The sea is like an eternal mountain range viewed from above, yet in constant motion. The peaks rise and fall showing glimpses of white caps- soft snow gracing the very highest ridge. The sun cascades down, blinding me with the glow on the water, sparkling like hundreds of diamonds taking over the horizon and tunneling the light along an unmarked corridor directly to the base of where I sit. Silhouettes of rocky outcroppings interrupt this stream of light with a backdrop of softly rolling hills, hazy, yet defined in the light blue sky with sea salted mist. The pocked beige granite rocks I sit on gradually turn dark and then emerald green diving into the waves where the seaweed begins, the wetness gives the rocks life, slick algae that becomes its lotion and rough barnacles its pumice.
A green can stands out as human interference marking the channel. Farther away I can barely make out a red nun. Thick forests of evergreens balance on cream-colored rocks, forming distant islands all merging together to appear as one. The hardy trees dig their roots into shallow topsoil, perched precariously on lichen covered cliffs testing the boundaries of mother nature. How they survive the severe ocean winters I will never know. The Bay sings in a never-ending chorus of mermaid splashes and motherly slaps of water on rock. I pull back on my socks as the wind changes direction, caresses my neck with its cool praises and muffles my ears. Busy ants crawl inside my sweatshirt tickling my arms, persistent on following their subconscious paths. The sun is warm in late-May despite the breeze and long afternoon shadows as long as I find a sheltered nook, to position myself just right.
I awoke in the dark, head filled with dreams of A-frame cabins becoming mansions and missing my mission for the morning, watching the sunrise! Warming up some tea, donning my head torch and fleece I trudge across camp to the ridge trail. At 6:15 a.m. the dawn air feels like a freshly unwrapped popsicle and the soft greyish-blue light is already filtering over the distant hills. I find a stump as my spectator seat and admire the lights shift from grey to pale pinkish-yellow. My excitement for the actual sunrise wells up in me~ excited for the day, one of my last to spend fully making art in this inspiring place. As the world turns light falls on the mountains behind me and a piercing spark alights on the horizon as the sun welcomes us to another gorgeous day.
My art cabin
The last two days have been filled with marathon art-making. Yesterday the weather finally cleared giving me the full day to do print-making in the field. I had my paper prepped, my charcoal and pencils ready and clear ideas of where I would find the prime beetle trails to use as inspiration. Soon my arms where aching, sweat beading on my forehead and the act of making was surprisingly much more physical and exhausting than I expected. A break to dip my toes in shockingly cold Blue Lake refreshed me for another round to experiment beyond the beetle trails and into the textures of bark, tree rings and charred wood. Unexpected designs, forms and marks filled my paper – some successful others a disaster. It is hard not to judge, but I have been trying my best to let go of outcome and really focus on this opportunity to explore process. To allow myself ourselves to make ‘ugly’ art, as one of the other artists called it, is somewhat liberating and, I think, necessary. Curiosity drives an artist and the only way to feed that and push the limits is to try. Try things that fail, look terrible and then in one instant a discovery is made by accident. A gem in the stack of dull rocks that inspires our souls to keep on creating and making mistakes.
markings in the forest – beetle trail outlined in charcoal
I was reminded I’ve been here over a week with our weekly community dinner last night. I felt much more comfortable in the space, with the people, with myself in this environment. Watching the brilliant stars from the dock after with a fellow artist is beyond rewarding to make that human as well as environmental connection.
Before I go to bed I look at my permanently blackened hands and laugh, remembering the camp name I gave myself at dinner ‘charcoal fingers’. I hope Elizabeth introduces me as that at open studios… tomorrow!
I arrived a week ago today. It takes about this long to mentally ‘settle’ in. To take in ones surroundings, the new environment, the new people and new daily habits. My mind has begun to let go of what was and be in what is – my reality of exploring, observing, making and interacting with this place. It feels unbelievably good to be surrounded by nature, to be a part of nature. The heavy rain pounding on my cabin roof the other night lulled me into a blissful sleep in part because it’s been over two years since I’ve had a direct roof over my head to enjoy such a sound. This place has reminded me of my deep need to be immersed in nature to feel whole, to be connected to not only to myself but the world around me in an honest way.
