"The need to be a great artist makes it hard to be an artist. The need to produce a great work of art makes it hard to produce any art at all." – Julia Margaret Cameron
I had the great pleasure of spending a week in Taos this summer. Drawing. Exploring the lines created by my hand and heart on the page. Staying at the Mabel Dodge Luhan house is always a treat – feeling the connection to women artists and advenurers of the past and present is a deep honor. We had the whole place to ourselves this time and it felt like family. Free to roam the whole house, without the thought of disturbing other strange guests, with Taos Mountain standing guard, a sentinel of beauty.
At the end of the week with teacher extraordinaire, Sas Colby and my fellow sisters in mark making, we each created a little gallery of our work. Many, many more lines were made, but these are the ones that I chose to show in my little gallery.
Shading, movement and lines explored…
…sketches made and ideas fleshed out from simple pencil to sepia ink.
Standing in front of a 4' X 5' piece of paper one afternoon, we were asked in the moment to draw a dragon. My mind went blank. What? I have no idea what a dragon looks like. But there we were assignment in hand. We had black gesso and mud at our disposal. That's right mud. From the side yard of the big Studio In The Sky. Taos dirt. So there was nothing to do but, begin. Terrifying and yet exhilerating. Paint slashed fast and furious and the mud litterally flew. Being in the moment of creating like that was a revelation. I'm much more comfortable working much, much smaller. With a plan. But here you have it. My dragon looks like a goat. But never mind that. It was being so fully in the present with my gesso and mud that was the real art.
My other two wall mates had much better ideas of what dragons look like. Theirs look like dragons. Clearly their minds didn't go blank. But never mind. It was the moment for me that mattered.
I fell in love with the immediacy of a mostly blind contour drawing. Very freeing. And a wonderful way to learn the lines and connections of what you are looking at.
I used the contour drawing as a study for this drawing of the same view of Mabel's house, done on tea bags. Brilliant idea! We saved our tea bags. Rinsed and dried and flattened them. And then used them to draw on. Starting with one, when the line came to the edge of one, we just added another until our drawing was completed. I love the sepia, patchwork effect and the way the light and air play on the paper, attached only at a few points to a back ground sheet.
After getting home, I had some time to reflect on the week and added a few pages to my journal.
I explored my new found love of mapping and created a map of where I went in Taos (not too many places as we were mostly in the studio) as well as a map of my little room.
I made a little pocket for notes and attached a little painting I did of Our Lady of Guadalupe, from some tiles at the sculpture garden next door as well as another tea bag drawing of Mabel's famous dovecotes.
The landscape of New Mexico has been a deep love of mine for many, many years. Since childhood. The wide, wide open spaces and skies speak to me in some primeval way. There is an openess and grandeur that sings to me. My heart feels open and expansive when I look and gaze on a summer afternoon.
Here's how writer Oliver La Farge wrote about it in 1952:
"What is New Mexico, then? How sum it up? It is a vast, harsh, poverty-stricken, varied, and beautiful land, a breeder of artists and warriors…It is primitive, undeveloped, overused, new, raw, rich with tradition, old and mellow. It is a land full of the essence of peace, although its history is one of invasions and conflicts. It is itself, an entity, at times infuriating, at times utterly delightful to its lovers, a land that draws and holds men and women with ties that cannot be explained or submitted to reason."
To learn more about staying at the Mabel Dodge Luhan house, you can click here. For infomation on Sas Colby and studying with her you can click here. And to learn about Mabel Dodge Luhan and her adventures in New Mexico, you can click here, here and here.