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Island Fox, collagraph


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Orchid Latte, sketchpad study

Making Art after the Thomas Fire

Hi Art aficionado,

We're stacking ToDo's after the Thomas Fire here in Ventura, California. We evacuated for six days the night the fire started, and took refuge (with our freaked out cat) on our boat. I blogged about the brave fire fighters we'll never meet. All we lost was the back yard, our attic insulation and some deck furniture, but twelve of our neighbors (and 500 others in Ventura) lost everything. Everything. Our good fortune is stamped on every flake of ash blown into our house at the window sills and doors.


Pulling away from our house Monday night, and the view of our neighborhood from the marina twenty minutes later

Remember the post I sent about accidentally (almost) murdering a couple of monarch butterflies? Kind friends mailed milkweed seed packages from three different gardens, and they're happily sprouting, despite the fire, and high winds. On the 9th day of the fire, we stood outside in the smoke to pay respects to a sad procession of first responders transporting the body of a fallen firefighter back to his family in San Diego. I was overwhelmed with grief when a monarch butterfly brushed by my torso. I watched in amazement as she landed on our pot of assorted milkweed sprouts and curled her body to lay one perfect egg before fluttering away. That tiny potential butterfly tucked under a leaf was a sweet shot of hopefulness after so much loss. I can't express what a simple, striking moment it was. I've been watching over that egg, and two more, ever since. :) Thank you, my friends who wrote about monarchs and sent tips on cultivating a haven for them. Look what you've helped me grow!

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My first monarch egg on newly flourishing milkweed plants, somehow untouched by the fire

Starting Over

Over 500 homes in my community are gone. Two of my artist friends lost homes and art studios. A musician friend lost every instrument in his studio, including a violin he's played since he was six. The loss is palpable if you walk just one street away from a burned neighborhood. People are grieving.

This week, I've noticed a shift. Friends are getting excited. They're moving forward, and revving their engines for 2018 with ideas and potential. Folks who lost everything in the fire are expressing delight over the concept of starting fresh, with a thoroughly clean slate. A Do-Over. This leap from grief to good was propelled by having a Plan.

Those of us who didn't suffer complete losses in the fire have the same opportunity with the New Year, right? If you're revving your own engines for 2018, and working on a Plan, here are some helpful links:

You can download a beautiful planner for any event on your horizon here. These clean, affordable printables are all designed as digital downloads you can print at home, by Kelsey Baldwin over at Paper & Oats.

Research shows that more than half of all new years resolutions fail, but there's a fix for that. This New York Times article spells out your recipe for success.

If resolutions give you the shudders, or you have distracted kids who could use a little resolution action but scoff at the idea, you can try a fringe wall with one word themes. This is similar to the practice of a bed-table gratitude jar.

Do you know about Jerry's Artarama free instructional videos? most of them are snippets of 5-10 minutes, and subjects vary from mixing cool and warm colors to setting up a plein air painting kit, or painting trees in watercolor. It might be just the thing to get you reaching for your art supplies in January.

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Where a house once stood just up the street from us

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Our friend's music stand in the remains of his studio


Garden Watch, collagraph

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Drawing a cup of coffee with a piece of our burned garden fence

Creative Recycling

I have an experimenter's heart in that I can't throw stuff away without first pondering how a thing might be put to good use. There are chunks of charred wood in our yard where a fifty foot retaining fence used to hold an embankment of rosemary (now just ash). I wondered if I could draw with the burnt pieces? Probably. But the repeated alerts about the toxicity levels of the Thomas fire give me pause. If you like the notion of creative recycling, you'll enjoy this article by Austin Kleon about inappropriate tools and praise for a "some fool use" approach to creativity with disposed items.

It’s not that the tools don’t matter — it’s finding the appropriate tools, or, maybe even better, the inappropriate tools, and finding some fool use for them. ~Austin Kleon

It turns out that I'll need to de-ash and soot the interior of my studio now. I'm stacking and moving things to prep for the steam cleaning & hepa filters, so I won't be breathing the stuff for the next decade. This calls for a thinning of inventory - my very own fire sale! Take 30% off all original watercolors and printmaking. Thanks for your patronage.

And with that, we step away from 2017. It's been a year of growth and perspective for me, and I hope it's been rewarding for you too. I've truly appreciated your support and encouragement this year. I can hardly wait to start fresh with you, as we explore new ideas in 2018.

Happy New Year to you and yours...
See you in the next post,

P.S. I had a goal of listening to 25 books this year, and I keep track on Goodreads. They send updates, like this one. If you're on goodreads, friend me so we can compare books and reviews. :)


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