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.


The Year of the Green Wood Goat (or Sheep)

The Baren Forum, a collective of relief printmakers working in woodblock, is having their annual Chinese New Year exchange. I've participated in an exchange before with my ginger root print and am excited to see everyone's version!

Exchanges are so cool because you get to examine someone else's work close up without the security guard coming and standing behind you like in a gallery or museum. You can analyze every mark—the ink, the pressure, the technique, and especially the papers. Oh the papers! I love being able to touch all the different handmade washi and Western papers. 

I've been making a few sketches over the past week and just didn't love any of them until last night. The idea of having this year riding on last year's back and the upcoming year just out of reach. Yes, that was the one. From the response I've been getting on Facebook, others agree.
Sketch for the upcoming Chinese New Year-2015
I can't wait to get home and start transferring the design to tengucho paper. Tengucho is a thin paper made of delicate Kozo (Mulberry) fibers and looks like tissue paper. It isn't a weak paper though. It is very strong for its 2 gram weight. Once the image is transferred, the tengucho is glued to the block with nori (rice paste) and left to dry. I'll update my progress on the blog so you can see the entire process.

I love falling in love with a drawing. It is all I want to do. It is all I can think about until the final prints are packaged. Then, because I'm fickle, I'll fall in love with another drawing. 

This edition will be available at my Etsy shop once completed. I make small editions, so be there or be square. lol.

Also, the GoFundMe campaign, has been going well! So far $157 of the goal has been raised towards the purchase of a Conrad E-15 Printing press. This press will expand my abilities and increase my potential. See my previous blog, or go directly to the source at Go Fund Me to find out more! (Thanks!)


Go Fund Me

Donate $100 or more and receive an exclusive editioned print!

I've got the "Dry Etch Blues" and the only cure is a Conrad E-15 printing press!!

After attending Northern Illinois University and taking an Intaglio class, I haven't stopped thinking about this etching technique. I'll never give up my woodblock prints; however, the level of detail that can be achieved with copper and a printing press intrigues me so much that I just can't get it out of my mind. Living in the rural Midwestern United States, there are not a lot of presses available within driving distance.

So, with a GoFundMe (crowd sourcing) the hope is that by obtaining a Conrad E-15, my artwork will go to the next level.

Please consider donating. A gift of just $5 will purchase two yards of tarlatan wiping fabric.
A gift of $20 will purchase a container of ink.

With a generous gift of $100 or more, I'll send you an exclusive editioned print off the new machine. It is like pre-ording an original print — at a greatly reduced price! You can see my latest work at www.erinknolan.com,

Thank you for your consideration — take the next step and read more about the project here: www.gofundme.com/erinknolan and bless you!

This was the print that started it all!


Recent work and works in progress

Title: "My Traveling Companion at the Ridges"
Artist: Erin K. Nolan
Edition: 24
Media: Relief print: woodblock, moku hanga
Year: April, 2014
Print dimensions: 10" x 8"
Paper dimensions: 14" x 12"
Ink: Akua Kolor
Washi: Kozoshi
© 2014 Erin K. Nolan d/b/a Pejnolan Studios

This little guy was at The Ridges Sanctuary in Bailey's Harbor, Door County Wisconsin. I was hiking the paths and suddenly came across this beautiful red squirrel. We both stopped what we were doing when we spotted one another. We considered each other, then slowly started going back to our activities—I started walking once again while he nibbled on a nut. Then he followed me along the fence line like a dog follows its master. Then he angrily chattered at me, trying to tell me something which I could not understand, and ran back into the deep boreal forest of the sanctuary. 

Title: "Cana Island in Winter"
Artist: Erin K. Nolan
Edition: 24
Media: Relief print: woodblock, moku hanga
print dimensions: 8x10
paper dimensions: 11x13
washi: kozoshi
Ink: Akua Kolor
Year: 2014
© 2014 Erin K. Nolan d/b/a Pejnolan Studios

 Proposed title: Indigo Bunting on Cana Island. It will be a multi-block print using tints and tones of phthalo blue, black, and phthalo green. Right now I'm doing color experiments and hope to have the finished prints done by July.

Finally, I've started to rework the koi fish that I had begun during illustration classes at NIU. The original was dimensional, so the texture from the previous painting is being used in the current one. I can't wait to see where this goes!

I'm considering taking the orange koi's tail and extending it to the bottom, under the white koi. The white line work that is there now would be the tail fin. I know that isn't the proper way to work, I ought to make sketches, then revise the sketches, then transfer the finished drawing, then start painting; but I want my paintings to be more unpremeditated. Woodblock prints take the technical, disciplined, and methodical route. My paintings fill the spontaneous, flowing, more intuitive needs that I have when creating artwork. It is a nice division.


Why spend time in nature?