The last few days have been mostly damp. I’ve still been out exploring, mostly collecting and finding spots to return when the sun reappears for an extended time (tomorrow!). I drove about 20 minutes into Sisters, the closest town and stocked up on provisions – groceries, a pair of fleece pants from the thrift store, scraps of muslin, sandpaper and a nice bottle of Oregon pinot noir. Sisters is decidedly trying to be like the old ‘wild west’. The facades of each building are structured from that time era and even the fonts of store names follow suit. It is a sweet square mile downtown and the bustle for a Monday morning was surprising, even at a bakery that primarily sells gluten-free pastries and six tantalizing types of yerba mate.
Driving back the sunny weather and blue skies turned quickly into an engulfing snow storm! The artists from warmer climates are very excited to see snow- so there has been a stir of kid-like energy as it’s been intermittently falling the last couple days. I myself just can’t get over the shifts in weather. It will be overcast, downpouring and windy and the next minute the sun is shining through creating beautiful soft sunshowers cascading through the trees.
Yesterday Diana and I were determined to make it to the Pacific Crest Trail for a short hike. Within driving 10 minutes higher in elevation there was snow pack on the sides of the highway and even with snow treads on the wheels we got stuck in the unplowed road leading to our trailhead. Needless to say, I was ok with missing that hike, although it amazed me how quickly the climate changed… there isn’t one patch of snow around Caldera. When we returned the sun was shining and what felt like mini-hail began to fall for about five mi
sketches of different creature ‘maps’
nutes. Folowale, a dancer has become our resident ‘rainbow chaser’ and with weather like this he reports that he’s constantly on the hunt!
I’m making, I’m creating, I’m experimenting, I’m engaging in the creative process beyond just enjoying the beauty of the area which would be so
easy to do. The wood-borer trails, lines ‘drawn’ by beetles in trees are fascinating. These intricate, organic marks in the wood beg to be noticed, beg to be traced and captured in some way. They in itself are a writing of place. They remind me of little maps, recordings of an insects existence; or a secret language, symbols of a dialect I cannot understand but want to decipher. I have spent countless hours searching and finding these intricate abstract patterns, collecting large shards of bark from the forest, sitting by the fire patiently as they dry so I can try to translate these marks into a visual language to share with others. I have documented the various patterns through sketches and photographs like a scientist trying to understand ancient tribal markings. I have researched their implications and discovered these enigmatic lines have deadly results. In multitude they can kill a tree, many trees and have destroyed forests. At least 80% of the trees on the ground here have evidence of these beetles. It feels like an anomaly yet is so natural, the cycles of life and death, how one thing destroys another to live. How can I be so taken with an insect that literally fells forests? Yet like the forest fire it is natural and something humans can’t seem to quite understand or accept is this natural destruction.
I discovered a way to record these markings. I outlined them with charcoal from the burnt forest and took photographs with average results. Then I tried rubbings, but the paper needed to be thin, not something I brought with me. Yet in the process of doing the rubbings on-site I noticed something by accident – the lines I had traced were being transferred on the back side of the paper. From years of doing graphite transfers, I immediately became excited at my discovery and tried it out on a good piece of paper. I was surprisingly impressed by the results.
Notes from my sketchbook: “So I used charcoal to re-outline my previous markings of the insects trail. Then use my good paper, large graphite stick (wrapped in it’s sleeve) to press and rub on the back. I can see the imprint coming through… I flip the paper over and am immediately excited- stunned at the beauty of line and texture process captured… like a wood block print… yes. I then tried it again… and again with black paper and white conte. Gorgeous. I can repeat overlay, the process/possibilities seem endless. ‘I’m so stoked’ is not only for surfers.”
