a long standing thing - hence the reoccurring fox and crow theme that I relate to on a deeper level. This strangeness about compliments was recently pointed out to me and I started to process a little bit about why it is hard to hear those things (haven't totally figured that out). I do like receiving warm feedback (especially from those that I really respect their opinions) and I decided it was time to put the Fox and Crow theme to rest. It was the subject of a print I did a long time ago that was rushed and I was dissatisfied with the end result.
This version I am much happier with. I printed it using 3 different blocks (the large red rectangle with scalloped pattern, the blue circle/floral blocks (used twice) and the final fox and crow block. I played around on my Chandler & Price treadle letterpress with very diluted pigment and tried my best to get nice registration and clean edges. It turned out well. I agonized over the composition for quite some time because I couldn't picture the placement very easily in my head - but at the end, I think it reads well. I feel like I am making slow art these days. Hopefully the flavours are that much more developed because of it. I also feel like I'm starting to make peace with some of my hesitations surrounding kind words about my work.
Come and check it out and all the other amazing pieces at:
Not So Mini Exhibition
December 6th - 21st, 2019
Find out more here.
So I have a confession of sorts. I've recently come to the slow realization that despite having almost two years to recover and working very diligently on my artwork, I still have a very difficult time visualizing what it is I am wanting to make.
What do I mean by that? Well, if you asked me to close my eyes and picture a chair, I could do that pretty easily. If you ask me to make you a picture featuring a chair I literally draw a blank. Nothing. Now, resist temptation to chime in with "me too! I never know what to draw or where to start!" That's not really what I'm talking about... I have this hard to describe loss of not really being able to do what I once was very good at which is this sequence of "here is the request" then "explosion of images in my head" then "rework images in my head" then do a sketch. Now it's more like "here is the request" then... crickets.
So, why I am sharing this? Honestly, the idea of this is super interesting to me - how and why do I make art then? How long did I go on making things not realizing that the ability to visualize never really returned?
Truth be had, I really avoided "making art" as much as possible. Or I stuck to tried and true things like representational paintings. I got super good at carving patterns on linoleum because I couldn't decide on anything to depict. So I'd carve lines. Or circles. The blocks started piling up.
It wasn't until I tried to make something specific that I completely stalled out. Since I had imposed a deadline for myself to abide by, I had to figure out how to make something from nothing. I learned a few things about making flights of fancy materialize along the way. .
Words help There is something about how my brain is re-wired that words still play a very, very strong role in how things do or do not get done. It was over coffee with a friend talking about my side project where it really started to dawn on me that talking ideas = half formed visuals in my head. Writing half formed visuals down and then pinning them to a style, time period or medium = slightly more formed ideas. Repeat until the artwork emerges.
Words somehow resemble having a tiny flashlight in the woods at night. They illuminate the steps ahead but I cannot see the destination (or the wolves lurking in the inky darkness)
This is not all bad. Since I've realized this deficit still very much exists for me (and might be part of my new normal) I have noticed that my artwork is more considered. Gone are the days of dashing off spur of the moment paintings. This has been replaced with informally collaborating through offhand conversations. Talking out an idea seems to lead to imagery. Slowing down like this allows me to really consider things like composition, colour choices, subject, style - the list goes on and on. Just because something used to be easy, doesn't mean that it was better.
Anyways, all this to say that since that discovery, I've been tinkering with all sorts of ideas and making new things. Plus, I've learned that if the visualization isn't happening I have to keep busy anyways. Sometimes it is prep work, sometimes it is digging out an old half finished project, sometimes it is just reading or drawing (which still remains a spontaneous arena for me). Productive procrastination is a thing for me these days.
I've also learned that having deadlines really help (real or imagined) - I'm quite excited that a lot of the letterpress notebooks and postcards that I've sprinkled throughout my post are destined for a Pop-Up Market at Bluerock Gallery on November 30th! Since I was bringing my little press with me, I wanted to have a lot of freshly printed items that showcased letterpress and linocut!
I am really looking forward to the events that are coming up in the next few weeks. All my favourite things are here: painting, printmaking and letterpress!
Christmas in the Country 2019
Leighton Art Centre, Calgary AB
November 2, 2019 - November 10, 2019
I'm happy to have been selected to participate in the annual Christmas in the Country Art sale at the fabulous Leighton Art Centre. Over 2000 pieces of fine craft and unframed artworks by local artists will fill the museum and galleries of the historic Leighton home this November,
Free parking, free admission & complimentary festive treats throughout both weekends. Spectacular Rocky Mountain views included! For more information visit here.
