Working in the Studio

No one is an island

Here is a shout out to my husband. He doesn't see me very often during a regular work week. I go to my day job as an art director, come home, and eat dinner. From there it can go one of two ways:  I go down to the studio working until late at night, then end up going to bed after he is already asleep OR I'm so exhausted from work, then I just go to bed and hope for a better day in the morrow.

Without him, the every day tasks of life would overtake me.


I Have Two Lives

Doe running in a field in Bailey's Harbor on the corner of County E and Red Cherry Roads.
It had stopped to stare at me in my car, then ran toward the buck in the trees.

From each life I am running. One I am running to while the other I am running from. It seems as if both feet can't be solidly touching the ground at the same time. That voice I had in my head is returning, "You don't have much time.  Do now if you want to do it at all." No more waiting.


Balancing Act at Toft's Point (con't)

Icicles form from the spray and waves in Moonlight Bay at Toft's point.

Having finally made my way past the cabins and stone kiln, I came to the icicle-lined rocky shore of Moonlight Bay in Lake Michigan. It was too chilly to sit on the rocks or lay down, so I stood despite my legs being a little tired from the long walk. The exertion was welcome. It allowed me to get rid of stresses that I had been holding in without even realizing. Do you know how it feels to not be aware of a long-held tension until that tightness has been released? I relaxed into my environment.

Shards of ice made rhythmic, high pitched sounds as the struck one another.
The sun was low in the sky, creating long shadows and its warmth was dimming. I closed my eyes and tried to soak in my surroundings. There was the high-pitched tinkle of ice shards floating in the water as they were rhythmically struck together by action from the waves. They sounded like a glass mobile in the wind. A sandhill crane croaked as it flew past. Its voice becoming muted as the cedars swallowed its echo until it was a faint whisper in the distance. 

A Bald Eagle flew to and from a tree branch as it fished.
When I opened my eyes the cold breeze blew past my glasses making my eyes water. Despite this, I saw movement in the skies to the right. A bald eagle was flying to and from a tree off the point. It would circle the tree, land, and fly once again. I imagined there was a nest at the top of the tree, but I couldn't spot it within the dense forest. I breathed in the cold, clean air and waited until the experience was complete. There was no rush. It was just me and nature. Balanced.

Now for the long walk back. 


March Solitude Hike 

Icicles formed from the waters of Lake Michigan appear on the sandstone at Toft's Point in Bailey's Harbor, Door County, Wisconsin, USA.

St. Patrick's Day weekend, I drove up to Egg Harbor in Door County Wisconsin to drop off woodblock prints. The art pieces were coordinating, but not matching, mounted on wood board, and gilded in copper and/or painted with ivory chalk paint. The pieces were based off of my first visit to Rock Island, that is a story for another time. 

After my visit at the gallery, I was lucky enough to be able to stay with my mother for a couple days at her home on Kangaroo Lake. She moved in last June. It is the home her parents had built for their retirement. Several owners later, it came up for sale and, at 70 years of age, she purchased it and moved up north. It has been an adventure for her and a blessing for her family.

The ice had started to melt in the lake. The "big pond"—Lake Michigan—churned with panes of ice, chilled the clear waters, and created small ice shoves on the Green Bay side. Snow still blanketed the roadside and huge hills of snow sat at the end of each driveway. Despite this, the weather was warm for that time of year! The mid-to upper 40's!

Much of the time was spent driving around the peninsula taking in as many new sights as possible; however, Saturday evening I stole away a few hours for myself to walk Toft's Point near the Ridges Sanctuary in Bailey's Harbor. No one else was there.

It was good for my soul. The only sounds were of wind rushing gently through the cedars and the muffled crunch of the snow below my feet. Here and there I would hear a sandhill crane in the distance. I really needed this time of solitude: I could feel my bones relax. My mind could rest. It has been a long, long time since I last felt that way. 

That is when magic happens... more soon.


"Eagle Tower Remembered"

My latest intaglio print created using the dry etch technique is entitled "Eagle Tower Remembered" is hot off the press (literally).
"Eagle Tower Remembered" An intaglio using the dry etch technique by Erin K. Nolan.
It is just in time for Plum Bottom Pottery's  "Process: A 2D Exploration" on Sunday, Aug. 16th from 3–7 p.m. for their annual showcase of new work from artists working in two dimensions. I'll be at the gallery demonstrating the art of woodblock printmaking! Come on over and say, "hi!"

