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Research: Links to Articles On How to Simplify

Research, that is to say my investigation and study into what it means to “simplify” a design in drawing and painting.

Building A Knowledge Base.

Hi!  Over the past few months, I’ve been looking for articles on the topic of simplification.  That is, I’ve been trying to find out what simplification is all about.  You see, I figure that if I am to lead a class or workshop on the subject, I ought to have a solid foundation of knowledge.

Research on How to Simplify: Cool Kitty - Variation On A Theme

Article Search.

It hasn’t been easy finding articles.  Rather, the research process has been slow, especially at first.  Sometimes, though, one article leads to another relevant article and, eventually, another.  So, the idea, then, is to plod through and keep looking.

That being said, I have found several references that I like.  In other cases, with books, for example, I can see “simplify” in the index.  But, I have yet to read the all documents.

I Like Research!

And, the fun thing?  Yes, research can be fun.  One gets to expand one’s horizons and meet interesting people through their writings.  Also, the artists represented include realism to abstraction; photography, drawing and painting!

Research Into How To Simplify: Spice Kitty - Variation on a Theme

Links To Articles.

One additional note.  Several of these links have books, online classes, etc.  The purpose is not to advocate or promote the books or classes.  Rather, to share bits of insight on simplification.

So, in not any particular order, here are some links and references to articles on how to simplify.

1.  Mitchell Albala.

Mr. Albala is an artist and instructor working in the Pacific Northwest.

From Mitchell Albala’s blog:  “Any good landscape painting I’ve ever done was also simple”,

Quote:  The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak. – Hans Hoffman

From Mitchell Albala’s book, Landscape Painting.  Simplification and Massing: Learn to reduce nature’s complexity by looking beneath the surface of a subject to discover the form’s basic masses and shapes.

Research: How To Simplify: KittyKitty Simplified Pattern

2.  Website:  Composition Study.

Though the purpose of this website is to be a resource for photographers, I think that the information is relevant to any visual artist.  There is one article specifically on simplification:

The author includes a wonderful example of simplification in a black and white photograph.

3.  Johannes Vloothuis.

Via, “5 Art Composition Tips:  How to Simplify a Busy Painting”; useful tips and examples!

4.  The Virtual Instructor.

This short article and video focusing on simplifying by seeing the underlying shape and form of the subject.

Drawing 101 – Simplify For Success.

5.  John Burton: Organizing Chaos.

From Tucson Art Academy On Line, a short video from artist John Burton.   He discusses how he organizes a complex scene.  Its all about seeing shapes; working large to small, and leaving the details to last.  I recommend this short video:  Three Key Steps to Simplifying A Complex Scene.

6.  Keene Wilson.

Mr. Wilson’s article “Design and Composition: Practical Advice for the Advanced Artist” is compilation of notes from the artist on design and composition.  Embedded in the many of the notes are tips on how to enhance and simplify your design.  And, you are rewarded as you read down the page where you find an entire paragraph titled “Simplify”.  This might be an article you want to book mark and come back to!

Research: Variation On A Theme

7.  Miles G. Batts.

One of my favorite artists is Miles G. Batts.  He has a paragraph specifically on simplification on page 68 of  his book “The Complete Guide to Creative Watercolor”.

8.  Linda Kemp.

Another favorite artist, Linda Kemp has a book available titled “Simplifying Design & Color for Artists”.

9.  Tom Hoffman.

An artist I admire from the Pacific Northwest, Mr. Hoffman has a book out plus teaches.  I have not read his book, but I frequent a blog he uses for some of his watercolor classes.  It seems to me that simplification and how to do it are topics imbedded in his instructions.  I find the blog useful.

10.  Frank Eber.

Artist Frank Eber, another fine artist whose work I admire has a blog with several excellent articles that include the subject of simplification.  All are worthy reads and provide insight to the painting process and simplification in particular.

Research on How To Simplify: Variations On A Theme, KittyKitty Red Alert

11.  Mark Alan Anderson, “Just Sketching” Blog.

I like Mr. Anderson’s articles.  To elaborate, I find the practical, accessible and useful.  Its about the practice of drawing and sketching.  So, I’ll list a couple of articles that apply directly to the topic of simplification.

12.  Stephen Berry.

Tip:  Try smaller reference photos, such as from a cell phone. Helps you see the big shapes!  From “10 Tips to Help You Improve On Your Own”.

13.  Me!

Some of my other articles about simplifying:

About The Paintings.

The paintings shown in this article are part of my “KittyKitty” series started in 2009.  One of my favorite ways of doing research, whether or not I want to simplify, is to do a “variation on a theme”.  Put another way, working in series gives the artist an opportunity to see first hand how changes influence design.  Plus, its great fun!

Research Variation On Theme: Totally Modern Kitty


#simplify #simplifyyourpainting #watercolorpainting

The post Research: Links to Articles On How to Simplify appeared first on Margaret Stermer-Cox.

Embodiments of Life

Still Life, Gillian Pedersen-Krag

There’s a funny and moving scene in Amadeus where Mozart defends his music for The Marriage of Figaro. His monarch cites good reasons for prohibiting a performance of the story: it’s immoral, degenerate and revolutionary in spirit. (The movie suggests that some might have thought of Mozart’s own personal life in those terms, on occasion.) The king fears that a performance of the opera might inspire insurrection.  France is on the verge of political chaos. Austria worries about the contagion. Yet Mozart dismisses all of these considerations, and his fervor about what he’s done in his composition is entirely about the formal brilliance of his work: the libretto may be subversive, disruptive and potentially violent, but his music is the embodiment of harmony and order. He’s living on an entirely different plane from those around him, playing a glass bead game with notes, striving for transcendent harmonies, merging many voices into one melody, with a passion for conveying nothing more than the quick joy of life itself.

The king: “Figaro is a bad play. It stirs up hatred between the classes.”

Mozart: “Sire, there is nothing like that in the piece. I hate politics. The end of the second act for example. It starts out as a simple duet. Just a husband and wife, quarreling. Suddenly, the wife’s scheming little maid comes in, duet turns into trio. Then the husband’s valet comes in. Trio turns into quartet. Then the stupid old gardener comes in. Quartet turns into quintet. On and on. Sextet, septet, octet. How long do you think I can sustain that, your majesty? Twenty minutes. If that many people talk at the same time, it’s noise. Only opera can do this. But with opera, with music, you can have twenty individuals talking at the same time and it’s not noise, it’s a perfect harmony.

