& the artist Kari Gale on noticing
Hi Suleika. I'm a Brit having treatment for cancer in France. Your memoir helped me in two ways. 1. I created a group for under 50s being treated at my hospital (based on your motley crew). 2. I refused to stand up when a miserable Parisian commuter had a go at me for using the fold down seats on the metro during rush hour. I blushed with shame & anger but I knew I was within my rights. I read your posts here every week & find the language you use helps me to reframe my experience and make sense of it in a more manageable way. Like the co-existing you mentioned today. Really love you & pretty much everything you do ❤️ Kerrie xxxx
I’ve been reading Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now. I suspect that art journaling will offer me a new avenue to be present. My boy is sick and yesterday what made him smile was my silly kitty and bunny drawings. There was no thinking, just doing, moving the pencil around and adding little details he asked for. I watched him, mostly, my sweet, delicious Finn, crinkle his nose and giggle. I will do this more. Thank you for the inspiration,
Decades before I had a writing practice I was an artist and I’ve gradually fallen away from art I’m not making on a computer. I miss drawing and painting and the baskets of art supplies on my shelves call to me. Time feels so elusive these days--I consider art something to savor, not rush to check off a list.
But today’s prompt reminded me that making art forces us to pay attention. To see. I had a funny experience recently watching the documentary on Brooke Shields. They showed cone of her famous Calvin Klein magazine ads and it was so familiar, on a deeper level, I instantly remembered being a teenager in my room drawing that ad in my sketch book. I spent hours studying the lines in that photo trying to replicate it. Drawing and painting bring us closer to things and help us know our surroundings more deeply.
Thank you for this prompt. I’m excited to try it.
The ordinary turned extraordinary-this is one of my favorite things! I was outside with my daughter a few days ago, having lunch on our patio, and all of a sudden, we both looked up. There was a whirring sound, and suddenly thousands of little Maple seed "helicopters" were flying everywhere, like snowflakes. It is only the second time in my life that I have witnessed the "Mass Release of the Maple Seeds." It was so magical. I am looking forward, with this magic inside me, into finding my "ordinary" object to add to my journal.
“It only occurs to me now that in these paintings, I was establishing a visual language for holding both hardship and hope in one palm... Not only did it guide me through my darkest valley, it also changed me.” So much of what you write (and paint) speaks to the depths of human anguish and hope, suffering and transcendence. Your experience of walking through the darkest valley is unique, but it speaks to my own depths--and that of others. Reading your words and seeing this art we feel more fully alive. This encourages, and yes, inspires. It is amazing.
I’ve followed your journey since that first column over a decade ago, and been a subscriber for a while. Yet a few lines in today’s story has resulted in my first ever comment. "But I couldn’t do it head-on. I needed to see the truth but see it as a slant…" What a wonderful description of the way so many of us create, interpret and learn.
“Drawing the immediate instead of the aspirational helped me slow down and be present to my surroundings.” Loved this line. It grounded me right there. Thank you.
Thank you for sharing. If there were no you there would be no me. We meet within the crucible of loving.
How interesting, as a visual artist, my time in hospital was when I really began to write, and didn't draw so much as that's where I felt the pressure. You describe the beige and fluorescent lighting, and the feeling, just so well. For me, the blank/heavy/bizarreness of the situation allowed words to come to me.
I love the prompts this week, I didn't realise how much I needed to engage in some visual art that wasn't just my work. To free myself up creatively and start to notice the world around me again with fresh eyes.
I happen to be hiking parts of the Camino this week, so I greatly appreciate the prompt! I have not added drawing to my journaling, but I will try to draw/describe with words some of the extraordinary ordinary things I’m seeing, hearing & feeling along the Camino.
Decades ago when I transitioned out of foster care I began to keep a journal and to draw. My very identity a mystery to me. It made sense to investigate how I pictured the world. “I am a lonely painter. I live in a box of paints. I’m frightened by the devil and I’m drawn to the ones who ain’t afraid.” While I painted and drew and wondered where I belonged I listened to Joni Mitchell. All this to say your paintings make so much sense to me. In every way.
Beautifully said Suleika, your journey to not only survive but thrive & inspire is a feast for all who plug in here. Your art so poignant & storytelling with rich color & images. Perhaps a small picture book someday? I have a tiny (3x3”) book of Georgia o’keefe paintings that I keep in my ceramic studio for inspiration.
This week’s prompt to notice & paint will be such fun....noticing I already do, as I work & live alone my pace is such that I can take the moments to take in what’s around me. I look forward to what posts will arise from this talented group !
I love those paintings. Thank you for the reminder to slow down and relish each day, notice the small beauty around us, be grateful.
Suleika - I remember. I remember, and it brought me to tears to think about what that must’ve felt like for you. You are here - we are here, and we get to do this together!
I am so grateful for you and this time and this space to write and create in ways I didn’t know existed. I was always ashamed of my writing and felt I had nothing important to say. I am not stuck on writing a few words and then crumpling the paper anymore. I am inspired by the writers and artists, and thinkers who inhabit this space. I visit places in my mind and heart that have been dormant or too scary to go to. I’m real about the mess in my story, and I no longer obsess about my alopecia or weight gain. Journeying with you and this group has been life-giving. I cannot always comment, but I’m here, and I am truly grateful!
“Rather than rushing from one thing to another, I’m slower, more purposeful. I listen, watch, and observe more intensely. I feel more curious, more alive.”
“Slow down, be present, and notice.”
We are moving to the Hamilton Park area of Jersey City in one week. To say I’m excited is an understatement. We are going several miles a minute right now, so meditating on you and Kari’s words is my morning sermon.
God bless you, Suleika! You are a healer!🙏🏾
Suleika and Kari both helped me more than you know this morning. I am a watercolor painter who is very aware how I use painting to try to "control" my environment. I usually practice exact detail in my paintings...sometimes painting in a thousand little hairs on a wolf or a bear. It is hard on me when a painting "fails" like one did yesterday of a highland steer (LOL). But who I WANT to be is someone who can draw (and I am not good at it), and paint whatever whimsical thing is in front of me...loosely...with freshness and spontaneity. I am in a drawing class (online) right now...and I'm going to begin looking at the ordinary with fresh eyes and give them life in an art journal. And painting things I'm going through! Wow Suleika...I love that idea so much. I'm learning to let go...thank you.
Suleika and Kari both hit on something I’ve been noticing. I retired from full time teaching in June of 2022 and have been reclaiming my visual art practice. It’s fun to challenge myself and learn new techniques but it can also be humbling. I’m convinced that’s a good thing! I also have found myself looking at the world with new eyes - noticing how light and shadow interact, how movement changes a picture, how many subtle shades can be found in one object, one flower, one cloud. I’ve decided to commit myself to a life of beginning.