Keirartworks's Blog

hmmm. hmmm? Observations, actions and connection points through art.


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Pivot

So much anxiety.

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Even here, in this small town Shire-like piece of Ontario, we dutifully find our regular dose of Fox news or its equivalent so we can chew on our worry in a bizarrely informed way.

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If not Fox or Sinclair and the suspicious smell of fascism, or the use of our tax dollars to bail out yet another oil pipeline through the wilderness project, then about Stan the heavy-bearded wanderer toasting muttered anarchy with Listerine; about the goose wandering alone for a month in the open field; the pencil thin young woman entering then leaving the methadone clinic to the profit of some private business person who would rather she stay addicted.

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The young, ballcapped man, tight with sloppy rage, yanks an aging woman out of a broken down house, her shirt still open to a tan-coloured pushup bra.  Every window in the house is smashed.

Here in the shire, on my way to the store for cream.

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We share our news in the bank lineup, the grocery store, the gas station like chatter over an undertow of unease… is any belief system, economic system, political system, educational system not showing signs of extreme erosion, even as others crumble?

It’s not just the climate that’s changing (…weather’s odd for this time of year, doesn’t feel right….).

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Today a friend asked, “What do you know for certain?”.  About anything, she meant.  Gave me pause.

I said that I suspect I have a working theory about how things change, but certainly no certainly.

Whatever work I’ve been able to accomplish – internal and external – in these past few years has been a more or less messy mobius of intention, action, and reflection.  All three balanced and juggled like plates or knives, never still, never dropped.  But this is abstract.

Think.  Choose.  Do.  Think again.  Do differently, Think.  Choose again. et cetera.

My working theory is that, A) pivot points occur only in the doing. 

B) well-considered doing (not just ‘busy-ness’) is an effective antidote to worry.


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Lip service

One month:  Corelli to Handel to Brahms and Faure to Jensen to Patootie to sereda to Kurt Cobain via Drew Wright.  In between some work re-arranging songs by JTaylor, Norah Jones, Kris Delmhorst and other specials for cello and voice.  Or just cello, or just voice.  And thumb piano (note to self:  revive and nourish friendships with sweet tasteful drummers).

Our Band, Catchpenny, somewhere in Toronto, sometime in the 1980s.  Aruna Handa, Frank Klaassen, Michael Klaassen & me

Our Band, Catchpenny, somewhere in Toronto, sometime in the 1980s. Aruna Handa, Frank Klaassen, Michael Klaassen & me

This sounds urgent, but it’s not.  It’s more like breathing.  Or working out, with the intention of finding muscles that haven’t been used for a very long time, and… using them again, even if it takes a rebuild.  And yes, yes, all that about pain and gain, too.

wild carrot

wild carrot

I believe it’s important to Do the thing that you feel compelled to do.  There’s a reason you feel so compelled, after all – you can probably trust it.

If there are obstacles to your Doing of the thing, don’t waste time blaming them, just remove, or find a way around.  Complaint and self-defeat have never once written a song or painted a picture:  dump them.  You’ve got better things to do with your time.

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St Lawrence River.

Jump in.  Do the work.  It’s warm.

Oh, and if you see someone else who’s doing the work, love them for it.


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Inside Winter

It’s the kind of snow there’s a constant More of.  The plows and trucks and blowers, out all night long are still going strong at 10am.  Cars slide gently sideways to stop signs. Kids and grown-ups both are thoroughly snow-suited, booted, winter-gloved and touqued as they kick & trudge through piled white, falling white, blowing  – white everywhere.  Dogs leap and dive in it; parked cars have long since disappeared, save for a stripe of colour along their sides.

Third-floor roof of the studio building.  Looking Southwest across the harbour

Third-floor roof of the studio building. Looking Southwest across the harbour

The coffee tastes better.  The blankets are warmer.  The books are more intriguing; the art more tantalizing now that there’s time to look deeply.  The music has such clean white space around it,  it’s almost visible.