"Eagle Tower Remembered" inked and ready for the first run through through the press!
Eagle Tower is a 75-foot wooden lookout that soars 250-feet straight up over the waters of Green Bay. It offered spectacular views of the small islands surrounding Peninsula Park near Fish Creek, Door County, WI, USA. Originally the tower was built by hand in 1914 for just $1,061.92. It was rebuilt in 1932 and has been one of the many attractions to thousands Door County visitors over generations.

View from the top of Eagle Tower over Green Bay.
In April, 2015 the 83-year-old tower was closed by the Department of Natural Resources citing structural deficiencies. I remember climbing to the top and feeling the tower sway in the breeze as my grandparents cheered me on from below! Safety was not a huge concern way back in the day and the building does not match current safety regulations. It also does not have any accessibility for those who are disabled. There is a possibility that it could be rebuilt some time in the future, but it will never be the same dangerous, dizzying thrill climb that it once was. 

Eagle Tower's shadow over the paths of Peninsula State Park in Fish Creek, WI.
So, in memory of the tower as it is. Now. In 2015, I've created this image for me to remember:
  • each time I tripped on one of the stairs (imaging I would fall through and tumble down the bluff to my demise)
  • watched a eagle soar silently past.
  • viewed a blazing sunset dip behind the bay
  • heard my grandparent's cheers as I bravely climbed the tower by myself for the first time
  • felt my legs shaking as I reached the top
  • looked up to see the top of the tower and lost my balance because it was so high
  • wondered as a child if I spit from the top would it make it to the ground ( I never did)
  • dreamed of squirting my water bottle at unsuspecting people below (I never did)
  • saw schools of fish swimming and darting like shadows in the water
  • and felt my stomach turn into butterflied as I bravely peeked over the edge and conquered my fear of heights
Hopefully you had some of the same memories. If you were never so lucky to climb the tower, Here is a video from the Door County Navigator. (Notice the "guard" rails! No safety what-so-ever! And that's how we liked it!)
View more of Erin's artwork at www.erinknolan.com!
HUGE shout out to Jon Jarosh, the Director of Communications and PR at the Door County Visitor Bureau in Sturgeon Bay for giving permission to use his aerial photo as a reference for "Eagle Tower Remembered." Jon—I'm so glad I didn't use my first idea and buy a drone Thanks so much for the advice and the reference material!


Computer Down

June, 2015 Storm over DeKalb County, IL at Afton Prairie Park
I came in to work today, a Saturday, to finish the park district's youth summer sports photos. This involves hundreds of photos. I've been here, on a beautiful sunny day, a direct weather opposite of the photo above, for a total of six and one-half hours and have not entered a single team due due to multiple catastrophes. At this point I trying to just make it through the day as all those bazillion photos are filterd through image processing.

I'm disappointed in having to waste a brilliant day perfect for hiking or kayaking due to problems at work. I'm frustrated that it means more work—on top of work—that needs to be accomplished by Monday. Now, I'll be working Sunday as well which means I'll be working 12 days straight without a break, which ultimately means I can't complete my projected artwork in time for the Summer Gala at Plum Bottom.

After I finished school and got my degree. I saw myself having more time at home to devote to my artwork. I naively thought I would work, leave at 5 go home,  and so artwork. But, the day-job ramped up to include more and more (and more) hours, volunteer and community-related responsibilities were taken on. Home life suffers. Artwork suffers. Relaxation and de-stressing suffers. Health suffers. It sucks. It just sucks. No other way to put  it.

So, what am I going to do about it?

Be grateful. These are good problems to have: I have a day job doing something creative. I have a home. My husband and I are happy. I'm satisfied with the quality of the art I do achomplish, if not the quantity.

Reprioritize. If a stranger looked at my life - my actions-what would they say is the most important thing to me? I think they would say work because that is where I spend so much time, but my heart wants God, family & friends, artwork & work in that order.

Simplify. I need to find a way to become more disciplined and intentional with my time.  Too much time is wasted on things that, if I could be more disciplined, would be rejected in favor of doing something more productive. The question is how can I achieve this?

My elementary school teachers as well as my mom would say that I was too day dreamy. I think today they would call it Attention Deficit Disorder. Well, whatever it would be called, I still am. I'm easily distracted, my mind races ahead. Outlining everything that needs to be done is so overwhelming that the most difficult part to getting it done it simply starting.

