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I am UmberDove.

And by that, I mean an artist.  One who hears stories in the wind, who paints because it is what her soul tells her to do, who smiths because the muse moves through her fingertips, who loves nothing more than the promise of an unexplored trail, the sound of the ocean in her ears, and scent of a serious cup of coffee.

Week 5 - Storytelling

The Internal Stories

Kelly Clark

“Everything in life comes to you as a teacher. Pay Attention. Learn Quickly.”  - Cherokee saying

Today I'd like to speak on a different type of storytelling, of gathering narratives, of building image and tale into your art.  We all have unique vision, highly personal internal stories, and by tapping into that, we can find an endless source of imagery.  Let's chat on it, shall we?

To recap some of the ways to gather intuitive, internal story: 

Dreams... Writing down dreams can be incredibly informative, both for recognizing the internal thoughts your subconscious is through (and for keying in on a deep level to your psyche), as well as providing you with a deep reservoir of images and narratives.  I believe that writing down particularly potent dreams, marking or sketching out certain images I saw in my dreamstate gives me a rich and utterly personal source of ideas from which to create. 

Meditation and Journeywork... There are so many different ways to approach both of these, and a well guided meditation can yield a host of really beautiful advances in the soul.  There are many sources online, as well as plenty of local yoga studios that offer meditation hours (and of course, a great many other disciplines and spiritual practices that do their own versions - this is your work and your life, so please follow the truths of your own path!).  When you engage with these type of practices, you are often guided to set aside some of the hustle-bustle of everyday life and quiet the external dialogue.  The way we see things in this quiet state, in states of "other" or non-ordinary reality, are utterly our own - the way you picture your surroundings, yourself, the people, flora and fauna that appear is always unique to you.  

Single-Frame Images... I consider these to be the pictures that pop up in the mind, seemingly unassociated with what you are currently doing, where you are, or even something that already exists.  You may not understand them, they may seem random or even silly, but I always view them as freebies from our intuition.  As we can write them down or sketch them out, we may learn more about them, or they may always be a mystery!  Either way, they are yet another completely unique vision that you and you alone have had.

Week 5 Continuing Home[play]: Field Notes

I'd like you to look at some of the narratives you have to offer, to begin exploring them in word and image.  On Monday we began by writing up a list of interesting moments (those things that we saw/felt/experienced/happened to us); on Wednesday we wrote up gratitude lists (those things outside of us that we want to acknowledge/notate/mark/give thanks for); today we looked at our internal and intuitive stories (dreams/meditations/journeywork/single frame images from our subconscious mind).  Everyone of these could be a potential source for you to explore - as well as combine and overlap.  Choose at least one moment/list item/dream/etc. and start playing with it with an eye towards your medium of choice.  Tell yourself right now that this is Play and Curiosity, that there needs to be no judgement; we're just exploring the ways that we can tell our stories.  If creating field notes in your sketchbooks is helpful, begin there.  If writing down your story with words feels good, then follow that.  And if you need to take a nap in order to dream, well by all means, follow that intuition!  

If you're in the FaceBook group, I'd love to see the moments, tributes, meditations and dreams you might be working with!  Share away! 

Believing in your rich tales, 

- K

Paying Homage

Kelly Clark

“The most authentic thing about us is our capacity to create, to overcome, to endure, to transform, to love and to be greater than our suffering.”  - Ben Okri

Today we continue to discuss storytelling and the making of narrative work.  I love thinking about art in this way because I so deeply believe that storytelling (in absolutely whatever form it takes) allows us to share our unique experiences, to show the ways in which we see and participate in this world.  I'd like discuss one more way to step into narrative work using information and conscious thought process; on Friday we'll discuss a more intuitive, internal approach (and how, as ever, the two can be present together).

One of my very favorite ways to approach the making of a piece of art, is to create a Tribute.  I consider tribute work to be a piece of art that acknowledges or honors a specific person, people group, animal, plant, location, sight, event, concept, etc.  It gives me a way to say "this was/is important to me" as well as giving me a way to offer my gratitude for the gifts this life so generously bestows upon us.  To work in Tribute gives me a way to step outside of myself, look deeply at something that deserves my looking, and say yes, I see you.  A Tribute piece can be as recognizable as a still life, or as abstract as color fields, but either way, it is a conscious recognition.  Truly I believe it is simply a beautiful way to say thanks and to create a space of thanksgiving in our hearts.


I often find the  things/places/experiences that want to become Tribute pieces are those which find me in my life - such as this massive Ten-lined June Beetle who was laying, quite dead, in the gardens - they're not necessarily earth-shaking, although of course, they can be.  They are the occurrences, memories, and hand-held treasures that simply are part of what happens in our everyday stories.  One great way to pinpoint them is to create a gratitude list - long or short, big or small, a list of that which you are thankful for.  

When I begin building the story of a Tribute pieces, I hone in, spiral down and begin asking questions (questions, questions, I love them!  Gently asking questions allows us to approach our work from a place of curiosity, wonderment and play) and collecting information.   For me, this is a great opportunity to explore and journal in my sketchbook.  Can you describe the thing/place/experience with words AND images?  Are there photos you've taken, drawing you'd like to add, studies you've done and information you've learned?  In your heart of hearts, do you want to say thank you, I see you, I was here, you were there, or some other short acknowledgement?  This is a great practice for the building of Field Notes, such as we discussed in Monday's lesson.  When we gather information, it's right there at the ready, but when we work specifically in Tribute, we have the added benefit of working from a place of really seeing, marking, and giving appreciation.  And those added benefits help imbue emotion, heart-space and life-experience into our work.