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I’ve dug out my knitting projects.  I find myself puttering,  replacing buttons, fixing collars, darning holes in old sweaters.

Just heard the opening phrase of a new song:  3 cello voices, descending, one rising, to A minor; hold.  Then vocals…

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I’ve said this before, but it’s true enough to say twice:  I love what winter does to me.

 


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How do you know?

We were in my studio where almost every inch of wall, floor table and shelf is crammed with stuff in process and use, with tools, & paint & vine charcoal & buttons & books & thread & blank paper & other paper covered with notes or ideas or solo, duet, trio, quartet or orchestral music.  Even the chairs here carry drips from paintings long sold, are saddle-worn from 20 years of rehearsals; ready for more of both.  Almost everything emits light, or energy, if you prefer that – either because it’s becoming something, or it’s ready to be of use in the becoming of something.  It’s noisy with work, here – louder than the cars and sirens outside, distorting the seconds as the retro-industrial clock strives to maintain regularity, but often concedes it’s rule to some other God than Time.

IMG_9446She looked like a dry ocean sponge soaking up water when she asked me how I knew what I wanted.  I felt privileged  – as if by asking she put me in a club I’ve often wondered about,

<thought bubble even now: “I’ve no idea.  But maybe … They Get It.”>.

Thanks for the rehearsal, L.  More therapy.

Thanks for the rehearsal, L. More therapy.

Hope my answer was ok.  It was something about what your heart tells you.


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Summer, fall, winter spring

Summer ‘Do’;

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Winter ‘Be’:

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This is the natural way of things, if you take your lead from the plants and the squirrels; the chipmunks and the bears.

So it follows then, that Spring is for clearing the way for new growth:

carpet of trout lillies

carpet of trout lillies

…and autumn is for making good use of the harvest, putting things into their proper place, and giving thanks that another yearly cycle of time has been fruitful.

In observation of these ancient and worthy rhythms, I name October 2013 a month of consideration, sorting, filing, and thanksgiving.

Starting with this blog, right here.  I feel it could be easier to navigate than it is – and no wonder – I had no idea what I’d be writing about when I began.  I may have been relatively aimless, but dear WordPress has been busy the entire time gathering and compiling pages of statistics  – and the results are obsessively educational for me.  Who can resist such a mirror?

Before I sank into slumber last night and after some considerable time spent sifting through the data pages it occurred to me that I could actually USE this information… to  …. put things in their proper place.

I hope what I do will make it easier for you to navigate here.  Please feel more than free to offer your input – it is entirely welcome.

This will take longer than one post to accomplish, so I will leave you with an intention and a promise of positive change, and this:

A study in contrast

A study in contrast


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Wind, unwind

I find it’s most difficult these days to be truly still and resoundingly empty like a huge stone bowl on a plinth.  I’m getting better at it, but it’s taking a considerable amount of focus.

I seek to do this now because it occurred to me many months ago (years, even) that I need more information about several key areas of inquiry:  the education and mentoring of young people; music and the practise of music; energies, their frequencies and the focused direction of them; and the all-encompassing idea of service, which is not necessarily obvious.

further down the trail, same day

The approach I’ve taken thus far into the exploration of these things is the one I learned – from my family full of educators, from my piano and cello teachers, at University  – an idea of ‘study’ which has become nicely embedded,

“I know how to learn.  One does Good Research (source source source!), reads and digests the material one digests, places a clear and concise question inside this newer information and eventually there’s an alchemical moment of aHa.  Then one writes and writes, which leads to know and do and take good action.  If one does this for long enough, inquires for long enough, makes adjustments based on experience and further study, one becomes an expert, a new Source…”

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It’s a decent formula for inquiry.  But there’s no ivory tower anywhere around here – & my studio won’t do for this (Bob Dylan through the wall & a drum kit, my cello waiting right there to work with, those paintings, those prayer flags waiting for the next stage, that sewing machine which needs a tune-up…)

My head can only hold so much ‘live’ data, can only maintain its focus on that academic alchemical process for so long before I need to shut it down and buy groceries, schedule printers, figure out my part in the Stanford, pick up my kid in time for her appointment, and deliver the car to the mechanic’s.