For him, it isn’t what anyone in the opera is saying that matters. What matters is the magic of music’s arithmetic, the way layer upon layer of separate sounds can be woven together into a complete whole—how one becomes two and two becomes three. And of course that’s what endures. No one today who gets goose bumps listening to that opera’s overture cares that it might have sparked a revolution. We’re filled with the bliss of Mozart’s genius, not the libretto’s comically subversive message.

For me, Mozart’s struggle is similar to the struggle of representational painters who realize that they are wrestling with physical materials in an effort to create an image that answers to certain entirely formal needs—and therefore to convey, through perception alone, an awareness that has little to do with imparting ideas or thoughts. The formal qualities work in a way that doesn’t depend on what they can be construed to mean. A painting has little or nothing to say about life; instead, it embodies life directly.

Even without the need to mean something that can be extracted through analysis, representational work faces another challenge. Paint’s abstract qualities—color, value, texture—still need to evoke a roughly recognizable world. Color has to serve representation in a way similar to the way Mozart’s music works with the burden and opportunities of his libretto. (In the movie, Mozart couldn’t care less whether or not his story is vaudeville or Greek tragedy or conventionally meaningful at all; the narrative merely gives him an excuse to channel delight and joy through sound in a purely physical way.)

Having rewatched this movie recently, I was reminded of these polarities when I drove down to Village Gallery in Cazenovia this past weekend to listen to Gillian Pederson-Krag speak for an hour about her painting. I was eager to see her paintings and meet her ever since I’d caught a glimpse of her work in Baltimore a few years ago at an exhibition of perceptual painting curated by Matt Klos. In Annapolis, Pederson-Krag’s painting hung appropriately alongside examples from Rackstraw Downes, Edwin Dickenson, Charles Hawthorne, and many other great painters who worked mostly in a perceptual mode.

On view now at Village Gallery are her latest landscapes and still lifes, a genre in which she has made color her primary concern. With landscape, she somehow, marvelously, uses a much more restricted palette to evoke feeling and intuition from scenes that feel like remembered dreams even as they are also precise representations of either enclosed wooded bowers or expansive beaches that serve as the threshold to endless open space. In both still life and landscape, she does what Fairfield Porter strove to do: depict the world just as it is, while seeming to make it slightly more beautiful. That sounds like a cosmetic procedure, but Porter added a stipulation that a painting is beautiful because it contains a mystery, not because it hews to some pre-conceived notion of what’s lovely. The paradox of this aim toward beauty is that every vital painting has to rediscover what the terms are, how beauty can be disclosed in a fresh way. For Pederson-Krag it arrives through the struggle to achieve this with color—often despite the demands of representation. (Porter shrugged off many of those demands as a needless surrender to a work ethic, keeping his brushwork simple and often very loose, turning his shadows sometimes into pure hues; his thesis about Eakins was that the earlier American painter submitted to assiduous realism in an effort to make painting feel more like work than play, trying to convince himself he was actually working for a living rather than indulging himself in art. Porter, on the other hand, was determined to keep his choices more unpredictable, regardless of whether or not he worked just as hard in the end.)

Pederson-Krag’s brief description of her central contest, the tug-of-war between color and representation, for me, was the pivot around which everything else in her talk revolved. She spoke of how every artist has to find his or her own “door” into painting, a foothold from which all of the work springs. She opened a book about Cezanne and walked around showing her little audience the painter’s early, unrecognizable, melodramatic depictions of murder and rape—you could see how he essentially realized who he was when he discovered that the paint mattered more than what it depicted, and thus how he, and only he, could make a painting. As she pointed out: he discovered who he wanted to be as he discovered how to paint. For him the door into painting was the hope of making a field of color evoke geometric form and volume without losing the sense of brilliant open-air light—pushing toward pure abstraction in formal terms, while still evoking a partly recognizable world involuntarily distorted in an individually original way. What’s amazing about Cezanne is that the increased complexity of color in his work, compared to the green and blue world he was rendering, doesn’t feel arbitrary, but has its own inner necessity, in Kandinsky’s phrase.

Countless painters are engaged in that same effort now. This effort to fashion a truce between pure color and the way the world actually looks, when it works, can reveal feelings, moods and intuitions, what used to be called a sensibility, opening up an entire world of visual intelligence that isn’t about intellectual content. In a way, a painting is about nothing but itself, even though when it works it triggers in the viewer a long sequence of insights and experiences, opening up a fresh way to behold a familiar world. A great painting doesn’t mean something; instead it evokes a world. The problem with most of what’s said about painting is that, of necessity, it usually ignores this central work visual art is engaged in and instead tries to translate the work into intellectual terms. Analyzing art, speaking about painting, invariably conceptualizes what’s happening, even though visual art is able to bypass the intellect entirely, and embody, as Porter said, a mystery inaccessible to theory. (Don’t look to Banksy for this, for example: what he’s doing, and so many artists who have something to say, is perfectly clear.) The mystery isn’t something occult or strange or rare: it’s simply an awareness of life so familiar and intimate—and anterior to thought—that it becomes invisible in daily experience until a painting makes it feel new by making it visible again. The point of painting is to manifest what’s there in life from minute to minute but is so omnipresent it’s inaccessible to conscious observation. Peterson-Krag put it this way: the beauty a painting achieves is both surprising and familiar. It’s a slightly different way of saying “surprising and yet inevitable.” And she echoed another of Porter’s observations when she said, “It enables you to see something familiar as if for the first time.”

That’s precisely the paradox at the heart of painting: to enable you to recognize something that feels entirely fresh and new.  If you recognize it, it can’t really be new, and yet that’s how it feels.  Habit falls away and the most ordinary things become fascinating again when represented effectively in paint: looking at a great painting is liberating. The difficulty of painting, and of any creative work, is that there is no way to keep doing this reliably, despite all of the repeatable working methods a painter can master—beauty emerges as a byproduct of the struggle, as unpredictable to the painter as it is to the viewer.

From still life to still life, Pederson-Krag works to establish a varied range of colors that fill the entire visual field established by the painting—nearly every patch of color in the painting serves a purpose, leaving no room for negative space. Even a wall behind a little green end table bears a pattern—a tactic Zoey Frank uses to the same effect in her still lifes. The eye moves around the canvas comfortably but doesn’t fix itself on any particular item as a focal point, but instead apprehends the light, and the entire composition, as a whole. This approach makes the surface of the painting, the paint itself, as important as what it depicts. Her struggle is to compose an image in color, using the hue of various source objects to create a design—balancing the flat design against the challenge of creating a three-dimensional space—while attempting at the same time to unify the image into a coherent whole and a consistent sense of light.