Making Your Mark - Beginner and Intermediate Acrylic Painting
Inglewood Art Supplies and Studio
November 5th - December 3rd 2019
Tuesdays 6:30 pm - 8:30 pm
Learn the basics of painting and start working on your masterpiece! Students will learn how choose their subject, prepare their canvas, apply paint with a variety of techniques, as well as troubleshoot problem areas. Students will take home a completed painting and the knowledge to develop their skills further on their own.
Intermediate Students will be coached through individual projects and provided with more targeted feedback based on their goals for skill development.
$30 Drop-In option available, For more information visit here.
Print & Be Merry:
Holiday Print Workshop
Wednesdays, November 20th and 27th 2019
6:30 pm - 8:30 pm (both evenings)
Carve your own holiday linocut image and print it on a tabletop Kelsey letterpress!
Over two sessions, students will learn the basics of linocut carving and printmaking, and use a tabletop letterpress to create one of a kind Christmas cards, tags and wrapping paper. Participants will leave with a variety of hand printed projects, their own carved blocks as well as the skill to practice at home using basic art materials.
All materials provided, no experience necessary! For more information visit here.
Bluerock Gallery Pop Up Market
Black Diamond, AB
November 30th, 2019
10:00 am - 6:00 pm
It will be so great to be back at Bluerock Gallery for a pop up market with my latest Letterpress ephemera on display as well as the soothing rattle and clink of my trusty travel companion - my Kelsey tabletop letterpress. I cannot express how much I love being a part of this gallery family - they have been so supportive of my journey into printing! It will be a merry day for sure! Come by to soak up all the art and to say hello!
For more information visit here.
I feel like I have run out of words lately. After a recent whirlwind trip to St. Louis for the Ladies of Letterpress Conference it has been a little harder for me to gather all the things that I am thinking about and writing them into a concise blog post. Perhaps I'll soon be able to pull the string and take the brown paper off all the things I saw and learned while I was there. Thankfully I have had reasons to unpack aspects of this trip already as much of it pertains to my letterpress endeavors.
Recently I had the delight of buying next year's day timer, I have started filling in small dates here and there, the school calendar is added and all this has reminded me about the power of anticipation. I remember a Jewish friend of mine sharing with me years ago the concept of how Sabbath day of rest fits into their calendar. It is the high point in one's week - you spend three days preparing in anticipation of all the things needed for that day to be a complete rest and refilling. After it is over, you spend three days reflecting on the experience you had. Then the cycle repeats.
My day timer is like that, in its more haphazard fashion. I have a fairly routine orbit of teaching, appointments and meetings rotating throughout my weeks. Anything slightly different that engages my senses tends to be savoured long before it arrives. Planning a special trip, going for a walk or a coffee with a friend, setting a time for a gallery hop sees a lot of anticipation beforehand. Afterwards the glow of those moments seems to light up something creatively within me and I have a bout of inspired studio time. By the time it starts to wane, I look towards the next bright item in my day timer (I don't make a lot of social appointments now that I think about it).
As you can imagine, this conference was HIGHLY anticipated for quite some time.
From the moment I stepped off the plane to the moment I boarded to go home, I was busy and engaged. At times, my brain felt overloaded. A friend I made at the conference shared that she booked 3 or 4 days off after she got home. Her method allowed her to make space for all the things she learned and gave her a chance to play with some of the concepts she was getting a handle on. I managed to take one full day off just to blissfully experiment in the studio, and I will learn for next time to book off more.
I looked forward to this Ladies of Letterpress experience for a long time and now it is over, I need to look back perhaps even longer and see what I gleaned from it. Hopefully some more jewels will be placed in my calendar for when this glow starts to wane.
The past few months have been very good to me as I have made some friends and connections that have been inspiring me to explore new things and push the ceiling of my skills and knowledge. Spending time with Heritage Park and Alberta Printmakers has also lead me down some interesting paths. Looking back over the past year and a half, I have come to realize that I was creatively isolated in many ways during my time of recovery and I have been very thankful for this influx of stimulus in my life!
One of my more recent connections has been with the Making Treaty 7 Cultural Society. They support many theater and visual art endeavors in the Mohkinstsis (Calgary) region. The support they bring to the local First Nations, Metis and Inuit arts community is amazing. After attending an event of theirs in June, I was asked to submit work for their upcoming 2nd Annual Touring Exhibition. Imagine my delight when my piece, Reconciling Myself, was accepted!
