Saturday, October 17, 2009

How artists recover from illnesses.

I’ve had a miserable week fighting pneumonia. My allies were friends, antibiotics and breathing treatments, and slowly I’m winning the battle. My friend Cappi Phillips brought me homemade macaroni and cheese, made with whole-wheat noodles with flax in them—what terrific comfort food! Thanks Cappi! Today I left the house for the first time in a week and I even had a salad with my family at Buccetto’s. Look out world, I’m on the mend.

To re-engage myself in the art world, and use weaving as part of my recovery, I decided to break out my yellow yarns. Yellow is such a happy color, and I decided to start a commission piece to make a variation on my ‘Autumn Aspens’ theme. I first pulled out my big box of cord, strings and shoelaces to form the core of the tree trunks. Then I got out my variegated taupe yarns. You probably know that ‘taupe’ started out to mean the average color of a French mole—until the artists got their hands on the word. I started with my beige and brown taupes (take that, you linguists!) and started wrapping the aspen tree trunks. My strategy was to create the foreground variegations with light to medium color yarns first. Then I moved on to medium to dark yarns and finally the darkest yarns. The goal was to create a sense of depth based partly on the color of the tree trunks, with the darkest shades in the back.

Then came the big moment in my recovery—I pulled out my big box of yellow yarns, which was like opening up a box of sunshine! If you live in central Indiana you know it’s been an awful week weather-wise, with cold, overcast rainy skies dominating the weather (and lots of people have been sick). But my yellows brought a smile to my face—how can you not be happy looking into a sea of yellow! Right about then was when I had my flashback to the genesis of the first ‘Autumn Aspens piece—a trip with my father one October many years ago. I had just defended my Ph.D. thesis at the University of Western Ontario, and to celebrate we traveled to Utah and Colorado for a vacation. I was stunned by the endless yellows of fall in the American West, with all the subtle differences in color. Yellow is just too flat a word to use to describe the tints and shades of yellows, with hints of oranges and greens, all spread out over miles of open landscapes. It was just amazing!

Then I landed back in Bloomington Indiana, thinking how I have to get my family out there some autumn. With kids in school and everyone fighting to stay healthy that’s going to be a tall order, but someday we’ll make it. I hope that where ever you are in the world when you read this that you’re healthy and happy. But if you’re struggling with something, my advice is to bring out the yellows. It worked for me!

Until next week…

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