thoughts

About that brand new box of crayons……

colorful kimono construction
A Brand New Box of Crayons

Do you remember the smell of a brand new box of crayons? I certainly do and loved the anticipation of what would become of those beautiful colors.  Someone who worked for Crayola actually was employed to give them names like cadet blue, razzle dazzle rose, and screamin’ green, a job I secretly envied for years.  Earlier this week I shared this quotation by Hugh Macleod on Facebook without really thinking it through: “Everyone is born creative; everyone is given a box of crayons in kindergarten. Then when you hit puberty they take the crayons away and replace them with dry uninspiring books on algebra, history, etc. Being suddenly hit years later with the ‘creative bug’ is just a wee voice telling you ‘I’d like my crayons back, please.’ ”

I was fortunate that nobody every took my crayons away. In fact, “they” just gave me more crayons of a different kind to play with. Those crayons actually were some of those “dry uninspiring” subjects like biology and geometry and even chemistry. that were taught by teachers who showed me that they were crayons too. What is a crayon, after all, but a stick of pigment in wax, a tool to create something of beauty, a metaphor for a spirit of curiosity, creativity, and wonder?

One of my own former biology students challenged me to re-think what I had shared in that quotation. I did. The point being made by Macleod, I think, has to do with the disregard for the importance of the arts in education and the emphasis on the more “useful” disciplines (fortunately an attitude that appears to be changing). That was particularly true in earlier generations. Maybe we still need to learn and appreciate how all the disciplines can provide color in our lives. Then we can see the beauty of a scientist’s search to find the secrets of the genetic code or the origin of the Big Bang. We can marvel at the Fibonacci series in the whirl of a sunflower head. Then our minds can be opened to how a plant photosynthesizes or a bird sings a particular song. Then we can treasure the changes of the season and the evolution of life on earth and understand the reality of climate change. We can rejoice with Mission Control at NASA when a new satellite achieves orbit. We can ponder with amazement how a virus we cannot see was able to bring mighty nations to their knees and the world to a standstill.  We can delight in the stories that brought humankind to this moment in history. 

 ” I know artists whose medium is life itself, and who express the inexpressible without brush, pencil, chisel or guitar. They neither paint nor dance. Their medium is Being. Whatever their hand touches has increased life… They are the artists of being alive.”  Frederick Franck

 

Why “Sycamore Notes?” she said….

If you knew me before my move to the South in 1996, you may recall my gallery on the campus of Villa Maria College/Gannon University.  It was a special place for me that I called Sycamore Gallery.  There wasn’t a sycamore in sight on the campus, but I drew inspiration for the name from the only reference to a sycamore in the New Testament.  Remember Zacchaeus, the little guy who wanted to see Jesus but couldn’t because of the crowd?  Zacchaeus climbed the sycamore tree to get above the crowd and see!  For me, that’s what art does….music, poetry, the visual arts, dance….art of any kind.  It takes me ABOVE THE CROWD so I can get a glimpse of the divine.  It’s as simple as that.  The thought has stayed with me and is the inspiration for this blog and for all I do as I paint, draw, or write.  To keep reminding me to get above the crowd, the noise, the distractions, there are two sycamore trees planted on our property in Ocoee TN.

Dusting off a memory

Dusting off a memory

There are many wonderful reasons for maintaining my website and blog but perhaps the one that brings me the most joy is like the one that happened recently.  A name appeared on a contact form in my mailbox with a fun description of some antics in a biology class in the late 70’s when I taught biology at VMA in Erie.  Several emails were exchanged and stories told of all that has transpired on both ends of the story fleshing out some old memories from long ago.  I LOVE being able to do that and to learn about where life has taken my students.  So many have found me with a google search that lead them to my website.  Some visit for a span and others have become life long friends. It happens more than I ever would have anticipated.   This particular  reunion had yet another element.  “How did you happen to look for me at this time?”  I said.  “Marie, I think of you every week when I dust a framed drawing my mother gave me in the mid-90’s!”  After I asked her to send me a photo, I was gobsmacked (have wanted to use that word!) to see a drawing I did in Holland in 1984 while on a solo backpacking trip through Europe to draw and paint and visit the museums, under the direction of my friend and mentor Frederick Franck.  So, it became a double reunion with  my student Kathy and with Femke and her mother, the models in that drawing.  Who knew that dusting could bring so much pleasure?

Several of you who will read this post were likely students of mine at some time.  If so, thank you so much for finding me.

Inspiration from John Muir

imaginary landscape
Nourishment for the soul

Beauty and Bread

John Muir may not have had art in mind when he penned this: “Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where Nature may heal and cheer and give strength to body and soul alike.”  I know he had places like Yosemite and Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks as he talked of places and I think I did too as I painted this.   I suggest that “places” can also be non-tangible spots where our hearts find some reprieve from whatever may be troubling us.

You can view additional paintings inspired by land or sea, click here.

 

Welcome

Sycamore treeI decided to give my blog page a little lift with its own name.  I’m calling it Sycamore Notes and some day I will explain where that comes from. (see a more recent post for that) For now, know that it is based on my belief that art can be something that lifts us out of the ordinary and inspires or challenges us.  So here I will  “go out on a limb” and share new works that are being added into this site’s  galleries or tell you about coming events and opportunities, or share techniques I use;  or perhaps I will  share a thought that I feel needs to be shared.  My hope is that this will become interactive and to that end, I invite you to share your thoughts or questions as we proceed.