Laurasjoquist's Blog

arts, crafts, photography, and joy

it’s easier to say what I don’t do

I think about the answer to the question “what do you paint?” a lot.  Probably because I get asked this question a lot and have a hard time coming up with an on the spot answer.  And yet even though I think about it all the time, obsess about it even, I still can’t think of an adequate answer.

It might be easier to say what I don’t paint.  I don’t do portraits, landscapes or still life, at least not in the typical manner one might think of.  Neither am I an abstract expressionist, a realist or graphic artist.  And I don’t do “I” art.

“I” art.  Yuck.  The art that screams look at me and see how fucked up I am, isn’t that cool?  I can’t do this art.  I am amazingly not very fucked up for an artist.  I wasn’t abused, neglected or abandoned as a child.  I had a great childhood with a wonderful mother and full access to nature, fresh air and friends.  I have been poor, but never destitute.  I have on occasion been one or all of the following: tired, depressed, lonely and frustrated.  But no more so than any other person is in the compartmentalized world of technology we currently live in.  I am not a person of color, handicapped, homosexual or exploited.  So even if I wanted to (which I must stress I most assuredly do not want) I have nothing to make “I” art about.

I don’t make political art either.  I think political art is useless and egocentric, made more for the artist’s 15 minutes of fame than for any real expectation of change.  If I am interested in politics, I will take that interest to the voting booth or the soap box, but not to the canvas.  Of course much to my art sorrow, this is the kind of art that gets the most funding.

So what do I paint?  I asked myself again today while mountain biking on the trails at Rock Cut State Park.  And I decided that just for today, I am going to say I paint beauty and optimism and innocence.  I paint a love of nature, the remembrance of childish wonder and the blind trust that people will eventually (given enough chances) do the right thing.

Maybe there is just a little “I” art, political posturing in me after all.

Tied Fence Anderson Japanese Garden

Tied Fence Anderson Japanese Garden

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things that fall

Mushrooms at Sinnissippi Park

Mushrooms at Sinnissippi Park

The other day I was sitting in the park with all three of the boys eating a picnic lunch.  We had just had a great ride through the paths at the forest preserve to get there and were enjoying the sunlight and the turkey sandwiches.  A slight breeze came up and rustled the leaves on the oak trees around us.   Jack pointed to the trees and said “look the leaves are falling.”  We all took a moment to watch the leaves fall, yellow and spinning in the dappled sunlight.  Then Jack said “I like when the leaves fall”, and stole my heart all over again.

Because I too like when the leaves fall.  Autumn has always been my favorite time of year.  I love the “Halloween” winds that blow the leaves of trees.  I like to watch the leaves falling, floating, spinning down to earth.  I often stop whatever I am doing  just to watch.  Autumn also means that the Canadian Geese are flocking to fly South.  The great honking chains that pass over our house this time of year cause me to stop and watch in wonder too.

Which brings me to my soap box.  I take a lot of photos of nature.  I paint a lot of pictures with animals and plants in them.  Maybe it’s my Native American genes.  Maybe I am less removed (an eighth less at least) then my European- American counterparts from the wonders of nature.   Some of my ancestors only recently left the Great Plains for mobile homes after all.   I think what’s missing in far too many people’s lives these days is a connection with nature.    A real connection with dirt and insects and fungi and all things dirty and damp and alive and moving.  I’m lucky, dare I say blessed to have this connection, to truly feel respect and reverence for nature.

And I’ll admit it does make me feel special that my family can sit in the park together and watch the leaves fall in companionable silence

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reel mower

When we are out driving, Jack likes to point out lawns that I would never be able to finish mowing with the reel mower.

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potato story

I read this while eating lunch today. From the book Bluebeard’s Egg a collection of short stories by Margaret Atwood that I found for a dollar at the library charity book sale.

“While she was combing my next-to-impossible hair, winding it around her long index finger, yanking out the snarls, my mother used to read me stories. Most of them are still in the house somewhere, but one has vanished. It may have been a library book. It was about a little girl who was so poor she had only one potato left for her supper, and while she was roasting it the potato got up and ran away. There was the usual chase, but I can’t remember the ending: a significant lapse.