This work is a little of a departure for me, but this has been brewing for a while. Those bright florescent lines have been steadily gaining ground in my paintings, letterpress and sketchbook for months. It took the inspiration of this piece to explode those hues to the forefront.
Lately my work has begun to explore identity; of particular interest is my Anishinaabe heritage. Like many Canadian families, this is complex and fraught with embedded societal racism, fear of Residential schools and broken ties with our cultural roots. As my father has made his own journey of making peace with these issues, a world has been opening up as he shares the past.
Issues of cultural appropriation have been forefront in my mind, I’ve been wary of taking bits and pieces of a culture I wasn’t raised in to forge my artistic identity. Approaching this painting, I thought about how to best represent the place that I am coming from. Basing my source imagery on European settler representations of First Nations peoples was a way to not only share a lot of my early understanding of my family history, but also an act of re-appropriation.
In my piece, Reconciling Myself, the source is from a 1910 postcard entitled “Indian Woman with Owl, Blind River”, which is the town where my father was born. This woman looks familiar to me, the slope of her nose and cheeks are the same that greet me in the mirror. In the photo, she seems unhappy and the owl looks to be a piece of taxidermy. I took liberties in my painting; she is serious, not sad. The owl is spreading it’s wings. In the background is a riot of colour and dynamic lines, a sign of life and the future.
I hope you will have a chance to take in this show in the coming months!
cSpace: Opening Wednesday September 18th until September 29th, 2019
Art Commons: Opening Wednesday October 1st until November 29th, 2019
New Central Library: Opening Monday December 2nd 2019 until January 18th, 2020
My studio time has been minimal lately. Not that I haven't been creating, it seems that the summer brings a shift in my sensibilities. Sitting on my covered deck in the rain with a sketchbook and pen, using watercolours at outdoor events to etch memories onto paper. Our Alberta climate is such that by the time May rolls around and I can reliably be outside without a snowstorm looming, I can't bear to stay inside. So, I like to make my work portable.
This time of the year is also where I look to refill my reserves and bank some creative ideas for when the machinery of life starts up again in September. A day spent sketching and dreaming often pays dividends further downstream when I need inspiration. I can open a sketchbook, feel the memory of hot sun and survey the notes I made while my creative urges were blooming.
This has been my rhythm for around twenty years now. I am a firm believer in grounding myself in the pages of my sketchbook. It is my memory keeper, colour swatcher, endeavor planner and place for safe keeping. A treasure trove of ideas.
Since this is such an integral part of my art practice, as an instructor, I jump at every chance I get to share some of the tricks and methods I've stumbled across and integrated into my studio practice. This summer is FILLED to the brim with such opportunities. In fact, I've already held a few sketching based workshops, with lots more on the way.
All of these classes are suitable for beginners who are looking to open a sketchbook and begin their creative journeys, seasoned professionals who just need a creative exploration to shake things up and everyone in between. Oftentimes these classes become a catalyst for creativity and cross pollination as everyone is supportive and friendly. It's a great way to meet some new people and potential future sketching buddies!
Coming up this weekend, I will be returning to the charming Leighton Art Centre for a special sketchbook class -
Creative Freedom – Using an Art Journal to Unlock Your Creative Spirit
(One Day Workshop)
June 22, 2019 10:00 AM - 4:00 PM
Unsure of where to start on the path of creativity? Feeling stalled with creative blocks? Need an infusion of inspiration? Whatever your experience level or challenges you face with your art, you can break through using a series of creative techniques and journaling to discover the next step in your artistic journey!
$85.00 + GST & Eventbrite Fees
Registration closes on Thurs. June 20, 2019 at 6:00 PM
Register here or contact email@example.com or phone: 403-931-363
In July and August I will be doing five sessions at the fabulous Inglewood Art Studios (in Bridgeland), we held a session at this location in May and the variety of architectural and natural features was amazing to draw. Great for people watching too!
Plein Air Sketching Summer Series
(One Day Workshop, 5 different sessions to choose from)
Saturdays from 11:00 AM - 4:00 PM
Come join us at the Inglewood Arts studio and around Bridgeland for some outdoor urban sketching. This series of classes will focus on a wide range of approaches for quickly capturing the moment with easy-to-transport supplies as well plenty of practical information of what to bring on your adventures! Each session will feature different techniques and places in the neighbourhood. Sign up for one, or join us for more!
