Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Broader Horizons

Art Journal collage, 8 x 8 inches
Since my last post, I became a book reviewer for Net Galley.  I'm taking my reading to the max, you might say.  So periodically I'll be posting a review or two of new and forthcoming books, rather than just mentioning them...

...beginning with The Genius of Birds by Jennifer Ackerman.  I really loved this book, and if you're a fan of birds (and who isn't?), you'll love it too.  In highly readable fashion, the author deftly paints a portrait of the brilliance of our avian friends, based on extensive research as well as charming anecdotal stories.   Ackerman takes us around the world to different avian research centers as we learn about birds' vast smarts in so many areas, their technical know-how (using and making tools), vocal talents, extraordinary navigational achievements, aesthetic inclination, social intelligence and communication skills, and all-round adaptability to life.

If you love birds, don't miss this book.  It's heart-warming, engaging, enlightening.  Humans have a lot to learn from birds.  I'll never look at one again without realizing what truly amazing creatures they are.

In other's painting lesson is a good one, meaning I could get into this one.  But not right now.  There's too much I want to read.

With a few exceptions, like novels from authors I've been following for years, my reading has ventured pretty exclusively into non-fiction.  I'm letting myself be guided by a thread that's taking me from one book/subject of interest to another.  I suddenly feel open to learning about a lot of people, places and things that I've perhaps overlooked before.  Or never had the time to explore previously.

For the last couple years I've been reading AramcoWorld, a beautifully done bi-monthly publication whose mission is to "increase cross-cultural understanding by broadening knowledge of the histories, cultures and geography of the Arab and Muslim worlds and their global connections."  Especially in these days of rampant Arab-bashing and Islamophobia, I'm really appreciating learning about all the wonderful things happening in the Arab and Muslim worlds of business, culture and the arts, agriculture, sports, food, et al.  Subscriptions to AramcoWorld are free, renewable bi-annually.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

True Confessions

Art Journal collage, 8 x 8 inches
So...the painting lesson two weeks ago did not inspire me at all.  So I "ditched" class that week.  Last week's lesson was also not real engaging, although I did do a bunch of starts (first-layered sheets).  But then I never felt turned-on enough to finish them off.

Meanwhile, I was really busy two weeks ago and also needed the time off from painting.  And by the time last week rolled around, my motivation for painting was kaput.

I've given myself permission to not finish the class.  There are four lessons left and of course I'll print out the PDFs and watch the videos.  And I might even feel inspired enough to do some painting.  But I'm not going to force myself if my motivation is still on the wane.

Another thing, at this point in my painting career, or anything else for that matter, if a lesson doesn't speak to me and isn't something I'll use in future, then I don't feel I need to do it.  Most of the earlier lessons' worth of paintings I posted used new-to-me techniques that I hope to explore later on.

I've also been involved in an intense online Buddhist Practice Period through San Francisco Zen Center since late January.  And the two major things together -- the Practice Period and the painting class -- have been too much for me to manage comfortably.  Had I not enrolled six months earlier for Jane's class, I wouldn't have taken it.  But I would have forfeited my money.  (Her classes regularly fill up six or more months before they happen.)

At any rate, I'm clear on my priorities -- I'd rather be focusing on Buddhist practice than painting now.  That, and reading a lot.

I got myself a Kindle Paperwhite recently, ostensibly so I could read the really wonderful eBooks that Tricycle Magazine publishes periodically for sustaining members.  There was no way I was going to read them on my computer.  So I bought a Kindle.  And I'm enjoying it a lot.  I've already checked out several books from Library-To-Go, and gotten numerous free books from Kindle and other online sources.

The last book I mentioned here, The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating, was a Kindle library loan.  Then I read C.J. Box's latest Joe Pickett book, Endangered.  Then I read a terrific bio of C.S. Lewis, called C. S. Lewis - A Life: Eccentric Genius, Reluctant Prophet by Alister McGrath.  Currently I'm reading a memoir by Lily Tuck called The Double Life of Liliane.  Plus those Tricycle eBooks one at a time.

In hardcopy, I'm reading David Whyte's Consolations, a beautiful journey deep into specific individual words.  Savoring, more than reading.  Also Diane Ackerman's Dawn Light.  I borrowed that from the library, and not far into it realized I needed to own it.  Another very evocative exploration of the wonders of the natural world.

Happy Spring!

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Black and White Ball

These are most of what I did for last week's lesson, 9 x 12 inches on 80# drawing paper (as have been and will be all the rest of the finished work for this class).  Any areas that read blue to you in the images are actually shades of gray.  There were a couple pieces I didn't like, and I already made those into postcards and ATCs.  I'm really enjoying this class!

I read a really wonderful book the other day, The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elizabeth Tova Bailey.  Among other things, I now have a very healthy respect for garden snails...and I'm seriously considering no longer moving the ones that show up in my yard over to the bluff to fend for themselves.

The book had some great quotes in it, and I'll leave you with this one by Rainer Maria Rilke, from Letters to a Young Poet:

Try to love the questions themselves as if they were
locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language.  Don't search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them.  And the point is, to live everything.  Live the questions now.  Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.