“That story was one of you favourites,” says my mother. She is probably still under the impression that I identified with the little girl, with her hunger and sense of loss; whereas in reality I identified with the potato.”

On a more art related topic, I have started my attempt to draw my way through the non-fiction section of the local library today with the book Invasive Plants of the Upper Midwest An Illustrated Guide to Their Identification and Control by Elizabeth J. Czarapata. It is a book of not very good photographs of some of my favorite wild plants that are apparently noxious. Who knew?

I figure at a rate of one book a week, I have a goal that will last me the rest of my life. Next week perhaps I will visit the wild animal section.

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sunlight

I spent some time this holiday weekend in the sunlight. Light is an amazing thing. Most people don’t realize it has different qualities depending on things like the area you’re in, the time of day and the weather. They obviously can see the differences, but don’t stop to think about them much. I can’t blame people for ignoring the quality of light, we all have things to do and there is no surplus of time.

But if anyone wants to explore the quality of light, I suggest giving black and white photography a try. With the new digital cameras that have a B&W setting, it’s pretty easy to do now. Not like the old days where you didn’t really know what you got until the final moment in the dark room and it took years to train the artistic eye. Of course there are those that will argue that using digital won’t really teach you anything about light. But we all need to decide how to use our time wisely, right?

Sunlight on Flower Hononegah Forrest Preserve

Sunlight on Flower Hononegah Forrest Preserve

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one down, five to go

I took a long bike ride this morning, all the way to Poplar Grove. I promised myself if I made it this time, I would be rewarded with a sweet treat. At the end of my bike path (it actually continues on to Capron) in Poplar Grove, there was a Mexican Grocery. Score. Because everybody knows that Mexican Grocery = Real Coca Cola. I don’t normally drink Coke, because let’s be honest, it’s a pretty nasty drink of carbonated corn syrup that rots the teeth and stings the gums. But real Coke? The kind only found in Mexico and countries farther south, and sometimes Mexican Groceries in the frigid north)? I love it.

You may well ask why I love this Coca-Cola. John did on our trip to Costa Rica. He noticed I was sucking the stuff down at every meal (yes even breakfast), calories be damned. The answer was three fold really. 1. Can’t drink the water. 2. Diet Coke in other countries sucks. It tastes horrible. Not enough chemicals. and 3. Coke in other countries has (drum roll please) real sugar. Actual, real sugar. And I love real sugar.

Sadly it wasn’t until I left the store and found a little bench to park my butt on, that I realized I had no way to open my real Coke. Real Coke comes in wonderful sweaty glass bottles, just like from childhood, but alas I had no bottle opener. So the real Coke had to ride all the way back home with me, and then go back in the fridge before it could be properly enjoyed. Lesson learned? My backpack needs a permanent bottle opener.

On the upside I have completed one of the five paintings I need to enter the two shows that have an October deadline. So, there’s that.

Five Birds

Five Birds

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laid off

Today was my first day as an unemployed person. My job (which I hated, so I’m not too sad) was downsized and outsourced and came to an end August 31st.

I have three vaugely defined goals for my period of unemployment. I am still hashing out the fine details, but basically I am looking to grow as an artist, become a better steward of the Earth, and work on some health issues that have crept up with age. Also it will be nice to be a bit more involved in Jack’s school life. And I do plan to take some time to either go back to school or find my “dream job”.

That said, this morning I hopped on my beautiful bike and headed around town to do some errands and get some exercise. Then I spent the afternoon in the basement working on some new pieces of art. I plan to enter two juried art shows coming up later in the year.

I have been spurned by the Rockford Art Museum’s Rockford Midwestern in the past, but thought I would give it another shot. I’m trying something different (see smaller) that hopefully they will like. Photos to come upon completion. http://www.rockfordartmuseum.org/midwestern.html

I also got an email the other day for this juried art show http://www.elmhurstartistsguild.org/ in Elmhurst IL, so I might try that one also.

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