Everything has a season. There were times when I didn't work as much, those times will be there again, someday. I, maybe more than most, know how quickly a person's lot in life can change. Work hard, while the work is here. As my father-in-law would say, "It's the best time of your life if you only knew it."


An Anxious Contentment

I've been at a loss this past year. I feel like I am drifting, not quite living life to the fullest. A good way to describe it is content, yet anxious.

It seems I've always had something to rally for. I'd tell myself, "I will get that degree" or  "I will do everything in my power to ." I know I've mentioned before about having that small and quietly determined voice saying, "Do it now! There is not much time." Sometimes these goals were positive things brought about by negative situations. Sometimes they were long-term while other times they were immediate. But always, there was something major that needed doing right now.

I spoke about this with a friend. She mentioned a book entitled "The Rhythm of Life: Living Everyday with Passion and Purpose" by Matthew Kelly. She explained that for one to feel fulfilled in life, one must use their talents, have their physical and emotional needs met, and fulfill their  inner drive. When these three come together, a purpose and goal, or reason for living is discovered.

The theory makes sense.

I've known from an early age that my talent is in art. I have other talents – not as finely honed – such as listening, spiritual awareness, curiosity, a passion for fairness and justice, an interest in biology and science, etc.

My needs are the same as those put forth by Maslow: physiological needs, safety, belongingness & love, esteem, a need to know and understand, aesthetic needs, self-actualization, and transcendence.

Maslow Heirarchy of Needs is divided in two areas: deficiency needs and growth needs.  Deficiency needs one level needs to be met prior to the next being achieved. For example physiological needs need to be met before one can feel safe, a secure and safe environment is required to feel and give love, etc.  After the basic deficiency needs are achieved, one can begin to grow spiritually.

Basic needs were a struggle throughout my life, as it is for all of us. We get stuck. I was glued to simple emotional safety for far too long. I think it stunted me in many ways. I couldn't go on to the next step of the pyramid. When I did, I would get figuratively kicked back down and have to start over, but every time that happened it took longer to climb up to the next level.

In my life right now, everything is quiet. My home is peaceful. I live in a safe neighborhood. I have food when I am hungry. There is money in the bank. I have a good, long-term job doing something I enjoy and am good at. Along with those things comes security. Security is basically all I've ever wanted.

The thing is, there is more than just having basic needs met. At 47 (and a half, lol) I've just now had these basic requirements met. So I am comfortable. Yet, I am so used to being anxious and worried that even in the midst of this contentment I am hungering for there to be more to life – and this is where the lost and drifting part comes in.

Right now, it is a desire, or inner drive, that is missing. I don't know what I want. I've achieved these goals that once seemed so lofty, albeit, simplistic. I don't have those primal rallying points to go after through anger or anxiety or need. So.....

What is my purpose? Why am I here? Is this all there is to life?

The answer has to be no. I'm looking to my faith to answer those questions. Answers to those questions haven't yet coalesced into a feeling I can articulate, so I drift onward.

The  bible says, "
“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet. “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven."     Matthew 5:13–16
Does this mean that I am to take this contentment and show others who are struggling that there is a way out of the current life they lead? That there is hope for a different life? How can I do this using my talents? Do I just offer them up to God and see what direction he sends me? Or, do I need a more specific purpose?

Tich Nhat Hahn, a Buddist monk living in France, spoke about cultivating our deepest desire. He says that we all have something we wish to aspire to and isn't until we realize what will fulfill that life desire that we become enlightened.

When enlightenment occurs, it is like the fulfillment a happily pregnant woman feels. She doesn't have to constantly remind herself that she is pregnant. Every moment whether awake or sleeping is filled with the knowledge that she is carrying a child.

So it is with our purpose. It is like a seed, once it begins to grow, it is as if it has always been there. You can't remember a time when it wasn't there.  It has ALWAYS been with us. It is only that the knowledge was in the depths of our unconscious. We have a purpose whether we are aware of it or not.

One way, he goes on, that we do not yet know our purpose is because everything is a struggle. It takes effort, we lack concentration during our everyday tasks. We lack focus and attention. Like the pregnant mother analogy, once we have our purpose within us, we will do everything to nurture that life. It becomes effortless because we are being mindful about something other than ourselves.

With all these thoughts, I go to pray, and listen, and search, and drift.