Gentleness of Rain.

watercolor illustration of a person walking down a rainy spring street by Alexandra Schaefers

A rainstorm comes in just as I leave for an early morning walk. My heavy cotton trench coat soaks through at the shoulders in the chorus of rain plunking through the trees and onto the ground.  

As I burrow through the streets littered with flower petals and teeming with spring’s growth I wonder why I’ve been so diligently timing my walks during sun breaks or overcast moments. 

Yesterday I walked to the office over the freeway under the gray clouds after several days of sunshine but I couldn’t remember what season it was for a long moment.

I don’t know the cause of these disconnects but today is my day to tend to chores and rest and walking in the soft deluge settles me into the goodness of ordinary tasks. 

The neighborhood houses are dark still but each one holds at least one human’s heart. A person sleeping, making coffee perhaps—safe and dry under their roof while their dreams slip out to catch the clear light as they bounce off the asphalt with the rain.

When I return home I hang my coat in the garage to drip dry, leave my hat by the gas fireplace then sit by the window in damp hair and pajama pants soaked below the knee to re-calibrate to the gentleness of rain.

This One Thing

No one is on the street.

When the sun lights up the air before me it is alive with pollen and dust which settles into the cracks of the asphalt like a golden mend.

I find a log by the creek, eat a couple pieces of toast from a paper sack in my pocket, then paint the forest. The sun shifts the colors as I work. Green and gold trees emerge from black shadows.

When my hands are cold I pack up my paint and walk into the woods where some earnestness finds me in the early angled light. As if all my life my body wanted this one thing: to wake at dawn—to paint trees.

And all this time I’ve been making a nice breakfast instead.

Underpass

The streets are quiet as I walk to the creek. I hurry through the ugly underpass, remembering a time when I loved the city and its grey places of decay.

In the woods, the sun lights up the bends of the creek where I sit on a log and draw two trees.

It’s not the forest’s fault I forgot how to love an urban eyesore.

On the way home a crow is in the underpass throwing his ingracious voice into the amplified cavern. I take a moment to consider the stately cement columns caught in the sideways light, then startle when a shadow slips along the street from the sidewalk above.

Who better than a loud crow to revive the glamour of an ugly underpass?

Habitat

The other day I woke up on the couch after a nap and felt like an adult suddenly. Like my spirit was intact in my body, settled into my life choices and needing only to continue along on this amazing adventure with complete trust in my capableness.

Eventually I had to get up to shower and prepare for the next day and the feeling faded. But for a couple days after I felt unrushed, content to do the dishes by hand, eager to clean the bathroom because it’s such a rewarding task. Also, the hot-pink blow dryer I bought on sale was no longer a disappointment because it is useful even if garish.

I remembered my hermit days and how I loved to cook and wash the dishes. How one day a week I cleaned my apartment and it was my favorite day. It seems so charming until I remember how depressed and lonely I was.

I wonder if I can extract that mindful element of enlightenment philosophy and carry it with me on this inward journey into the depths of an engaged life.

I don’t see why not.

I consider Landscape Diaries and how it started out as an attempt to remove the idea of a boundary between my psyche and nature. What if I also removed the imaginary boundary between nature and my indoor habitats—my job, my home, my endeavors, other people?

We are all still mammals. Everywhere we go is our habitat, everything we do is part of our nature but there’s no reason not to seize the opportunity our divided brains give us to cultivate the best parts of our nature, to make habitat for ourselves that supports our beauty instead of anxiety and isolation.

I have no idea how I’ll do this, but I am up for the adventure.

Innocence and Intimacy

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alexandra schaefers
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I’ve been researching the phenomena of Instagram influencers lately after developing a fascination with the reality that women can make a lot of money just posting photos of themselves online. I’m sort of a curmudgeon when it comes to fashion and beauty. I love clothes and a little make-up but I feel like it’s supposed to be a fun, light-hearted thing, not something that takes over one’s life unless it is one’s livelihood, financial or otherwise. What I found in my research is that women are in fact, making a livelihood of it.

I felt judgemental of people going to locations just to take photos of themselves without actually enjoying the place. Now I realize they are modeling. They aren’t going there to pretend it’s part of their life, they are going there because it’s a good place to take a photo shoot and they are, or want to be, fashion models. This may be obvious to all of you. To me it was a revelation. I could not figure out why anyone would follow an account of photos of one person in different outfits. It turns to be the latest version of looking through the Sears and Robuck catalog which I loved to do when I was a kid.

I feel it’s neat that women have greater access to make a living being stylists, art-directors and photographers. I do wish our culture could move to deeper places of creativity where it’s not about creating the appearance of a perfectly styled, trendy life but about living a deeply passionate, interior-guided life, but this is an antique problem.

My hope on Instagram is to connect with anyone who might enjoy my art, I don’t really need to do fashion shoots for that. I do get wound up more than I’d like to admit about how to best use my account. Sometimes I want to post only finished work. Sometimes I want to post photos of the adventures I have going about my life as an artist. Sometimes I want to post everything I make even if it sucks and has nothing to do with my current body of work.

The photo album I posted above are photos I took when I lived and worked in a tiny studio apartment on NW 20th in Portland when I was in my mid 30’s. This was before Instagram. I in no way considered myself a photographer. I was just enamored with having a little camera on my Nokia blackberry and I was enamored with the vintage charm of my apartment. Being a painter, it was fun to make compositions with the phone screen and no resources were wasted as they were when we used film.

When I look at them now I am struck with the inadvertent intimacy they create as a body of work. I feel nostalgic for the innocence of taking pictures solely for my own pleasure. I never arranged things for the pictures, I just recorded what was already there if it struck my fancy. It never occurred to me to change the decor of my home to improve my photos. I never even edited the photos. I don’t know if I will ever experience that again. It is challenging in the age of social media to celebrate the beauty of our lives without wanting to improve them, without seeing them through the eyes of a judging audience.

I want to do more research on how advertising usurps art and our experience of beauty. I would love to hear of any articles or resources you know of on the subject.


Snow Book

Here is a video of a book I made from paintings and quotes of my last Landscape Diaries post. I used an old watercolor painting and I have to admit I like the random content book I made on repurposed paper better than the themed book but it was still really fun to make a video of it. Next time I need to set up better lighting.

Book Folios

 

In my recent decision to take a break from seeing art as a commercial venture I’ve been excited to get back to making art for the sake of exploration. I asked myself, If art is to be just a hobby what do I want to do? The answer was quite clear. I want to make books! said in a tone that suggested some passionate cursing be added to the statement. I also noticed a yen to make more tactile and less literal work.

For years I’ve wanted to shift from being an artist who writes to being a writer who arts but having invested a lot in my art education and seeing a lifelong pattern of losing interest in things before I’ve explored their full potential I thought it might be wise to question the premise.

Now I have a decent paying job I enjoy, ample time to work on projects, and a great need to stop putting pressure on myself to be a “successful” creative person. What’s wrong with reorienting, making mistakes or possibly being a fool now and then…or even often? We can’t all be CEOs for heaven’s sake.

I prefer Maya Angelou’s definition of success anyway, Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it. We can all become instantly successful the moment we read that quote if we have the courage to believe in ourselves.

Currently I’m making folios of little paintings from sketches on previously used watercolor paper. I have a pure blank sheet for one side of the folio and old designs to work with or paint over on the other side. The above slide show documents my efforts so far. I’m going to stitch these folios together but I didn’t create a sequential story with the text, they are just random experiments.

August 2018

August