Ray is spending a week in Colorado with his family before the road takes us in other directions. He enjoyed a springtime nap in the sun in Gawkie’s backyard in Mancos while winter crept back and snowed me in at Arts Letters and Numbers.
waking up to the swoosh of fresh snow being pushed off the road
springing out of bed to dip brush in ink
the second pass brings the metal blade to the pavement
graphite glides across cotton paper
the textured wall behind presses against paper to meet pigment
warm rays of the sun meticulously turn solids into liquid
soothing away the memory of marks on the page
The storm prevented me from leaving the house. This insulation provided me the opportunity to look internally. I discovered that I could turn my strengths and skills into resources—and not have to worry about lack. And these strengths manifested themselves in many ways.
Soon after posting a few pictures of the studio and some of my works on Instagram, a colleague made a request: the heart I drew to be printed on a t-shirt. Having had experience silk-screen printing in the past, the challenge inspired me. Knowing that I didn’t have any of the equipment nor the time or inclination to split my focus from making art to create products, I pulled together a black and white drawing then uploaded to Society6—a website offering graphic tees, printed home products and other gear and set up my storefront: www.bit.ly/heartsketch.
Having the opportunity to make a little money on the road was enticing. So much so that I worked on a few paid projects this week and supported the Visioneering team by cleaning up charts they recently created. Trying to balance bringing value to the world and diving deep to further my understanding of the flow state was a challenge. Not to mention the dirty clothes piling up, driving Ray to the airport (which leaves me to invent, create and eat alone), getting snowed in and having to shovel my Jeep out of 22″ and helping another artist resident do the same.
All of this hard work on the front end paid off. Something magical happened Friday night: Pizza night. It’s not your typical pizza and a movie. I supply the crusts and everyone brings their favorite toppings. The abundance of creative materials is a mashup between color, texture and flavor. The result of the last three events have been incredible conversation and eating some of the best pizza ever created. Here is a list of all of the ingredients we have experimented with so far. Not all on one pizza of course. Although my favorite combination is Sarah’s sweet and savory pizza:
- fig spread
- carmelized onions
- goat cheese
I look forward to the stops on our upcoming road trip where I can bring this delight to the friends and family who will put us up. It’s a wonderful evening activity that fosters the creative expression of all who appreciate good food and conversation.
What happened after was an even bigger surprise and a memory I will always hold close.
Making my way back into my studio, I decided to just clean up and get to bed early to prepare for a productive next day. Upon entering the studio I remembered an idea I had in a dream the night before and I quickly began to create a small dummy for a book I would like to make. I got lost in time and my adrenaline must have kicked in because all of a sudden I was hungry again. Back into the kitchen. I ran into Sarah and invited her to sit in my studio if she wanted to be closer to the activity downstairs. She brought her sketchbook and sketched quietly. The voices from the kitchen grew and that inspired Sarah and I to share ideas about getting a live model and other activities around our upcoming show of work. We invited Rikke and Frida to join us, some time later they did.
I kept working, cutting and ripping paper, measuring and playing with the natural memory of fibers. I love how a bone folder and clips can retrain a piece of paper that has been rolled for year to a flat folded form in just minutes. Then pulling out transparent watercolor ground and experimenting with new handmade papers, I dreamed of ways my water media could be added without warping paper. I’m working very wet and in layers so my relationship with the surface is critical. I must have had a strange look on my face when Rikke asked if their talking bothered me. Not at all, I loved it. They were talking about a project and the creative contributions of all those involved. I loved the way they talked about how they worked and what they needed to make more happen. They have a shared vision and passion for their investment so far and what could be in the future. I found it enlivening. I kept recalling my two-year term with the change management effectiveness team and what attributes a high-performing team had and how to assess what is working and what is needed. I kept suppressing my knowledge because I needed to focus on time and relativity. I wasn’t here to advise, consult or facilitate. But they kept talking and while my hands were busy making art, my mind kept seeing models and soon I found a stopping point and pulled out some flipchart-size sheets of newsprint and started drawing with a bristle brush pen—not your typical graphic facilitation.
It began with the Drexler-Sibbet model of high-performing teams. I explained the model which prompted them to want more and self-identify where their team was. Then more questions about talent and fit…out comes Team Dimensions Profile. Rikke immediately recognized and I validated from my own experience that with creative projects most great ideas attract teams made up of Creators and Refiners and often lack Advancers and Executors. She immediately went to drawing what the need for a balanced team looks like and what the current state is. And (drumroll please) a natural graphic facilitator is born!
The conversation continued with the Laggard scale and more drawings and insights from Rikke. I was able to step aside and witness the continuation of a beautiful conversation about opportunities, challenges and creative problem-solving. Something I had not witnessed to this level in all my efforts over the past 5 years as a visual practitioner in the government and commercial sector. It didn’t take me long to realize why. Because there is very little creativity and diversity in those sectors. Sure, you see the occasional innovation but the lasting, powerful achievements often have a diversity of thought behind them and usually a good number of designers. In this moment I was privy to sit in on a pure artistic solution setting with areas of science, architecture, and political science making their way into the conversation. I wondered why only some companies are open to leveraging the creative skills of professional artists and others only try to emulate the attributes while going about more left-brained tasks. Why not more collaborate and co-creation across sectors? The opportunities are endless!
I won’t forget the way the conversation helped me build a bridge between my art and my visual practitioner work. They really do pair and compliment one another well. I will continue to seek out opportunities to continue providing bridges. While I do have some trepidation that the current US administration is leading us back into an industrialized nation over moving forward by leveraging new ways of thought, I trust I will find my place and bring value where I can—whether it’s commoditizing an image, holding a space for breakthrough conversations, or writing words and intention into my art.
Back in Mancos
Heather and I have plans to visit many beautiful places over the next few months while OnTheRoadWithFlo. It is hard to imagine that many places will be as beautiful as my hometown of Mancos, Colorado. With that in mind I left the Arts Letters and Numbers residency for a family visit.
While living in the DC metro area for almost three years I made numerous trips home. This one had a different feel from the beginning. I knew this would be the last before heading out across the country with Heather. An adventure that will help us discover what is going to be the next step in our journey together.
I will admit that I have had some fears and reluctance in the beginning. Is it the right thing to do, the right time to go? Can we really accomplish our goals on this trip? We had many discussions on these topics and decided anything was possible if we worked together.
I spent the first couple of days in Mancos with my family, mom, brother, sister, nieces and nephews. Then I had a huge realization. No matter what the outcome of our great adventure is we have a beautiful and safe place to return to if we chose. This is where we began our lives together. We will remain open to all possibilities and be grateful for all our experiences on our trip with the knowledge that together and that we have done this before.
Most of my visit will be spent with my nephews Brady(5) and Emmett(3). That is how all of my visits home are spent. We draw, read, wrestle, tell stories and go for hikes. On this visit I introduced them to root beer floats. And they did not like them. They like root beer and ice cream but not mixed together. Maybe next time we will try hot fudge sundaes.
My family is fortunate to have five generations living in the same town. My grandmother, Ophelia, is 93 years young and is the oldest of thirteen siblings. She is eager for spring so she can plant her flowers. My grandfather, Moises, is also 93 and has lived an amazingly full and compassionate life and he is still laughing his beautiful laugh. We had a great visit and look forward to many more.