This, for me, is what she meant when I asked her at what point in her life color became her central concern:

I have always struggled with it. I think it’s the most powerful element in the painting. When I’m really moved by a painting it’s usually the color. I’m always looking for color and warmth. Many objects have a character to them, but they don’t have a color opportunity. When I’m painting, the color always diminishes. I’m always diminishing the color so I always exaggerate it (early on) because I know it’s going to disappear. As I work into things, the color diminishes and I tend to resolve things with value. In that landscape (pointing to one of her pieces on the wall), I tried to make it about color but in the end I could only make it work with a value statement, which is the little element of light (shining through at the center of the painting). (The parenthetical remarks are mine.)

What I think she meant was that she designs a painting as a composition of pure color. In a still life, her objects are carefully chosen and arranged, chosen in part for their color, not simply “found” sitting on a surface in her environment. Her intent is to create a pattern of hues on the surface of the canvas by depicting what she has assembled. She begins with a focus on the relationships among the various colors she’s enabled herself to put down on the surface, through her arrangement of objects, but eventually she gets to the point where she can’t ignore the painting’s lack of unity, so she gradually shifts to a concern with lights and darks, in an effort to create a unified whole. And that inevitably dilutes and obscures the color and pulls her away from what prompted her to paint in the first place. When the painting works, even when it works beautifully, as her paintings all do, it’s a wistful truce between color and value. I’ve always considered this contest between value and color the price of perceptual painting, or any sort of representational work whose primary motive is color. There’s a trade-off in how the demands of representation mute a painter’s opportunities with color. At some level, you’re stuck wrestling with how the world actually looks: it’s mostly green and blue and brown, and it’s full of shadows. Anyone who wants to work primarily with color and, at the same time, create an image that looks remotely the way the world actually looks is living under the yoke of conflicting demands. It’s why it’s easy for a representational colorist looks toward Stella or Noland with envy.

What’s remarkable about Pederson-Krag is that she succeeds so impressively and her final colors become subtle, not dull, in a lustrous way. Though Matt Klos suggested to me, on my visit to Baltimore, that perceptual painting descends mostly from Impressionism, Pederson-Krag’s effort ends up creating images that look Tonalist in their disengagement from the immediate present, in the way they hint at loss and memory and the past, a timeless evanescence, as it were, while still feeling entirely alive and unpredictable in the colors that emerge from her tenacious determination not to obscure the fact that she’s fashioning a field of paint, not simply tricking the eye entirely into forgetting the paint in favor of what it depicts. If I were a collector, I would have bought more than one of her still lifes, but her landscapes have taken her to an even more rarified level and in some ways are more amazing. In them, she achieves a remarkable sense of reality, in a severely restricted range of colors, even while, up close, the images are literally layered visibly into a stucco-like surface of paint—a surface I told her reminded me of Braque. I marvel at the landscapes, because though I can conjecture my way, as a painter, from the blank canvas to the final image in some of her still lifes, even repeated viewing of the landscapes left me baffled about how she got from a white stretch of cloth to the painting hanging on the wall: those scenes embodied yet another level of mystery that kept me coming back to look at them in vain for a clue about how she’d made them.

Bill Finewood

These are small, beautifully executed landscapes by Bill Finewood, currently on view in “Methods Change but the Spirit is the Same”, at the Insalaco-Williams Gallery 34, Finger Lakes Community College. It’s a great overview of his work in different mediums and styles throughout his career. These oils were stand outs in composition, color and handling of the medium, resonant with the unique light of a particular time of day and season. The show also includes a marvelously tactile and detailed drawing of a rabbit, a bit of an homage to Durer’s famous and incomparable one.

Of Palapas, Caves & Medinas

Sunset in Moulay Idriss, Morocco from the terrace of Scorpion House
If you use a hardcopy calendar, you’ve probably already begun to write down events for 2019. If you’re digital, some of those pixel squares are likely filling. As you plan your coming year, consider penciling in (or typing in!) a Deep Travel adventure or two. Imagine an afternoon beneath a seaside palapa in Mexico, watching a flamenco puro performance in a Spanish cave, or watching the sun set over the Fez Medina and the mountain village of Moulay Idriss in Morocco. DeepTravel not only gets you to these places, we also introduce you to the artists, writers, and change-makers who live there. As one of our alumni said of her time in Morocco, “I fell a bit in love with everyone I met.” We invite you to do the same.
Deep Travel Mexico: The Art of Tranquilo
January 3-7: Yelapa, Mexico
Come enjoy a writing retreat in the rugged-and-wonderful, car-free village of Yelapa on Mexico’s Bay of Banderas.  Beloved travel writer Tim Cahill will be our instructor, inspiring us in this unpolished paradiso fueled by sun, cerveza, and seafood. After waking in your open-air casita, amble down the beach for a session of guided writing with Tim, and then enjoy the day sketching, swimming, hiking, boating—or all of the above! This trip will balance rest and adventure. Want to sip margaritas in a hammock? Want to salsa dance in the moonlight? Want to enjoy Huichol art? How about fishing? Whatever your interests, you will find plenty of inspiration for your journal. Register here 
Deep Travel Andalusia: In Search of Duende
March 22-28: Granada, Spain
What is duende and where do we find it? The great Spanish poet Federico García Lorca defined it as the dark beauty found in Andalusian art: the bullfight, the fierce flamenco dancing, and the strains of a guitar. You might recognize it closer to home in the haunting chords of your favorite Leonard Cohen song. Wherever we find it, duende can transform struggle into art and sorrow into revelation. This spring, Deep Travel will journey to Lorca’s hometown of Granada, Spain to explore duende at its source. We will visit the gitano caves, hold readings by candlelight, marvel at the Alhambra, and enjoy a sunset paella party with local flamenco dancers in the Sacromonte. Along the way, author and musician Nick Jaina will spark your writing with the cante jondo—the deep song at the heart of duende. Register here
Deep Travel Morocco: The Art of Adventure
March 31-April 8: Fez & Moulay Idriss, Morocco
Can writing about the world make it a better place? It can, insists Lavinia Spalding, author of Writing Away and series editor of The Best Women’s Travel Writing. For this immersive workshop, Lavinia helps us to explore how writing the stories of people and places can seed change—both in others and in ourselves. Our eight-day journey takes us inside the mesmerizing Fez Medina with its 9,000 byways and into Morocco’s holiest city, Moulay Idriss, in the Middle Atlas mountains. We’ll gather with Sufis, listen to the tales of traditional storytellers, connect with inspired artists, and dine with local friends who will invite us deeply into their culture. In daily sessions, we’ll articulate the places behind the headlines and the individuals behind the stereotypes. This trip is for anyone who wants to see inside the heart and soul of Morocco. Join us! Register here

Bonus: if you come on both the Spain and Morocco trips, we cover the days in between: accommodation and transit from Granada, Spain, a ferry across the Strait of Gibraltar, a night in Tangier, the train to Fez, and the night in Fez before the workshop begins. Contact us with any questions. 