Yesterday I spent a large portion of my day experimenting with the wood pieces I’ve collected- using repetition, collage, mixed media and re-learning my printmaking skills to develop these pieces. By the end of the evening my mind was in overstimulation with the limitations, the possibilities and the effect these strong black and white visuals have on me.
I can’t wait until the sun peaks out again to dry up these trees so I can once again source directly from the forest. Until then my studio is looking more and more like the forest floor!
Snow is falling today! Blustery and wet outside, yet big flakes driving past my little cabin make the forest appear slightly opaque, moving in a different way through each torrent of snow to get a glimpse of what is beyond. Disappearing once it touches ground. This area needs snow badly, there has been no snow pack this year which will affect water supplies and agriculture and leave the land open to forest fires.
My cabin looks like a squirrels nest – bark, branches and pine needles are scattered on all surfaces. I’ve rolled up my rug so I can work directly on the floor. Pieces of white, black and printed paper line my table and charcoal covered clothes are strewn about, hanging on various makeshift hooks (including my lamp).
The color of my nose is currently a ruddy sunburnt, the tips of my fingers rough and what seems like a permanent blackness rests under my fingernails, splinters poke into my arms and I cannot for the life of me keep my clothes clean for even one day.
Canoe trip on Blue Lake!
Beetle Trail Prints
This place has a calm and power that has affected all the residents, our dreams have been vivid and plentiful and we all feel blessed to be here. The staff (what staff?) is nowhere to be seen, we are left to our own devices to make or break the rules, open access to all and it results in a feeling of trust and respect. After our potluck the other night we cast glow sticks into the lake to see how deep it is (close to 300ft) and projected Star Wars above the immense fireplace with the fire blazing…just because we could.
I’ve flicked ticks off me, stood in mourning and honor between the charred trees, gone out for a canoe and seen underwater trees, become teary-eyed at the beauty of this place and have fallen in love with the wood-borer trails embedded in the fallen trees. The patterns, the tiny creature maps, the language and symbols they convey. Something that strikes me as so beautiful but their existence is probably the demise of the tree I’m standing over.
I am now starting to get heated, sitting literally in the hearth of the fireplace in the main Hearth Building waiting for my pieces of wood to dry. The hearth is at least 15′ wide and 8′ deep, my lounge chair is easily nestled in, cozy by the fire. The weather has been amazing the last two days- bouts of rain and snow intermingled with sun and wind. At one moment I’m ready to give up and grab a cup of tea and the next I’m putting on my boots to go out. In the same instant big plops of rain fall or snow are whizzing by I see shadows from the hazy sun and sunshowers sparkling down around me, keeping me constantly on the lookout for a rainbow.
I can’t believe I’ve been here this long already. The days seem to whiz by, yet are also very peaceful and there’s so much time to explore, take in, collect – just be in this place. It’s a true gift to have this time. I have been trying to break out of my pattern of feeling ‘stressed’ to produce and valuing my process within a short time-frame. I know now that whatever I do here doesn’t just stay here it will extend into my practice and I want to fully experience each step, each vista, each moment of doubt and success. It doesn’t make sense for me to burn myself out- this is a place and a space where I am relieved from the pressures of my ‘norm’ the overwhelming schedule, the demands of work and on top of that trying to fit in studio time, friend time, family time and me time. To honor that is huge in itself and an awakening to go slower, to take care of myself yet uphold what is the most important to me ~making art, speaking my truth and being in my truth.
I feel so enlivened. I just laid on the dock staring at the windows in the sky, the tiny holes poked in the blackness to let the light in, but only enough to stare at it in wonder, to yearn for more- but appreciate what you have. Long enough to see one of these sparkling holes leap across the sky to impress you even more. My fingers went numb – but my core was warm with more than just body heat. It is a new moon tonight so the stars shown more brightly because of it. Honoring my first full day in this new place, this sacred place of forest, lake, mountains and creeks. This new place of creative energy, inspired people and little cabins.