Big hibiscus flower in my studio, the day after that walk. I’ve had this plant for three years, and it’s never done this before.

It’s more than okay to be busy at 49, and a mom of a (great) teenager, and to have many gigs, lots of rehearsals & several students to prepare for, to be in the last stages of building a house with my husband, to spend time (though never enough) with a family I love, etc etc.  I’m having a great time with all of it.

But I would very much like to learn & grow into a higher understanding of things, as a teacher, as a friend, a daughter, sister mom wife musician artist mentor.  To hone myself, and so better serve.

closer in

So I’m intuitively working at what seems counter-intuitive:  emptiness & stillness.  How can I hope to find the unknown thing I’m looking for if I’m busy stuffing myself with information?

This came to me one day while I was practising – I was working away, working away at a difficult passage, thinking ‘this is crazy – I should absoLUtely be able to do this!  What’s blocking me?’.  As I thought this my shoulder, neck, arm and finger muscles became more and more tense and stiff, and my energy plummeted into something like despair (close to ‘I can’t’).  So I put the cello down, and watered my plants.  Then I worked a little at my paintings.  Then I puttered and played with a textile art idea and got pulled into fascination with colour.  Then without knowing it I was back at the cello, carrying no tension, playing a piece I know well – still thinking about colour.  The notes I was playing had colours, the piece a big long skein of coloured threads flowing each into the next, weaving into fabric….

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After what seemed like an hour of this bliss, I came back to the place of my old obstacle.  In my mind I changed the colour of what I was trying to do, and it was wonderfully, measurably easier.

Amazing, what a little colour change can do.

Empty of stuff I don’t need, to make room for what I do.

Still, so I can appreciate it.

Happy Wednesday, all.

K – hey neat – I just found this:

” Experience teaches only the teachable ”
Aldous Huxley

…wonder if he’d agree …


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shovel

Imprint:  A rapid learning process by which [an artist] establishes a behavior pattern of recognition and attraction to another animal or an object (artistic license generously applied)

Drawing is like that, for me.  The translation of an object or a face or a scene from eye to paper or canvas leaves a permanent impression in my artist mind – an imprint.  The work I’m currently doing in my studio is like this.

I’m working on a series of painting/drawings about simple tools:  Shovel  Axe  Hammer  Pencil  clamp  wrench  etc –   things in common use as extensions of our physical needs –  to garden, clear, build, keep warm (firewood), communicate and figure out.

Simple tho it may seem, the shapes and planes in a shovel (this one is a spade) are as complex as those of a human face – especially since I’m drawing an old one that still shows it’s history – mortar, rust, paint.  As I draw I’m amazed at how specific each slope is to the function of the tool.  If I were an anthropologist examining this object  2000 years from now I could easily discern it’s use – the shape speaks.

But I know more than she, because this is MY spade I’m drawing, and I have physical memory of using it:

Digging digging, hitting rock, finding the rock’s edges, then straining the long ash handle to lever out great slabs of limestone, great chunks of granite.  There is no bottom to this pile of soil – I’m down through four feet of strata – weeds, topsoil, clay – all of it growing rocks for harvest.  Loosen roots, turn soil, break solid clods with the back of the spade – whack, whack, clunk.

Right foot bruised on the push edge of the spade,  fingers slippery with mud, knees and boots caked and heavy, face smeared – I am utterly content.

Shift to my studio. My face and clothing is smeared with charcoal and paint.  I am barefoot, staring staring at this painting I collaborate with.

Now at my draughting table, write, sketch, play cards- anything to catch the next right decision out of the corner of my eye – then leap up in the aha moment to make an adjustment, addition, or big sweeping change.  I am utterly engaged, utterly content.

Early stage of the shovel painting. It's come a long way since then - looking a little like a prehistoric cave painting now, tho that may change.

The next painting is an axe.

I’ll keep you posted.