Choose your dates ($90 per session - Save when you register for more then 1 Session)
1 Session $90
2 Sessions $150 (Save $30)
3 Sessions $195 (Save $75)
4 Sessions $240 (Save $120)
5 Sessions $275 (Save $175)
Register here or contact Inglewood Art Supplies at firstname.lastname@example.org or 403-265-8961
If you are looking for a reason to get back into your sketchbook, want to learn how to draw while travelling or to start using all those empty sketchbooks you keep buying... come and join me on one of these dates!
I realized today that it has been a little while since I've updated my blog. I have a few things I want to write about in the coming weeks, but I've been short on time lately.
I thought it was worth mentioning that I am quite active on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. I would greatly appreciate it if you wanted to follow along on social media. I like posting little process videos, works in progress and a number of little side projects I'm plugging away on that don't currently fit with my website categories.
You can find me here:
Facebook: Michelle Wiebe Art
While most of the content I post is spread evenly across all three platforms, it isn't identical. Hope to see you on social media!
I’ve been in a really reflective mood as of late. Looking back to last year at this time, I thought I had so much figured out and that 2018 was going to be such a busy and productive year. I could not have been more wrong. Last year at this time, I was slowly reaching a breaking point that been gaining steady ground over the past few years. I was a wreck and I kept dismissing it as being over tired. Looking back it almost seems comical, except that it was awful and I had no idea what was going to happen.
Last year at this time, I had signed a bunch of exciting contracts for teaching. I had also made plans for some interesting art I wanted to complete. I had mapped out in great detail the upcoming six months worth of work. This is fairly typical behaviour for me and it seemed so straightforward as I was headed into January. Except, this time, I had a slow creeping terror that I was going to fail. I couldn’t name it; I couldn’t explain it and I couldn’t see anything amiss. All my plans were the types of plans I had made and executed in the years before, only bigger and brighter. It was time, or so I thought.
Typically, when I make plans, I start with all the known items coming up and enter them into a fresh day timer. The School District time table is usually the first to be entered. I follow that with kid’s trips and camp, out of town guests and miscellaneous doctor’s appointments. Once I have those commitments filled in, I then look to fill the spaces in between with a balance of workshops, events and shows. I book with venues and start adding deadlines for applications and deliveries. It is very methodical and deliberate and touches a very geeky part of my soul. After those items are entered I can do everything from plan blog posts, the focus for studio days and whether or not I need to have something in the slow cooker. My day timer is what allows me to function when my chronic illness flares up or life becomes chaos. It gives me stability.
Last year at this time, I had a day timer waiting for me and everything was so hard. My most favorite day of entering all the known dates came and I struggled. I look at what I had planned in a bunch of saved emails and had to transcribe them onto fresh pages. As I attempted to reign in the chaos of multiple dates and places, I could feel panic rising in my throat. I had to physically circle all the weekends so I would not lose track of them. I entered in all sorts of events but had to make notations so I wouldn’t get confused. Every time I added a new class, anguish came clawing at me. I thought I was overtired.
It never occurred to me that I was steadily checking out of all manner of things I loved. Weekly commitments would come and I would secretly hope they would get cancelled. Activities like running were reduced to resented obligations. Christmas shopping overwhelmed me to the point of tears more than once because I had such a hard time keeping track of what we needed to pick up and what we already had bought. I had an app on my phone for this purpose that I’d used for years and for some reason, manually typing in the items, figuring out a trip to multiple stores and budgeting my time was nearly impossible. As Christmas approached, this distress I kept feeling of everything spinning out of control was steadily gaining ground.
Funny thing is, looking back; I actually have very fuzzy memories of Christmas and all the fun family rituals we celebrated last year. Those memories are there, they are just behind a thick sheet of Plexiglas – I’m pretty sure they will crystallize as I celebrate this year. What I do remember with great clarity is the overwhelming feeling of panic and un-named dread for the upcoming year.
I also remember December 27th, which is typically an unremarkable day in the Christmas Holiday calendar. Although I’d wager that is usually the day that most parents finally get a chance to relax after the unrelenting upswing in the days before Christmas and then Boxing Day sales (remember, I have teenagers, that is the only reason that Boxing Day is notable) On December 27th the panic was still there. I woke up in a foul mood too. My husband helpfully suggested we go for a run, thinking this would provide a stress release for me.