A Penny for Our Thoughts of Thanks

I found a shiny penny on the ground last week—a penny so bright it looked fake. As I picked it up, I noticed it’s a new one: 2018.
Yes, I pick up pennies. They remind me to not take little things for granted—to instead be grateful for them. As I pocketed the penny, I thought of the phrase, “both sides of the same coin” and wondered if a coin might work as a metaphor for gratitude.
At first I didn’t like the coin comparison—it implies commodification. But then again, maybe gratitude is a kind of currency.
As I’ve shared most everywhere, on the first of August, I was accepted for a writing residency at the Vermont Studio Center. Delight! Heel-clicking glee! Small problem: even though VSC awarded me a partial grant, the balance due was still big. Since my residency was awarded at the start of their season, I only had two weeks to pay in full, and that wasn’t enough time to apply for more grants. So I swallowed my pride and asked for help. Art orders, book orders, and donations poured in. (PS: Thanks for your patience on commissioned paintings!)
My Gratitude-O-Meter entered the stratosphere. It was a whirlwind of what Anne Lamott calls the three main prayers: Help! Thanks! Wow!  (The exclamation marks are my addition!)
What I didn’t mention when I shared my news was that I had been accepted to VSC almost ten years before. But that heel-clicking glee tripped on the curb of lack. Or perceived lack. I told myself a residency was too expensive. I invested more heavily in limitation than in gratitude, and I got what I “bought.”
Aside #1: I’ve turned down many opportunities I couldn’t afford. But for those, I didn’t feel a powerful “yes!” followed by a self-imposed, hope-killing “no.”  I’ve learned that though I can’t do everything, I canlisten for the things I am meant to do. Aside #2: I practice gratitude daily, for mostly mundane things. Some days, my gratitude journal is filled with uninspired entries like, “I’m grateful for a roof over my head.” But then, in wildfire season when friends have lost homes, I write that like I mean it, because I do. I believe that consistent gratefulness in the littles leads to exponential gratefulness in the bigs.
In other words: investing in gratitude yields many happy returns—for ourselves and for others.
One of my many freelance jobs is working with my dear friend, Christina Ammon, for her company, Deep Travel Workshops. We take people on writing adventures around the world. This year, Deep Travel was able to do a pretty marvelous thing: at Book Passage’s annual Travel Writers and Photographers Conference, it offered a free international trip as the award for the conference’s essay contest winner. More glee! More bubbly! We were as happy as the recipient.
Within days of receiving big good, I was able to help give big good. Even though one event didn’t cause the other, they were linked by hefty prayers of Thanks!
Some days, we get the chance to up our own gratitude, and some days we get to give that chance—and not necessarily in that order. Gratitude works whichever way the coin is facing when we reach for it.
To get punny, I could say that this year has minted a new coin of gratitude in my life. But I won’t (winky face here).
Speaking of winking, perhaps the coin of gratitude is doing that right now, as if it knows its multifaceted power and is waiting for us to discover it in new ways. Perhaps the rest of 2018 is gleaming with shiny new ways to give thanks—if we’re willing to look for them. If gratitude is currency, then we have bottomless treasuries.
Thank you and you’re welcome,


Air, water, food and art–maybe in that order

From the sixth episode of The Anthropocene Reviewed, a witty, smart podcast about almost anything from the vantage of this era in which human beings are changing the nature of the world, intentionally and unintentionally, in ways no living creature has ever done before. This is almost the entire essay on the Lascaux caves, but the second half, on Taco Bell, is just as fine and worth the visit for a listen:

So if you’ve ever been or had a child you will likely already be familiar with hand stencils. They were the first figurative art made by both our kids somewhere between the ages of two and three. My children spread the fingers of one hand out across a piece of paper and then with the help of a parent traced their five fingers. I remember my son’s face as he lifted his hand and looked absolutely shocked to see the shape of his hand still on the paper, a semi-permanent record of himself. I am extremely happy that my children are no longer three and yet to look at their little hands from those earlier artworks is to be inundated with a strange soul-splitting joy. Those pictures remind me that they are not just growing up but also growing away from me, running toward their own lives. But of course that’s meaning I am applying to their hand stencils and that complicated relationship between art and its viewers is never more fraught than when we are looking deeply into the past.

In September of 1940, an 18-year-old mechanic named Marcel Ravidat was walking his dog Robot in the countryside of Southwestern France when the dog disappeared down a hole. Robot eventually returned, but the next day Ravidat went to the spot with three friends to explore the hole and after quite a bit of digging they discovered the cave with walls covered with paintings, including over 900 paintings of animals: horses, stags, bison and also species that are now extinct, including a woolly rhinoceros. The paintings were astonishingly detailed and vivid with red, yellow and black paint made from pulverized mineral pigments that were usually blown through a narrow tube, possibly a hollowed bone, onto the walls of the cave. It would eventually be established that these artworks where at least 17,000 years old. Two of the boys who visited the cave that day were so profoundly moved by the art they saw that they camped outside the cave to protect it for over a year. After World War II, the French government took over protection of the site, and the cave was opened to the public in 1948. When Picasso saw the cave paintings on a visit that year, he reportedly said, “We have invented nothing.”

