Friday, July 21, 2006

Those nagging fears

It never ceases to amaze me how fear of the unknown or fear of change can keep a person clinging to current circumstances even when they are dragging one down, less than perfect, in need of improvement. Before taking my trip to Idaho, I caught myself fearing that if I ended up in a place where I wouldn't have as easy access to woods as I do now, I'd lose my design inspiration. What if exposure to the birch trees on a daily basis was integral to my creating art, and without them, I'd lose my vision and my art? What if, what if, what if, I started thinking about a lot of things. And on the heels of that, maybe it's not so bad here after all. Maybe I should just stay.

Well, yes, I would not shrivel up and die if I stayed right where I am in Wisconsin. On the other hand, on a very basic level, I am restless and unhappy here. If I had to stay, I would adapt, enjoy the few close friends I've made here, continue to work, try to make the shifts and changes I expect to make in a new environment. But it is that new environment that I crave, and these fears of losing my muse are just the little insecurities I've had to deal with all my life. They've needlessly held me back from making positive changes to improve my life before and I am determined not to let them do that this time.

So on a free day while in Sandpoint, I drove a little ways out of town and walked a bike trail, looking for my usual inspiration from nature.

On either side of the trail the undergrowth was quite thick and brightened here and there by wildflower blooms.

I spotted thimbleberry bushes and remembered how they flourished near the house where I grew up.

A little farther along, some trees shaded the path and I found something similar to my birch trees. Ok, I may be alright here!

Of course, the main draw for me that is missing in my corner of Wisconsin is the towering mountain backdrop.

I so associate mountains with lakes that when I first moved to Wisconsin, I checked out every nearby lake I could find assuming that would lead me to some mountains, but every one was surrounded by a fairly flat terrain. In Northern Idaho there's no such thing as a lake without a mountain.

I'd taken along a small sketchbook, but what my eyes were registering was not sparking any ideas. I just couldn't focus on anything that whispered, "sketch me, record me, figure out how to use me in a design." That was a bit worrisome, but I chalk it up to the stress and purpose of the trip, and then the sense of being a bit on vacation. Still, I spent one afternoon in the park by the lake and made myself sketch something, reminding myself that one never knows where some of these lines and shapes will end up. No need for a full blown idea, just observe and record.

There were sailboats on the lake, so I keyed in on the triangle shapes of the sails and the lines of the hull. One leaned over quite far in the wind and I tried to capture that effect. I also studied the ripples across the water and the direction of them. Finally, I noted the changing color of the lake from farthest shore to at my feet. Very dark far away, getting lighter closer in until it was nearly greenish gold in the shallows of the sandy beach. It is the only time so far since I started using a sketchbook that I wished I had colored pencils or some way of capturing the color there on the page. The lead in the mechanical pencil I was using was much harder than what I am used to sketching with and I was surprised how impeded it made me feel. I also felt constricted by the small size of the sketchbook, which surprised me since I've done quick sketches in a notebook even smaller.

Then I spotted a sumbather reading a book. Here was a real challenge because of the angle and opportunity to work with perspective. What really caught my eye initially was the angle of her left leg and the way the foot was pointed. Of course, she didn't understand I needed her to stay perfectly still, which made sketching her even more challenging. She was reading a book and kept shifting her right arm and her legs around. I never did get the arms right (and didn't even attempt the hands), but it was an interesting exercise.

Lastly, I sketched out a scene I'd noticed a few days before. There is a roped off area for swimmers including log booms and a floating dock. Lots of gulls flying about and looking for food. After the swimmers left for the day, the gulls flew out and perched on the log boom, almost perfectly spaced and all looking out into the lake. It was the craziest thing, as if they were thinking, "At last, the tourist have finally gone home!" This day they didn't line up so perfectly, but that is how I tried to sketch them. I was sitting farther down than I was the day before, so again, I tried to sketch adding some perspective. This is an area I'd like to do more with in my art quilts.

I fear the sketching was really lame, but I felt right at home doing it there in the park. No one stared or questioned what I was doing, really paid no attention to me at all, perhaps because there's so much impromptu music, dance and art going on in this park.

Driving back to the motel, I pulled off at the Chamber/Tourism Center along Sand Creek just on the northeast edge of town. It was nearly sunset and I couldn't resist taking some shots of the incredible reflections in the calm water. This felt more like mining for design ideas than anything else I did on the trip.

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