Temperatures rose last night and the wind kicked up. Today that wind was accompanied by snow, and the thermometer dropped a bit in the process. Outside, we can barely see the hills, and Pedro Mountain is simply the white field beyond. Closer structures, such as the shop and the new fire/EMT building are still visible, but the gusts of windy snow prevent anyone from working–or even being–outside for very long.
Meanwhile, inside, the little school is plugging along. Today Audri is gone and so Claire and Brandon and Keisha and I made an even smaller group. I can’t say it’s exactly cozy down here, but we do get by. Our activities and our lessons make the time comfortable, or if not comfortable, at least profitable, by school standards.
Today Keisha and I did still lifes with items we found around the council building. They were for an online art class she is taking, one of the electives each of them chose to undertake. The assignment asked her to collect items that represent her, place them in a still-life situation, and then practice sketching them. As Keisha’s interests and activities around the village are wide and varied, it promised to be a fascinating sort of assignment.
When she described it I couldn’t help but smile. Art is one of my great joys and deep interests; I’ve lived with sketch pads, pencils, paint trays and projects of all sorts since I was old enough to sit at the table. My mother is an artist and a designer, and was also my first art teacher, both formally and at home. To this day she sets up art lessons for my 8-year-old niece, Hayley and they come up with some of the most awesome, creative projects I’ve ever seen. There is a painted lighthouse and waves above the bookshelf in their media room, cards, posters, restaurant menus, sculpture even; there are also numerous paintings, drawings, sketches, collages, all sorts of media, and ongoing projects around the house. Suffice it to say, we are drenched in creative means.
But here in the village the options for art–or for structured creative periods even–are slim. I brought my easel up to do some painting, but something about the time or the demands make it less accessible as it ever has been. I’m not sure why. The desire is there, but I think the daily routine seems to shun it. Life up here is too practical sometimes, or feels that way, to be a conduit for the finer things.
No matter. I am prepared to alter my schedule in order to nurture the seed of art, and I am ever more inspired for it when I chat with Keisha. Yesterday we decided that today would be the day for drawing, and so this morning, just after 9:30, we arranged a couple of bottles of tempera paint, some cleaning supplies, a small mixing bowl, a roll of duct tape, and a cuff and stethoscope for our scene.
As we began to draw–first three thumbnail sketches, then the larger and more complete final–I remembered what it was about pencil, paper, shape and line that I like so much. I began to sketch the forms and to really see them in relation to one another. At first I grew frustrated with my limitations. I was too impatient with myself and my rusty abilities. Why couldn’t I sketch a simple cylinder? Or shade along the edge of a cloth? I struggled for a while, laughing lightly, but still wondering whether I had altogether lost my hand and eye.
I glanced over at what Keisha’s work and probably uttered a soft, “Oh!” as I did. Her pieces were marvelous! She had such confident lines, such nice balance in her work. It was still far from advanced, but it contained such promise. Her drawings took up most of her paper, and her shapes were confidently drawn, without the hesitant sketch lines of some less skilled drawers. At eighteen, she is a harsh critic, both of herself and of others. While this can be problematic in some places, in some professions, in Keisha it may be her lifeline. She is good at what she does and she is not too ‘artistic’ to admit it.
As we worked, my breathing changed, my lungs filling deeply as though my heart and mind were joined again: All those microcosmic earthquakes taking place around me were set to rest, if just for a while, and the ground was level once more. Outside, the scene was a flurry white mess, but in here we were organizing, form and line, shape and shadow, one sketch at a time.