There are many mysteries at Lascaux. Why, for instance, are there no paintings of reindeer, which we know where the primary source of food for the Paleolithic humans. Why were they so much more focused on painting animals than painting human forms? Why are certain areas of the caves filled with images including pictures on the ceiling that required the building of scaffolding to create? Were the painting spiritual? “Here are sacred animals.” Or, “Here is a practical guide to some of the animals that might kill you.” Aside from the animals, there are nearly a thousand abstract signs and shapes we cannot interpret and also several negative hand stencils, as they are known by art historians. These are the paintings that most interest me. They were created by pressing one hand with fingers splayed against the wall of the cave and then blowing pigment, leaving the area around the hand painted. Similar hand stencils have been found in caves around the world from Indonesia to Spain to Australia to the Americas to Africa. We have found these memories of hands from fifteen or thirty or even forty thousand years ago.

These hand stencils remind us of how different life was in the distant past. Amputations, likely from frostbite, are common in Europe, and so you often see negative hand stencils with three or four fingers. But they also remind us that the past (artists) were as human as we are, their hands indistinguishable from ours. Every healthy person would have had to contribute to the acquisition of food and water, and yet somehow they still made time to create art almost as if art isn’t optional for humans  It’s fascinating and a little strange but so many Paleolithic humans who couldn’t possibly have had any contact with each other created the same paintings the same way–art that we are still making. But then again what the Lascaux art means to me is likely very different from what it meant to the people who made it.

I have to confess that even though I am a jaded and cynical semi-professional reviewer of human activity, I actually find it overwhelmingly hopeful that four teenagers and a dog named Robot would discover 17,000-year-old hand prints. That the cave was so overwhelmingly beautiful that two of those teenagers devoted themselves to its protection, and that when we humans became a danger to that cave’s beauty, we agreed to stop going. Lascaux is there. You cannot visit. You can go to the fake cave we built and see nearly identical hand stencils but you will know this is not the thing itself but a shadow of it. This is a handprint but not a hand. This is a memory that you cannot return to. All of which makes the cave very much like the past it represents.

Painting & WSO Traveling Exhibition In Carlton, OR

Wallow Gallery, Carlton OR

Greetings!  I am pleased to say that my watercolor painting “Three Minute Egg V11”, is now showing in the Wallow Gallery, Carlton, OR.

Carlton: Three Minute Egg V11

You see, it is one of the 20 award winning paintings from the Watercolor Society of Oregon’s (WSO) Spring 2018 Experimental Exhibition.  And, WSO has a traveling show consisting of their award winning paintings.  So, the award winning paintings get to travel to select galleries around Oregon.

Gallery Details.

I would like to invite you to see the Traveling Exhibition in Carlton.  Therefore, I’d like to share gallery information with you.  The paintings are showing at the Wallow Gallery, 125 W. Main St.  Business hours are Fri-Sun, 12-5pm. For more information, please email [email protected] or call 503-785-9951.  Furthermore, you may want to call the gallery first if you plan to see the exhibition.

The paintings will be on display through the end of September.

WSO 2018 Traveling Exhibition

WSO Experimental Exhibition.

What makes the experimental exhibition special is that artists are encouraged to explore different water-media and substrates.  Put another way, you see everything from a more traditional watercolor paint on paper to mixed water-media on aqua or clay-board.  And, the types of water-media include transparent watercolor, gouache and acrylic.

Still, the intentions of jurying the show are the same: recognizing paintings with technical and artistic achievement.

And, one further note about WSO art shows.  The fall exhibition includes only watercolor works on paper.  You can see, then, how it contrasts with the spring experimental show.

Photos By Liz Walker.

Carlton; Liz Walker's "On Solid Ground" used with permission

I’d like to give you some background regarding the photos.  To explain, most are from fellow Oregon artist, Ms. Liz Walker.  Thank you Liz for permission to use your photos!

Included are her photos from some of the previous stops on the traveling show’s journey.  Plus, I’m adding her own award winning painting.  I liked the feeling of her painting “On Solid Ground”.  You see, it has a degree of mystery that I particularly enjoy!

Thank you!

On a personal note, I would like to extend a “thank you” to Zsuzanna Wallow, Sandy and all the WSO members responsible for this wonderful show.  And, a HUGE thank you to Wallow Gallery for showing the art works!

Please Stop By!

In closing, I would like to invite you to stop by the Wallow Gallery if you are in the area!  Please, go see some wonderful experimental water-media paintings by my friends and fellow Oregon fine artists!  Thank you!

Carlton. Paintings from WSO Spring Exhibition


The post Painting & WSO Traveling Exhibition In Carlton, OR appeared first on Margaret Stermer-Cox.


My parents, Gene and Rita Dorsey, from happier times.

I’ve been a blogger manqué for much of the summer mostly because I’ve been immersed in trying to finish the three paintings I’ve already written about—and I am on pace to get them done on time. But I’ve also been busy with my two other occupations—writing to earn money and taking care of my elderly parents. It feels odd to call my parents elderly when I, myself, will in short order be able to qualify for that demographic. Maybe sixty is the new forty, but I have a feeling that the milestones to come will cast a darker shadow on a narrowing path. Time feels as if it’s getting shorter by the day, which means I need to work harder to stay ahead of the clock, but I’m finding that the painting life is giving me lessons about my larger life as a human being, not just a painter, despite myself. The need to pay attention has become the central imperative of my life, in almost all activities. Writing still comes naturally, and I can do what I need to do—with the exception of contributing to this blog over the summer, clearly—but caring for my parents has become both a bigger challenge and a deeper reward. I find, repeatedly, that I’m choosing to see myself as a son, rather than a painter, on a daily basis for varying lengths of time. And I’m discovering that, as laborious and discouraging as it can be, I’m adapting to it. I’m changing in a way similar to what happened to me when I became a father, when I found myself willing to do almost anything to care for my kids, without resentment or complaint—no matter how it robbed me of my autonomy and personal time.

My brother, Phil, and I share the responsibilities of enabling my parents to continue to live independently in their condo in Penfield, NY, a twenty-minute drive from my home. My father lives most of his life now at a few points on the tiny map of his primarily domestic world: bedroom, bathroom, dining room, deck and TV room. He’s able, just barely, to shift his body from bed to scooter and thence to the bathroom, the living area, or the deck outside. His infirmities derive from stenosis, peripheral neuropathy, a brief TIA from which he partially recovered, pulmonary issues, and increasing effects of dementia—he is the same person as he always was, but greatly diminished, hemmed in, caged by his body and brain, though his sense of humor remains intact as do his gratitude and kindness. However, more and more his despair over his condition sparks bouts of anger or snarky critiques of those around him. Inevitably, whenever we are together I gaze directly at the future, my future and everyone’s future, and it has the effect of stripping away most of the layers of denial that all of us wrap around ourselves like comforters on a cold night. Old age and death watch me, as I watch them. We’re all dying slowly or quickly, and when you see that, what matters most in life is giving as much care to one another as possible. Occasionally, the demands of my father’s predicament test my equanimity, but most of the time I just surrender and do what both of them need and what my brother, Phil, is unavailable to do.

