I had such a fun day today in my Escapist studio working on my very first assignment! The painting is coming along nicely though I’m not ready to reveal it yet.
When I went home to feed the biggest dog in the universe I also sat down and painted some antique silverware inspired by my friend Margaret Doran’s Instagram feed.
The best days, for me, tend to be the ones when I like what I painted and when I feel like I got a lot of good work done.
I drew this Chinese dragon in homage to my dog because she so fierce (and she kinda looks like one with those round popping eyes and her underbite!). But I also drew it because I wanted to feel fierce myself and in the morning I was feeling somewhat faded. It was probably nerves. Today was my initiation ceremony at John Palmer’s studio where I stood with the other Escapists, two wonderful ladies I’m already very fond of (AVM Hawkins and Paula Hawkins), and took the Escapist pledge. (There is a fourth of us too, Nabarupa Bhattacharjee, but she is currently in India and will join us in May). Kim Ogg, Harris County District Attorney gave a very moving keynote address in which she said some of the things I deeply believe in: that we can all get along even when we disagree and that art will help heal some of the current divisiveness in our country and the world. Representative Al Green attended the initiation as well and I was honored to meet him and receive a celebratory fist bump! We all got photographed more than I’ve ever been in my life (including the time I was a bridesmaid at a wedding in Kentucky, and they take that shit seriously!).
Of course, the question was, who would show up for me? I do have a tendency to eschew ceremonies of any kind, and if I ever do attend I usually don’t have family and such joining because #expatlife #rollingstone #girlwhomovesalot. I’m thrilled to report my cat curator friend who doesn’t like to go out because she’s part feline showed up wearing a beautiful shirt with the most exquisite print of cats. Of course, I recommended her services to the District Attorney. I’m so proud of her cat sitting business and also I just love talking to people about cats. You should try it sometime!
The other person who showed up for me was Mitch Cohen, owner and organizer of the First Saturday Arts Market, and a bona fide Houston art world celebrity. He suggested I take a picture of the floor in my studio so I can have before and after shots when the year is up. And so I did because I recognize good advice when I hear it.
I suppose my dog would have loved to come support me too but she too fierce to go out in public. That’s why I drew her as a Chinese dragon. I think she digs that.
“When do you know a love story’s over?” I asked.
“You just know,” he said. “It’s like a painting. You know when it’s done.” I liked the metaphor.
I’d spent a very satisfying day in my new art studio with much hope that the painting I’m currently working on will eventually feel “resolved.” I decided it needed a scrappy coyote sitting in a corner. The image just came to me and I connected it with the coyote I saw in the summer, on East Beach in Galveston, the one that appeared as an omen of truths I knew but was unwilling to accept. Coyotes have very strong symbolism. They are shape shifters. They signal transformation. I figured a coyote would go well with the hellebores blooming out of a green heart.
Also, I got pink paint on the floor of my Escapist studio. It’s something I wanted to do very much.
Best moment of my day: Having John Palmer take my picture as I was prepping a panel in my new studio next to Bobby the dog who seems to love me truly. The building that contains the Escapists’ studios and a gallery for us to show our work in is called the Chrysalis. I’m glad I got in there today and started working on my first Escapist project.
Also, I got a haircut and got the Italian boots I bought three years ago in Amsterdam resoled and looking fabulous. I am so ready for the initiation on Sunday!
There is a tradition my witch friend taught me which involves holding on to the Christmas tree, a green beacon of hope to remind us of nature eventually coming back to life, until the Gaelic feast of Imbolc. Imbolc marks the beginning of spring. And guess what? Imbolc is today. Bye, Christmas tree!
Of course, it’s not lost on me how stars and symbols align. Yesterday I had my first Escapist meeting on a night with a magical full moon, and then the next day marks the start of spring, a new beginning, things blooming, coming back to life.
I have an idea for my first Escapist project that involves, among other things, flowers that bloom in late winter and early spring. I decided I really like hellebores. And of course, I came to like them even more when I learned that they’re part of the ranunculus family.
The full moon is upon us. I made this calendar to mark the beginning of a very exciting time in my life. Today we had our first meeting with John Palmer and his partner, Ryan, and I finally got to meet the other Escapists! There are three of us here in Houston (and one in India!). We got to see our studios. Yes, we get studios and gallery space! Mine has paint smears from Hugo Perez, a painter whose bold colors and texture I love, and from my friend Chuck Redick who was an Escapist last year and who introduced me to the program and all of the wonderful opportunities it entails when I crashed a collector’s party this past summer. Yes, sometimes I stumble upon things and the Universe shows me the way. I believe in synchronicity and magic. I also believe we create opportunities for ourselves by being who we are and going places uninvited. Or rather by being adventurous and curious and open. I was well received at the collectors party. I knew I’d stumbled upon a good crowd. And tonight too, the energy was positive and welcoming. Our small Escapist class bonded and I could feel genuine enthusiasm and warmth.
