Friday, November 17, 2023



Layered letters, a technique I learned in a Cora Pearl class recently

Watercolor escaped me this past month. So did calligraphy and even drawing in my sketchbook. Our move to San Francisco disturbed my creative routines. I knew the impulse to create would come back, I just needed a solution.

I found it with a table. A small lesson about myself and my need for a dedicated place to make art. Our furnished apartment in the City has a Minimalist vibe, just right for the many young people who populate the neighborhood. The apartment came with everything including two desks in each bedroom. Bill moved one desk into the living room and I placed my desktop, files, notes, and other items that help me manage our household and write my blog and other stories on the other. Not enough room there for artwork in progress. I tried leaning a drawing tablet against the edge of the table, but that was clumsy and not sturdy enough, and I didn't have room to spread out supplies. I needed another table to have my tools around me. The stress of the topsy-turvy moves we've made left me no time to reach the engagement in my work once described by Dr. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi as creative flow, to sit in the zone of creativity, and to get lost in thought which makes creativity a joy.

Posterized flower photo done on my desktop

I ordered a table online. Three weeks later, I received a note from the apartment manager that my table had arrived at the front desk. Package deliveries are nothing like deliveries at our former home where a package would arrive and lean against our door. The apartment complex has implemented many security measures: key fobs for entry and elevator use, a room for locked USPS mail and parcel boxes, and a locked room for packages from UPS and other delivery services. In a complex that contains two buildings, one with five stories, the other with 14, one can imagine the number of packages that arrive daily at the front desk.

Brushstroke practice to loosen up

Same painting upside down. Which is more pleasing?

We live in the shorter of the two buildings, a half block away from the front entry. We have to plan for package pickups. We can either take the elevator down to the street level and walk to the front entry or walk down one flight of stairs to the third floor which is connected to the first building by an expansive patio area and then down their elevator. We are still figuring out delivery services. Every day we find a new adventure in just making our way in an apartment building.

Of course, the small metal table needed to be assembled. I became proficient at assembly when we moved to Japan and transported boxes of bookcases, beds, and tables that needed to be constructed on our arrival. But this metal table flummoxed me. The screws connecting the legs only went in halfway. I needed an electric screwdriver to finish the task. Ours is packed securely away in our storage containers along with our paper shredder, pencil sharpener, rain boots, measuring cups, tax files, lightbox, and other items I didn't think we would need while existing in limbo between houses with most of our possessions stored away.

We purchased a new electric screwdriver and with Bill's help, I now have a table. And already I am happy to sit and draw and paint some postcards. I made a set of overlapping words to send to some art students from St. Cloud State University, my dad's alma mater. I began to feel the sense of immersion that comes when something I'm working on is going well. For the cards, I used the words Grow and Change. When Bill saw them, he laughed, "Enough already. I don't need to grow or change for a while." Me too.

Second version of Change/Grow postcard

Third version  Which would you pick of the three?

Read more about Dr. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's research into happiness and creative flow:


  1. Martha! I read this post a couple of weeks ago, but I'm always on my phone and don't remember my password. Now that I'm on my computer, I can comment. :-D I always love your art. Change-Grow-Change: I think I like the first version best or there's a tie between #1 and #3. Loosening up practice: I actually love them both--equally. I love abstracts and I love finding "images," so they both work for me. I love San Francisco (#2 on my fav cities list--not including New Orleans). My brother lives there. I'll have to make sure I reach out when we visit him again.

  2. Thank you, Chandra. Your comments mean a lot to me. Mutual influence on each other, I think . Your photography is always beautiful. Thanks for letting me know which of the pieces you like the best too. And yes, please check in when you are in San Francisco. I'd love to meet you in person!


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