Drawing a blank

It started with sitting in the studio staring out the window, again. Just drawing a blank. No idea what to do or make. So I decided I would draw a blank. The rule; I could only draw or paint in the margins of what would be blank spaces that contain mysterious wonderings from time immemorial.

What kept my interest was the absolute beauty of the paper, paint and effects performed by the brush; to witness paper accepting pigment or the fluency of the water surface with one touch from the tip of the brush holding Naples yellow.

As I developed this piece, I realized what I wanted to include symbols that have been a part of my message for decades. At first I was going to draw them into the margins going along with “the rule”. It didn’t look good so I drew symbols and collaged them in the white spaces. For example on the upper right I placed alchemical and Chinese symbols for summer with an indigenous “spirit of the grass”, since we finally were able to cut and bale our hay.

The Evolution of "Drawing a blank", by Kathleen O'Brien

The Evolution of “Drawing a blank”, by Kathleen O’Brien

I wasn’t so blank, as next I became curious about going in the opposite direction using dry black medium on a sheet of drawing paper. This time filling spaces within with notes of birdsong as I was hearing them sing. Some loud some so soft. The graphite shades range from 4h to 8b and darker shades with lithographic crayon and handmade vine charcoal served to express their communication. Birds have always insisted on having a presence in my life and art.

"Birdsong Notes" drawing detail with pencils and charcoal by Kathleen O'Brien

“Birdsong Notes” drawing detail with pencils and charcoal by Kathleen O’Brien

"Birdsong Notes" drawing by Kathleen O'Brien

“Birdsong Notes” drawing by Kathleen O’Brien

In that time, and due to this activity of blankness, I realized what I have been trying to name my essence – I have Geminitis. I’ve rarely had an idea about what to paint or know what I am doing. I’ve always just showed up in the studio and then see what happens. A few other symptoms of Geminitis are multidimensional thinking, having two of everything, must act on an inspiration immediately, but options shift easily.

Life in the Liminal Lane

Since the last studio update, I’ve been living “life in the liminal lane” (neither here nor there), as I just now am able to describe these vague months. Thanks to the many responses I received to my mid-season spring update email with cheers and suggestions I’ve been steadily pursuing options yet need to remind myself how long the path is and remain patient.

Liminal space means several scenarios on the spring to summer journey. It’s hard to map, but I know it when I encounter it.

It’s creating new art like the Birdsong series, yet not having a plan for presenting it.

"Breeze and Birdsong", start of the series by Kathleen O'Brien

“Breeze and Birdsong”, start of the series by Kathleen O’Brien

"Mockingbird Song"drawing by Kathleen O'Brien

“Mockingbird Song”  drawing by Kathleen O’Brien

It’s signing up with several Art Placers, with the help of Vallorie Henderson at the Kentucky Small Business Development Center, yet receiving two rejections and waiting on another to find clients.

It’s completing work with the editor on “Time Journey” chapter, but I can’t share it till it’s published next year.

1968-2022 Time Journey grids by Kathleen O'Brien

1968-2022 Time Journey grids by Kathleen O’Brien

While on the Liminal Lane I’m still plugging along but not wholeheartedly “doing business”. For instance, it is still unclear to me if I will produce the autumn open studio, annually since 2009.

I am not complaining. Or explaining. It is a gift to simply let myself sit on the porch enjoying a gentle cool breeze gazing at an ample garden. Instead of running after attention, I declare it is valid to be absorbed by the moment. This to me is also the Liminal Lane. When that moment is complete with the energy to propel me to action – that’s inspiration – the exit off the Liminal Lane.

On the other hand, I see promise in the cards. Long time vendor, neighbor and supporter, Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill has asked me to design new cards for the Christmas season. The shop is now restocked with many of my latest card sets, for your shopping convenience. Mark your calendars; September 16, Bead Jewelry and painting demo from 10-4. I have a new hoard of beads to create new designs.

You can also find my cards at the fabulous Completely Kentucky in Frankfort, with thanks to Ann Wingrove who is a champion for Kentucky artisans.

Connie Beale invited me to show my art and cards at her shop, CAMP in Danville. It’s a pleasure to show along with her and John A. Dixon’s art. It’s joyful to see friends there at the Gallery Hop events.

Backstories and beads at CAMP

Backstories and beads at CAMP

Brown Betty, Brown Bob and Baby Betty and Baby Bob

Out of all our bird neighbors, perennial Brown Betty, a Carolina Wren, claims top tenant. That’s why I chose her for a new brand banner. Betty and Bob produce at least three families a year here. Betty chooses deluxe accommodations in the cornucopia basket on top of the porch closet. Or inside it in a plastic Kroger bag full of bungee cords. Or in the folds of the east porch curtains when they are tied to the column. Or behind a box on a stack of doors on the north porch. We had to say no to her choice of the grill. I heard a new call coming from the grill cover the other day and surprised two little babies who froze when they saw me. I froze also and backed slowly away. Not an hour later we had an intense thunder storm, Betty had lured them under the porch. A few days later I spotted them again, plump little fledgling twins on the lilac bushes on the west. I am thrilled that they love it here.

Wren Logo for Kathleen O'Brien Studio

Wren Logo for Kathleen O’Brien Studio


A note about writing: You may know, as I have said before, that I have aspired to improve my writing, inspired by my dad who was a journalist. When I write these blogs, I think of what might interest you about my little edge of the world. I write to elaborate on visual meaning for those who find it hard to understand my art. It really means a lot that I have this chance to express myself and reach you with words. All of these words were typed out by yours truly. I’ll be _____ if I ask AI to be a perfect me.