My day, before making it to the Escapist meeting had not been entirely uncomplicated. I’d struggled in drawing class this morning and almost left before the life drawing session. My friend had to encourage me not to quit. “You’re a damn bull,” she said. “You’re strong.” I liked that. I love being surrounded by this kind of support, by people who encourage me to push through when the going gets tough. We all have the tendency to jump ship on occasion, but perseverance tends to pay off. I’m glad I stayed for the life drawing session after my morning drawing class. The model was beautiful and she held poses with grace. Also, I think I’m getting better. It’s a slow process, but it’s worth it.
Today I got to thinking about mermaids. I don’t know why they should cross my mind again except that I was tired and I wanted to paint something. I had the gold watercolor ground already prepared, and I remembered one of my favorite German poems. So yes, I got to thinking about mermaids and it occurred to me for the very first time that mermaids are perhaps misunderstood. I had to revisit the poem I like. In it a mermaid’s song causes a sailor to lose control of his boat, crash into a cliff, and die. I remember reading this as a child and thinking the mermaid was pure evil. But I know a lot more about men and women now, and I can read the poem differently. I can read it as a manifestation of fear: a man’s fear of how a woman’s charms can lead him astray, his fear of passion, of seduction, of the ever mysterious and ever alluring divine feminine. A man’s fear of a creature he does not understand but feels attracted to. His fear of this attraction, of the danger of losing himself to it, of giving up control, of being engulfed and rendered powerless. Men are full of such fears. I’ve met men who would rather battle ferocious beasts and armed wrongdoers than allow themselves to own their feelings for a woman, men who are suspicious that a woman can steal their soul. No wonder the mermaid in the poem is sad. Perhaps she’s just a girl looking for love, a girl who, for all her beauty, viewed through her lover’s fearful eyes, appears as half temptress half beast, her scales glimmering in the moonlight, her song leading to certain death.
I’m very intrigued and excited by the full moon coming up. It’ll be a blood moon, blue moon, and total eclipse, but most importantly it’ll be a full moon in Leo, and that is a powerful thing. The full moon in Leo tells us to unleash our inner lions, our sources of power untapped, our glimmer of the Divine, our creativity and passion, our capacity for joy. This is a time to stand fully in our power. A time to manifest, to let go of fears and blockages holding us back and go full blast towards our purpose. It is not lost to me that the first meeting of the Escapist Mentorship Program is on Wednesday, the day that brings us this magical full moon. I take that as an excellent omen, a smile and nod from the Universe as I embark on this journey.
Also, speaking of joy and purpose, here’s something I discovered that I simply love: gold watercolor ground. One of the ladies in my drawing class told me about it, and it’s just so luscious! I’m in love.
“There are three kinds of people that are impossible to interview,” she said. “Soldiers, engineers, and cowboys. They don’t like to talk about themselves.” She looked like Audrey Hepburn and she sparkled with style and enthusiasm. It was her who showed me the abandoned car, the decaying Austin Healey in the yard of an old house. I felt like I’d stepped into a movie. There are people who carry that kind of magic.
I’d driven to the Island to look at houses, particularly one, which seemed to be a sensible option. I wanted to see what the neighborhood felt like, especially at night. That was all very useful, but I walked away feeling somewhat defeated. Are there no peaceful places left, places without noisy neighbors playing music loudly and dogs tied up outside to bark their little lungs out?
It didn’t matter though. It was all as good as forgotten when I met my friend’s new girlfriend and realized that she is oh-so-fun. After a long walk on the beach I took her to the house I’d been eyeing. We snuck into the yard. The noisy neighbor seemed to have gone to bed. The stars were shining bright. I was charmed. “It’s adequate,” she said. “But if you’re not in a hurry, I’d wait.”
The day started with rain, warm fog, my newly bought Angel perfume enveloping me into a scent that brings back oh-so-many memories, and my friend texting from her hotel nearby. We decided to both enjoy a slow morning, then go have lunch at Ritual, a place I’d been meaning to check out mostly because of the name. It did not disappoint.
The rest of our day consisted of a lot of driving around in the rain peppered with occasional treats and a lot of discussion about men, women, communication, romance, dreams, and expectations. We analyzed, overanalyzed, caught ourselves over-analyzing, backtracked. It all left me thinking about the things we want, the options we’ve discarded so far, the things we’ve walked away from, and the ones we’re hoping to be walking towards. It also left me pleasantly exhausted, the way one can only be on a rainy day that almost feels like spring. It made me want to curl up in bed with my little dog and dream on. Perhaps in dreaming of the things we want we’re slowly manifesting them.