Yesterday afternoon, I stepped away from my canvas long enough to take a call from my mother. I had to do it on my iPad because the iPhone was downstairs, and I dreaded it because I had never definitively located the pinprick in the tablet’s body for the microphone. For a long time, I’ve been speaking into the data port, like a dolt, which usually has elicited an exasperated question: “Are you in the car? You’re fading.” This time I found it at the top of the case, finally, and so comms via iPad have been established, once and for all, with reliable clarity.

“Well I finished The Bostonians,” she announced.

We’d been reading this book together in parallel over the past couple weeks. Despite the recent erosion of her vision, Mom still can use lenses to decipher a recipe if she can enlarge the typeface enough: she cooks her own corned beef, makes pasta with lobster, garlic and olive oil, pan-sears sea bass and serves my father a milk shake for lunch every Sunday. For decades they have lived there happily. In the past, they’ve been able to venture out to meet with friends for lunch or dinner, play golf, and spend the winter at their other condo in Florida. Now they leave the place only to buy necessities or visit a physician.

Yet this domestic normalcy doesn’t hold anymore. A cursory description of their life doesn’t reflect the daunting emotional struggle they face. My father has declined dramatically over the past three years, both physically and mentally, and my mother has only now, at 93, begun to show signs of memory lags—a hesitation in calling up a particular word or name—the little blips of aphasia I already notice in myself, dead pixels that wink out in the screen of memory and then light up after a while, or don’t. Physically, her only ailment has been macular degeneration and arteriosclerosis, requiring a stent earlier in the decade—triggering a reaction that sent her heart racing so fast she nearly died in her hospital bed until they found the medication needed to slow it down.

All that aside, Mom reads more books than I do. It’s her solace, her reward, both an escape and an engagement with narratives that give meaning and perspective to her own life. It’s the one thing she looks forward to in her day, the hour or two in bed after my father has fallen asleep when she can let a storyteller take her by the hand and lead her mercifully through someone else’s younger life. She spends all of her day, every day, caring for my disabled father, who has declined more and more rapidly, both physically and mentally, in his 90s as he wanders deeper into the waste of advanced age. His struggles are hers, though my brother and I live close enough to visit and help her through one crisis after another, or simply show up to do repairs and solve technology issues or fix equipment or, most often, take them to a medical appointment. Mom can’t see well enough to actually read the words on a page, unless they are dramatically enlarged on the computer screen, so she listens to voice-acted books downloaded from Audible. In the past, she always kept an eye on the Sunday Book Review, sampling best-sellers, and reading mostly classic American authors. Her syllabus through the years included all of Hemingway and his biographers. (She and my father had met Hemingway’s son, Jack, once in Sun Valley, and he told them he hadn’t read a word of his father’s novels and never would, which wasn’t a surprise, considering how Hemingway had abandoned him and his mother, Hadley, in Paris.) Over the years my mother has read books by Jonathan Franzen and Donna Tartt and Tom Wolfe, as well as one-off hits like All the Light We Cannot See, and has, in the past, eagerly consumed everything John Irving published, as well as dozens of other authors. Recently, she read Winesburg, Ohio, but couldn’t cotton to F. Scott Fitzgerald. The prose, which in The Great Gatsby has almost never been equaled, just put her off. She always preferred Papa. Having exhausted the available catalog of audible books by John Steinbeck, she now relies on me for suggestions. For example, I spotted a new Anne Tyler book in the Sunday review and downloaded it for her, but her reaction was that it felt like a sandwich and soup after the fine cuisine of James and Tolstoy

This past spring, I nominated Anna Karenina, because I’d decided that, while I paint, I would start listening to whatever she was “reading”, so that we could talk about what we think of it as we make our way through it. Tolstoy was one author I had neglected to read in my younger days, with the exception of his later essays and some of the longer stories. We both loved the novel, the sort of book that couldn’t be written now, given our culture. What followed were long discussions about the characters. I explained to her how Levin’s slow enlightenment, in parallel with Anna’s moral and psychological decline—they both confront suicidal urges with radically different outcomes—was a retelling of Tolstoy’s own harrowing spiritual journey. Levin is Tolstoy’s avatar, and what happens to him in the book is a fictional portrayal of the mental agony that led Tolstoy to discover a new interpretation of the New Testament, a fresh reading that ended up inspiring both Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King.

She told me that as the end of the book neared she kept hoping for more and more chapters, she was so spellbound by Tolstoy’s world and the generosity of his vision. On the other hand, she has yet to finish Resurrection, partly because it bores her but mostly because Henry James has sauntered decorously into her path and, after four of his novels, addicted her to his voice. We started with Portrait of a Lady and made our way through The American and What Maisie Knew and now The Bostonians. I have a list of seven other novels, though I plan to spare her the complicated syntax of his final three great books. She was as ambivalent about the voice in What Maisie Knew as I was, and it was only a comparatively brief sample of the prose in The Ambassadors and The Golden Bowl. It’s easier to read than to listen to the incorporeal Jamesian sentences of those last novels, which seem to want to detach themselves from the physical world and feed the consciousness of his characters directly into the reader’s mind, like the umbilical data cables in The Matrix. He likes to pack a paragraph of thought and feeling into a sentence that feels as if it is constructed to make you forget how it started by the time you’ve arrived at the period.

I had finished The Bostonians an hour before my iPad played its little steel band ring tone riff.

“What did you think?” I asked. “I liked it. I think it ended exactly the way it should have.”

“I think so,” she said. “They did get together but he had that last comment about how she would be in tears again.”

“But you can see it’s true. He wants to silence her. He wants her at home, not in public.”

“I just couldn’t stand to see her end up with Olive. I was so disgusted with that woman.”

“Olive was a stalker. She was making money off Verena’s genius, wasn’t she? They all were. It wasn’t healthy.”

“I liked Basil.”