We went to our local track and I went for an angry five kilometre run. Everything during that run made me frustrated; the seniors walking the track, the illegible signs that no one seemed to notice or want to correct, and how difficult it was to figure out what direction I was supposed to run in, even though there were several people already running in one direction. I had no idea that a lot of this was not normal. It didn’t occur to me that it wasn’t normal when I couldn’t figure out how to open my lock. Finally I got super frustrated, I went to look for my husband - it was shortly after I found him that my seizure struck.
In one moment, I went from being someone who was over busy and over tired to someone who had a seizure. In a few hours, I went from that to someone who had a brain tumour larger than a golf ball sitting on her left parietal/occipital lobe region. A couple weeks after that, I became someone recovering from brain surgery. At the time it seemed like I was symptom free, but looking back, it was there. It was the source of my un-named panic.
Turns out your parietal and occipital lobes are super important for processing the world around you. They are responsible for a lot the visual, spatial and language information we use to navigate the world around us. As my slow growing tumour took up more space, it subtly affected those processes and made doing the things I love best very hard. One of the reasons why we didn’t see my issues sooner is because some symptoms echo those of my chronic (well controlled) illness and the fact I was in the habit of meticulously using a day timer. These masked my growing inefficiencies and reading comprehension problems. (side note, I was dyslexic for the three weeks between seizure and surgery, that was weird but not a symptom leading up to discovering my tumour)
When I say “comprehension” it was I literally got so bad with keeping track of written words, I would forget what the paragraph was about before I finished it. I could read it, I could understand it, I could remember reading it, I couldn’t tell you what the content was. It was like sand slipping away in an hourglass. Dates were hard to fix on a calendar because I couldn’t hold onto a date from an email long enough to transcribe into a day timer. I literally got to the point of having my iPad open beside my computer, beside my day timer to see all the moving pieces together. This wasn’t a memory issue so much as a reading issue. I didn’t have nearly the same trouble when somebody verbally told me a date to remember.
Words were a problem sometimes. Especially art/tool related words. Learning letterpress terminology was strange because I would learn a word, know it, know the object and use of the word... for some reason I could not verbalize the word unless I pictured reading it and read it out loud from my mind. Friends would show me tools or equipment and tell me all about each item and I would balk at saying “could you please hand me the _______” time and time again, I could not make the word cross the threshold of my lips. I was very embarrassed about this and thought I was forgetful. I tended to talk around the word and pick up or point to the object instead, waiting for someone else to say the item. Apparently I’m pretty good at that, as I don’t think anyone caught on. Except the time at Heritage Park where I had a room full of teenagers in front of me and suddenly I could not name one item I was explaining. I had explained it probably twenty times already that day until I was left completely blank. That time my head felt very wrong and I left to go sit down and recover. I brushed it off as the flu because I was sick a few days later.
Why is this important? I did my day timer planning for the first part of 2019 this week. I was so scared of how hard it would be so I put it off a few weeks later than normal. Shockingly, it was so straightforward and easy. Come to think of it, every time I start a new book, I brace myself for the upcoming slog of pain that results in me abandoning or forgetting the contents only to find reading is a pleasure. Words still seem to trip me up a little, but I don’t think many people notice (I notice when I’m teaching or explaining art processes) I can’t separate baren and brayer in my mouth, even though my mind clearly knows the difference. I keep referring to the exit in a parking lot as a door (i.e. “we need to leave by the north door” I mean to say exit but my mouth doesn’t articulate that. It’s a blind spot I can live with. I can name the tools now too.
I also have a garden in my mind. It is lush and green and a source of great excitement. For the first time in several years I am pushing to experiment with my art, to make things at home, to grow my passions. I can’t seem to shut my mind off on these things either. I dream something up and can’t stop reading and processing and planning. Right now I am optimistic and full of hope for the future. My husband keeps remarking that it is like I have woken up from a long sleep. In a way, I have.
In closing, you will notice that unlike other “year in review” posts I’ve made, I’m talking very little about art. Honestly, while art sustained me and teaching brought me back to normalcy, 2018 was not about art. Here are some things it taught me:
Now, instead of rebuilding and regaining things that were broken, I need to learn new things. I can’t let illness define me. This is such a small part of who I am, I feel like it is time let the other parts of who I am take charge. In the next few days, I’m planning on posting some of the exciting things I want to do to grow my skills in the coming year. Hopefully 2019 will let me!
PS - For those of you who might be reading about this for the first time, I spent the first half of 2018 blogging about recovery and making art post brain surgery. Some posts are totally written by someone with a brain tumour or someone who recently had brain surgery. I've never bothered to edit them. They are a little art piece in their own right. I put my blog posts in chronological order on this page.