I awoke cozy in my loft, the heat rising in the night filled with strange dreams and encounters. I strolled out to the dock in my tie-dye pajama pants, with my granola, tea and sketchbook. Writing, questioning, observing and pulling in the energy around me. Shortly after I set out on a walk around the rim of Blue Lake. The 45min hike took me 2 1/2 hours. Each twist and assent sent me into new findings, awe-ing vistas and emotional realizations. Overstimulated by the textures of bark, the intricate patterns of the trees, the glisten of the sun off the lake and Mt. Washington growing in size.
Blue Lake- Rim Trail
What inspired me the most? The trees. T
he deeply grooved layered bark that looks like a complex jigsaw puzzle; the charred skin burnt into charcoal from forest fires; the smooth cream underlayer, exposing tangles of insect trails; the cut sections revealing imperfect rings and stumps as small as the diameter of a basketball and as wide as a tractor tire.
I’ve hit the jackpot for ‘homemade’ charcoal. Parts of this forest devastated by a 2003 fire (B&B complex fire), looks like a field of massive charcoal sticks stuck in the earth. The rich black, frames and accentuates the texture and contrasts the light undersides, creating a stunning visual. However as I later discover due to this 90,000 acre fire, native animals and plants have had a difficult time prospering and the tick population has increased significantly.
During the walk I stop, I look, I touch, I sit, I sketch, I write, I think. I go off the trail to explore. Burdened by thoughts outside of this space, I try to let them go. I want to focus on my creation process and fully take in what this environment has to offer me. On the far side of the rim the ground turns to thousands of rocks of red pumice (lava) from the volcanic explosion of implosion thousands of years ago.
An artist-in-residence (AiR) scares me from above, since I’ve cascaded into the slippery pumice below the trail. Diana is the first AiR I’ve met in person. She’s a writer, from L.A. – working on her PhD. She gives me the lay of the land, telling me about the nearby waterfalls and the ticks you might get hiking there. We admire our new garter snake friend that appeared during our conversation and I collect more bark before we hike in separate directions.
I head to the library to see if I can find any information on the history of place, of the land Caldera is on. Although my search is futile I do pick up an old text-book on ‘The Science of Ecology’, a handbook of ‘The Craft of Drawing’ and a small journal of ‘poetry of place’. Brushing up on charcoal techniques and new ways to think about drawing with graphite is exciting since my most recent set of drawings has been very technical. I am fascinated by the organic shapes a certain type of bark makes. The one that creates the organic ‘puzzle’ pieces. These pieces remind me of a topographical map – the relief layers and the curving lines. I use a soft graphite pencil to rub an impression in my notebook, then I begin to outline the edges of the shapes directly onto the bark. I also have collected a 4′ branch with a multitude of insect ‘trails’, squiggly lines that have been eaten into the surface. I use white conte crayon and graphite to follow these lines, wondering what pathway, what form the stick will take once these lines are highlighted. I know I can accomplish this with a small branch, but is it realistic to try to do this on a full size tree… or part of a tree? These samplings in my studio, can they realistically be transferred to nature? My imagination is my only limit…
Driving through the high desert with mountains beckoning to me on all sides with their ominous presence and stark white peaks I made my way to Bend. Greeted by Kathy in her bright red pick-up we drove away from civilization while she was naming the upwards of five massive mountain peaks surrounding us. Away our wheels spun from the constraints of urban society, past quaint wooded towns and deeper into the forest… the Deschutes National Forest to be exact.
Caldera’s website doesn’t do it justice. The photos cannot capture the space, environment and energy that is here. My cabin is set back from Blue Lake, a 300ft. deep lake formed by a crater. Outside I hear the churning of a water wheel that also houses a fish ladder for the spawning scaled swimmers. The view out my front window is scattered with pine needles, deeply grooved and stoic coniferous trees, sun glinting off the lake and the sharp peak of Mt. Washington piercing the sky. The Hearth Building is the pulse of Caldera with a massive main area that a dancer is using as his studio. The fireplace is a slab of stone or slate that 10 people can stand in comfortably and 2-story windows surround the space, letting the light stream in. Adjacent to this stunning room is a library upon first glance that resembles a posh ski lodge with fireplace, couches, window seats, a massive oak table and even a chess set flanked by shelves and shelves of books.