“I did too, but James gives you a pretty balanced look at what’s going to happen. Basil wants her to quit advocating for women and just be there for him. He said that she can go on speaking and using her talents, but only at the dinner table. She’s not going to be able to bear it. She’s in love with him, and I wanted her to marry him, but Ransom needs to wake up. James keeps you guessing what he thinks about the women’s movement back then—it was a sort of circus with all the other contemporaneous spiritual movements—but I think in the end he sympathizes with the idea that women need to be free and equal, just as the blacks in the south did. He brings up the parallel many times.”

“That’s fine, but what happens to the family?”

There was a personal stake in this conversation. My mother had chosen the traditional path: to be the business executive’s partner both at home and in society. And it had worked for them and for us, as sons: she was devoted to her kids. The challenges of raising us constituted all the fulfillment she needed in life. My father made enough to support all of us. Discussions around women’s liberation had taken place in our home while I was growing up, decades ago, and the dilemma is at the heart of what’s happening now in the lives of my children. My father was an advocate for feminism and my mother wasn’t opposed, but she distrusted the overreach she felt was built into it. She predicted that children would suffer.

It’s a question that is being raised and resolved again, in opposing ways, in our family right now. My wife was able to quit working for the early years of our children’s lives, just as my mother had done, but then Nancy went back into teaching full time. My son and daughter have worked many years in Los Angeles in the film industry. Christin suspended a Los Angeles career that took her through various positions at companies like New Line Cinema and Skydance after having her second child and is now happily exhausting herself as a full-time mother. Her simple justification: “Family comes first.” My son, Matthew, has worked for a decade cutting movie trailers at Seismic Productions, and his wife, after having their first child late last year, has decided to hire a nanny and return to her job with Ellen Degeneres. I’m watching from the sidelines to see how this works out—once Laura has a second child, I’m expecting she’ll have second thoughts about driving off to work every morning. Yet they won’t be able to survive without two incomes, having just bought a modest but astronomically-priced house in Encino. It’s a little ranch, squeezed between two others, with 2,000 square feet, no garage, no basement, of course, and a limited attic for storage. It’s just one step up from a starter home, at best, despite the price tag. The insanity of the economy we’ve been creating for the past decade troubles me. This is not going to end well, for the country. They have no choice but to have two careers. Feminism happens to serve the capitalist system quite well—because decades of wage stagnation have required both parties in a marriage to have careers now, and that’s a recipe for stagnant wages. Flood the market with labor and wages stall. As a result, single-incomes aren’t enough for most families.

“Well, I don’t think Henry James was thinking much about child-rearing, What Maisie Knew notwithstanding. In this case, he was just wondering if Verena’s talents will fester and create a lot of suffering for both of them. And how long are children around every day anyway? It’s only for a few years and then they’re off to school.”

“But they are home by three,” my mother said, essentially advocating for the choices she was able to make sixty years ago.

And so we debated a question that America settled decades ago: women need to have all the rights and opportunities as men, and children will be raised as best they can be despite the absence of one or both parents for much of the day. As it turned out, my mother was very happy and quite fulfilled without a career.

And now it’s my turn to juggle work and family, taking care of them, as they took care of me. This has become one of my most vital roles right now, when I put down a paint brush—and partly why I haven’t been contributing as readily to this blog. I’m working on a personally imposed deadline to complete three challenging paintings, and all the while my parents are requiring more and more assistance. I have been over at their condo for an hour or two, or three, every few days over the past few weeks. I had to lift my father off the bathroom floor last week, when he appeared to all of us to be dying. He had lost strength in his legs, stretched out on the tiles, gazing up at the ceiling with dazed eyes, and when I got there he was having trouble breathing, could hardly speak, and didn’t seem able to respond to questions. I managed to leverage him up by following my younger brother’s example from a previous mishap—slipping my arms under his, squatting behind him, locking my hands at his breastbone and then lifting his 160 pounds with my legs to the point where I could slide his butt onto the wheeled transport chair beside him. He had collapsed out of weakness from pneumonia in his right lung and an infected bladder—the outcome an episode a couple weeks earlier of incontinence. E coli was the villain. My brother showed up and called 911, and the paramedics got him on an IV, which helped restore some alertness, and took him to Highland Hospital.

It was the last thing any of us wanted. Hospital stays for anyone in the family consume your life, and my father hates those stays with the sorrow of a small child. My wife had had a life-threatening emergency with a strep infection in the spring, and I spent nearly a week driving to and from her room twice a day with food and supplies. In these situations, little work gets done: the concentration needed to paint or write can’t coil itself tightly enough to drive the momentum required for the flow I need. But there was no hesitation on my part: the ability to shift into this outer-directed gear has become second nature, directing my attention to something other than myself—the task at hand. I’ve been doing this for my parents so many years. I’ve surrendered to it, gratefully now. It’s the best thing I can possibly do with my time. There is no choice really, when you see what needs to be done—what is the only good thing to do. It becomes its own reward. So with our father, my brother and I spent several days commuting to and from the hospital, picking up our mother, spending time at his bedside, and then returning home to get in some hours of work, while the other brother drove to pick her up and take her home in the evening. This was only one incident in a long sequence of similar events, throughout the years since Dad turned 80. Somehow we are managing, thanks to my mother’s tenacity and strength and health, to keep them both out of a nursing home, though lately we’ve begun to wonder how long she’ll be able to cope with his deterioration.

One of the most crucial ways I’m trying to be there for my mother, through all this, is by reading these books along with her. As much as she and my father need our physical presence to solve myriad problems—I put in an hour trying to clear out the ductwork for her clothes dryer last week—these reading sessions are in some ways a life line. More and more she has no one to talk with her, since my Dad’s ability to converse about anything has become minimal. To talk about Tolstoy sustains her and revives her and gives her something to look forward to, both the act of listening to the stories and then the phone calls where we talk about them, in our little two-person book club. The key element in all of this is just the simple act of paying attention. Someone cares enough to engage in a half-hour conversation every day, listening to the challenges and pleasures of the past twenty-four hours. Everyone craves attention and so few other people are actually willing to give it: spouses, children, parents, friends, and employers. It’s surprising to discover that, these days, one of the best ways of getting focused attention from anyone is to call a Sears repairman or some independent plumber and simply enjoy how those hourly rates can inspire the most intense and helpful work on your problems that money can buy. You can get, along with it, some intelligent conversation—some of the liveliest talks I’ve had in recent years about nearly any current event or life predicament have been with some of these sharp and independent workers. It’s probably as good as psychological therapy, which is one other way to pay for the luxury of having someone else listen to your problems, looking for solutions. Bartenders, of course, are always a fallback.