Week 5 Continuing Home[play]: Field Notes

For today, we'll layer on an easy little exercise.  I'd like you to write up a list of gratitude in your sketchbooks.  There may be some overlap from your lists of inspirations, there may be brand new items (and not even ones you would have considered for the inspiration list), they may be very small and specific, they may be broad and conceptual.  Either way, the very act of writing them down moves us into a place wherein we can offer joy and thanks, wherein our hearts open and we can be ever more receptive to hearing our intuition and the flow of creativity.  Look these over closely, see what you feel, what you want to spend time with, what is asking you to come out and play.  IF from here you'd like to continue developing the items on your list, creating Field Notes, sketches, color plays, or diving into your medium of choice, well then I say let loose and GO GET SOME!


 Be large of heart my wild women,

- K

Building a Narrative

Kelly Clark

“Everything that we encounter leaves traces behind. Everything contributes imperceptibly to our education”  - Goethe

There are few things I love more than a really wonderful story - be it told through words, movement or images.  We all hold thousands of stories within us: tales of our own experiences walking this earth, familial lore, spiritual learnings and journeywork, imagined fairytales, wild dreams and daily (even mundane) actions.  I love to think of my art as a continual process of "Building the Narrative of my Life."  The work of my hands is a visible, tangible representation of my thoughts, and the way that I personally know best to weave the tale of my life.


Now to be clear, this does not mean that every single piece of art is a deep, fully formed story!  Some are full of meaning and rich lines of thought, for certain, but others are no more complicated than saying "what a beautiful sunrise" or "gosh I really love trilliums."  Even work that is 100% abstract and created entirely through intuition is still a marker of who we are and when we made it.  Every time we create, coming from that authentic place of checking in with ourselves, from building on previous work to stretching into unknown territory, we tell a little more on the story of us.

For me, I also find this to be a place of great forgiveness with old work that I tend to decide is "lesser."  I don't keep all of my old work (there are a great many paintings buried deep under layers of gesso, with newer paintings on top), but when I begin looking at (or thinking about) that older work through the lens of my story, I can see it as a marker in time, a chapter in my art.  I may be glad that chapter is done, but it was still a necessary chapter to pass before I could begin the current one.   I believe that no true artist is ever just "done learning," but that we have the capacity to continue learning, making and telling our stories up until the very end.  Where we are right now is just one point on our path, there is work from our past that informs our now, and our present time will inform the work of our future.  Really believing this allows me to slip free of the fear of non-perfection, or the thought that "this might not look exactly the way I envisioned it" because I believe this work is for right now, and there will be more work to create in my future.


So how do we begin telling narratives, illustrating the story of our lives?  The wonderfully convenient part is that you already have.  All those lists of inspirations, all those field notes, all those marks and symbolism and color choices, the work of your hands you've which been creating over the last five weeks, ALL speak to your now and the story that currently surrounds you.  This week we'll continue adding to them, but giving them a little push and embracing the idea of story.


Week 5 Home[play]: Field Notes

Because this week may be my very favorite week of all - I am a gal who adores storytelling - I'd like to introduce you to our homeplay today, rather than waiting until Friday.  This is the kind of sketchbook work that can be done endlessly, and built upon with each of our lessons this week, so have fun, trust that you are exactly right where and when you need to be, and believe in your stories! 

I'd like you to think over your past week (or beyond) and choose three interesting moments (and note the word interesting - these could be super pleasurable, easy times that bought you happiness, but they could also just be a moment that has stuck in your mind, no matter the emotional association).  They could be simple: practicing yoga every morning, an evening walk with the dogs, the feeling of brisk autumnal wind pressing the back of your neck, the hour you spent rearranging your mantle of natural objects d'art, or the feather you found laying in a parking lot.  They could be complex: a long conversation with an old friend, a book that sparked an existential debate, the planning stages of a cross country road trip, or deep reading on the state of the food chain in the US (yes, these are all some of mine).  Either way try to identify three moments and write them down in your sketchbook.


Now we begin pulling out our whole bag of tricks:  Think of these as your Field Notes.  When you think about one of those moments, closing your eyes and checking in, what ideas, associations, emotions, memories arise?  Do you want to describe it in detail with words?  Are there any objects, shapes, images or pictures that appear in your mind?  Are there any colors that stand out?  Any marks, doodles, squiggles that can stand in?  Feel free to check back in your previous sketchbook pages for any ideas that might want to pop up here.  You may find yourself working towards a thought or idea that seems entirely removed from the original moment - but that's a beautiful thing!  Put it all down in your sketchbook, adding and free associating as you go.   

Develop each "moment" as much as feels good - it you get stuck on one, move on to another.  If you only come up with a couple small points, that's perfectly alright, because not every piece will have or needs a ton of deep meaning!  Remember, sometimes all we need is a single color or shape to describe, and that single thing might be the most honest description of all.  

This may become a piece you want to create in your own medium, it may not.  The important thing here is that we're notating the occurrences of our lives, giving them time, and asking how they inform us while we open up to the possibility of new art being born.


Here's to our stories! 

- K