Fairly overwhelmed at the prospect of this 120-acre parcel of inspiration I unpacked my perishables and caught the last couple of hours of sun, cozied behind the boat house with my book, my journal and what will probably be one of many lizards scurrying among the deck beams. I fall asleep in the warm sunrays without a person in sight to notice my slumber.
Artists in the exhibit use trees as a means to making art such as sculptures, photographs and even music. I highly recommend listening to Bartholomaus Traubeck who plays cross sections of trees like records resulting in eerily melodic unstructured instrumentals. Below is a photo of sound artist Diego Stocco recording a bonsai! The exhibit runs until Sept. 2015, so you have no excuse but to get there!!
With summer in full-swing an Eco-Art Adventure was a perfect compliment and escape to the mid-week Boston bustle and heat. I gladly answered the call to get out on the water and create. It was a perfect combination partnering with Discovery Adventures in Lanesville to provide the kayaks and gear, mother nature to provide the materials and an adventurous family to jump on in. Stocked with sunscreen, sketchbooks and snorkels the paddle to Folly Cove, with the wind at our backs, proved ideal. An environmental art challenge resulted in prime opportunity for family collaboration and ocean front real estate, so name your price… and get there quick!
For Sale- Ocean Front property, name your price… get it while it lasts
Starting her watercolor on paper, 4yr old Simone completed it on herself. Already a master of the pencil, 11yr old Colin used the inspiration of his paddle to draw a kayaker in action, while his 9yr old brother Ian & Uncle Dan tried to engineer a waterfall by averting the freshwater stream flowing into the ocean. The cold water of Folly Cove refreshed us all…if not only to induce seaweed fights. Nature truly makes the best art materials, stimulus for play, creativity and imagination. However the biggest challenge was yet to come – the paddle back to Lanes Cove. The wind had picked up to a steady 10-12 knots with gusts and as a double measure the tide was against us. My hardy crew pushed on through, working our arms, core and backs (whose sore today?!)… while I tied the brave Colin to my rear to keep his bow pointing straight and determination alive through teamwork. I’m only hoping his frustration will turn into a glorious sea story he’ll tell (or draw for) his friends about at school this year in land-locked Texas. Turning at the pirate flag into the calm waters of Lane’s Cove was a treat… and after my group went onward to capture the rest of the gorgeous day, I enjoyed the tranquility (minus the rumbling of fishing boat engines) with a thankful swim and a jump off the 20ft wall…just to prove I’ve still got it in me.
To book an Eco-Art Adventure go to www.discoadventures.com or call 978.283.3320
Do you have the patience to watch and observe a periwinkle leave its trail in the sand? They move in-between tides, cluster together in communities and create abstract designs that are walked on and washed away. But have you actually seen them move, seen the formation of periwinkle parties during the slow passage of time the ocean’s edge grows?
How do we take these small intangible motions and movements to create larger theories, ways to live by, or will they continue to be unseen without an observant – well in truth a more patient eye. Perhaps the only lens we can see the movement through is the camera, setting up a tripod and walking away… like a watched pot our need for instant gratification & constant expectation overwhelms us. Think about our own trails we leave behind. Since we can’t see or feel the intangible wake of our movements is there really nothing there? Imagine your day, your week, and then imagine if your feet were constantly covered in wet paint, your tire wheels burning marks in the asphalt, your gestures leaving colorful fibers floating with each heart flutter. What would your imprint’s visual trail be?
Daniel Ranalli snail drawings on exhibit at the Peabody Essex Museum force a controlled choreography between the periwinkles and their destination asking us to question whether we create our own dance everyday or embrace the chance path that may lead us in a different direction with our brilliant orange strings following us.