As Iris Murdoch pointed out repeatedly, when you pay attention to someone or something you give up autonomy—you have to willingly submit your freedom to the service of something greater than whatever you feel like doing at any given moment. This is as true in my family life as it is in painting. It can be incredibly easy and unconscious, when you’ve done this so much that there’s no resistance to whatever needs to be done, but it can also be achingly difficult. Paying attention is risky: once you do it, you find yourself drawn against your will into an undertow of obligations to the task that has it’s own momentum, because you end up caring about the people you’re helping more than you did before you opened yourself up to their predicament. That momentum can be painful, a riptide that exhausts you if you fight against it psychologically. But if you give in to it, it can be a tail wind. The caring leads inevitably to the rededication of time and energy to someone else. That means sacrifice. But a sacrifice can also be a loss of weight, a lightening of one’s own load—you give up your attachment to what you think you want to do in order to do what you know you need to do. There’s buoyancy in it, if you let yourself go.

I’m learning from all this, learning about myself and about what matters in life. Every day I’m recognizing more clearly that to pay attention is the most fundamental human faculty, from which everything else springs. What means the most to both my father and mother is not that we solved the problem, but that my brother and I cared enough to show up and talk to them about it and try to help. The attention is what they crave more than anything. And as much as I remind others in the family that this is the case, being thousands of miles away makes them less and less able to show they care. It’s up to the two of us now. Everything else humanly possible grows out of paying attention, as Krishnamurti—and many others before him—observed in all of his lectures. It’s there at the root of every skill, every instance of learning, every meaningful human gesture, peak emotional moment, and pleasurable indulgence. Most of what I regret from my typical day can be traced to inattentiveness. Before all else, in painting, I have to pay attention. It’s both the first and last step, as that sage observed. Once I’ve done that, I have to pay even closer attention.

A Clown: More Than A Smiling Face

But, still, a smiling clown can be good!

Clowns Popped In My Head.

Hi!  Lately, I’ve been doing some small studies of clowns.  Why clowns?  I don’t know.  They popped into my head this past May and I keep coming back to them.

Research Time.

So, after a few drawings, I thought it might be a good idea to research clowns.  I started with a search for famous clowns.  As you might expect, there were photos and mentions of some of the more recent famous comedic characters, both real and fictional.  Circus clowns like Emmett Kelly, American Tramp “Weary Willie” and Red Skelton, Freddie the Freeloader.

Clown With Daisies And Balloons

Traditional Types.

Then, I started finding articles about traditional circus clowns.  Did you know, that there were generally three types of circus clowns?  They are the white face, Auguste (red face),  character clowns.  The character clowns may include the more recent hobo or tramp, like Weary Willie.

Boss Clown.

There is a funny hierarchy too.  To over simplify, the white face clown is the top clown and serious (straight face) clown.  Whereas the red face or Auguste clown is the one that gets the pie in the face.  Naturally, the character clowns play characters.

Its About Meaning.

Now that I’ve shared with you my quick research on these circus characters, I’d like to relate my findings to drawings.  You see, it makes it much more interesting creating my clown characters now that I know a little bit about them.  And, its inspired me to create more!

Oddly enough, I drew a “white face” clown without knowing the significance.  Still, I think he is appropriate for the occasion.

Clown With Daisies & Balloons.

In any case, I hope you enjoy my clown with daisies and balloons.  Thank you!

PS.  You could say that this watercolor and ink study is a type of “drawing from memory and imagination”.  The emphasis is on imagination!

Twin Clowns.

Naturally, when you draw one clown, well, maybe you need to draw two!  Plus, I’m a fraternal twin.   Happiness!

Clown: Twins


The post A Clown: More Than A Smiling Face appeared first on Margaret Stermer-Cox.

The Adventure of Quiet (Or: Sabbatical with Two Gum Grafts, One Unintentional Fast, and Zero Jet Skis)

In the US, July is the big, shiny, monster car of summer, revving up with lots of sparkly, high-octane adventures involving fireworks, waterproof SPF 50, and lifejackets. But my idea of summer fun has always been the quieter kind: a book in the shade. A swim in the lake. I’m a gear-free seeker of quiet where my thoughts can unspool long enough to hear Spirit speak.

You might say poetry is my jet ski. It’s all the adrenaline rush I need. And this July has been my writing sabbatical, so it’s been a good ride.
At the beginning of the month, I had another gum graft over two teeth, and that has meant soft food only. But for the first few days after the procedure, eating anything more solid than a liquid hurt, so I ended up fasting for a bit. Without much energy, I pretty much just laid on a blanket on the lawn beneath the trees, watching the leaves and clearing my mind and heart to write.
Those three days on the blanket are the highlight of my summer so far (even though one of them was spent with a bag of frozen peas on my swollen face). In that time and quiet, I let a year’s worth of worry dissolve in the breezes, caught up on forgiveness, and recommitted to my quietude. 
Alas, I had reached that point I thought I’d finally grown wise enough to avoid; needing an external circumstance to slow myself down. Without the gum graft, I would have written, sure. But I doubt I would have given myself permission to take the lengthy stretches of silence that exponentially fed my writing for the rest of the month.
As of today, my last day of sabbatical, I have a working manuscript of poetry (as in: the poetry still needs work, but it’s a manuscript!). I am positive that much of its inspiration and creation came from those three days of complete chilling.  
Not everyone gets excited about a quiet month to write poetry—or even about quiet itself. But it might be worth trying the mellow way when the chance arises. In the past, I’ve tried a few of the louder and splashier and gear-laden adventures—not my cup of tea, but glad I tried. Hey, if neoprene and wingsuits float your speedboat, knock yourself out (but not literally!).
It’s great to enjoy adventures of motion, but it’s also great to enjoy adventures of stillness. Quiet doesn’t make much noise, so it doesn’t get much press. But oh, the power of it!
I’ll be in motion again soon—a little journey that I’ve been prepping for, like I do all journeys, big or small. That prepping reminded me to put the same effort into planning times of stillness in the future. May I never need another gum graft to remind me!
We all have our ways of moving through this world. Personally, I’m thrilled to lie still and watch a tree on a summer afternoon—a tree so full of leaves, it would take days just to truly see each one, let alone imagine the story of their growth. I highly recommend it.
Here’s to hearing the quiet things,