Afton Prairie Park June 16, 2014
Evening Afton Prarie Park
"Nature is something within which we flourish,
so having it be more a part of our lives is critical,
especially when we live and work in built environments."
~ Richard Ryan, Professor of Psychology, University of Rochester.
June, 2010 issue of the Journal of Environmental Psychology
Afton Prairie Park June 16, 2014
  “I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.”
~ John Burroughs (1837-1921),
renowned naturalist and essayist 

Afton Prairie Park June 16, 2014

Being in nature bestows a sense of connectedness, meaning, and purpose. There is a sense of the chaotic order in the way nature works; the plants and animals are interconnected in a series of complex relationships. Everything coexists in nature without the necessity of outside intervention. It is a system that has existed successfully since the beginning of time, which provides a sense of structure, coherence, and reliability for those wise enough to use nature as a model for life.
"Why Nature Is Therapeutic"  CRC Health

Afton Prairie Park June 16, 2014
  “Climb the mountains and get their good tidings.
Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees.
The winds will blow their own freshness into you…
while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.”
John Muir (1838-1914),
Preservationist and Sierra Club founder


Five Lies Answered

I just read this very heartening article entitled, "Five Lies That Could Be Ruining Your Career (And Your Life)" from Duct Tape Marketing. It resonated intimately with me. I encourage you to read it through and seriously consider the questions it poses, not with simple "sound bite" answers. Take just one of the questions and ruminate about it an entire day, or week, or year.

Without spoiling the article, here are the five lies we tell ourselves and my rather incomplete, bloggish responses:

  1. I haven’t found my passion / I don’t have a passion.
    1. Lie! My passion is art! Creating! Creation! Mindfulness!
  2. I can’t afford to leave the job I don’t like.
    1.  Well, I have to say I've had this feeling many times. In my 20s-30s I was crying almost everyday before going to work. It was ruining my well-being and grating away at my self-worth. I went because I needed to support my family and get bills paid. Being stuck in a job sucks. How many of us are walking zombies numbed by the everyday-ness of life? Years sail past like highway hypnosis. Next thing you know, you've wasted years and are filled with regret… Stop the insanity! Wake up! Start living the life you want!
  3. It’s too late to change direction now.
    1. False! Even though I know the direction I want to go, over time that changes, expands, grows and deepens. The "unattainable" goals I made for myself in 2006 were achieved and each year following my goals have broadened. Every new goal is a stepping stone for the next. We never know what is ahead of us! It is a true adventure in the making!
  4. Pursuing my own happiness is selfish. I have a family to think about.
    1. Hyperbole! Pursuing one's own happiness is selfish if that is the sole means and ends. If We are happy and our cup is full, we are better equipped to give—and give generously— to others.
  5. I hate my job now, but I will be happy as soon as I [get the promotion/finish the project/collect my bonus/get my degree].
    1.  Fiction! Dude, we are talking about a person who loves their job, went back to college at 45! The proverbial "grass is always greener" mentality takes hold only when a person is too busy or too overwhelmed to appreciate and be thankful for every blessing they have been given.
Change your story: Instead of "I'll be happy when....", replace with "I am happy now." Do it! Do it anyway!


GALLERY OPENING: PEACES Art Gallery & Adornments

PEACES Art Studio & Adornments  prepares for its opening!
[photo via PEACES Facebook]
I've been blessed to know Cheryl Voss for many years. We met while both supporting The Land Conservancy of McHenry County (TLC). Now she is starting her own nature-inspired brick & mortar store, PEACES Art Studio & Adornments,  in The Ice House Mall in Barrington, IL.  The soft opening is this Friday, June 7th, starting at 6:30 p.m..

The studio is an ever-changing and evolving gallery of local artists of various media, representing the celebration of life and wild nature. 
A sample of the work by Cheryl in her studio
[photo via  PEACES Facebook Events]
Cheryl welcomes featured artist and friend, Yvonne Beckway, whose art shows a strong love of and connection to the land. In additiona, there will be work by Mary O'Rourke Mariutto,Ruth FlettTamara McMillanMary Miller, jewelry artists Leanne EmeryLynda WallisNancy Schmitt-NeumanWill Slagel and more coming in all week (that's means me!).

Yvonne Beckway is the premiere featured artist at PEACES in Barrington, IL
[photo via PEACES Facebook Events]
Cheryl was an organizer and administrator for TLC and I was an artist in that organization's fundraiser, Art of the Land. It is a spectacular event over a two-day period beginning with Voice of the Land. Poets, music and video fill the Starline, a historic factory re-purposed as an elegant space in Harvard, Illinois, with the stories of nature and the people who appreciate it.

The following evening is Art of the Land. Once again the space is transformed. This time into a gallery filled with local nature-themed artists.

The following evening is Art of the Land. Once again the space is transformed. This time into a gallery filled with local nature-themed artists.

Now that she has her own gallery and studio space, nothing is gonna stop her! Congratulations, Cheryl, best of luck, and thanks for allowing me the opportunity to be a part of your new adventure!