Blogs tagged with "inspiration"

My training is so inconsistent lately that I have very little news to report, but here's a quick overview followed by something else I've been doing lately that I feel like blogging about.

On the injury-front, I've been working hard on healing my hamstring tendon and strengthening other muscle groups with the goal of no more hamstring problems. Ever. There's still a long way to go. My relentless pursuit of squats and bridges and planks is - I think - finally forcing my glutes to take the workload off my hamstrings. My latest revelation is that when I focus on good form while running, I can ward off the hamstring pain for a progressively-longer time. I managed 11 miles two weeks ago and 14 miles on Saturday without serious pain. I might be willing to celebrate when it gets up to 20.

January sent me onto the bike trainer where I've slowly worked my way up to 3:35. Riding long on the trainer is a bigger struggle this year than it has been in the past. One of the reasons may be that I'm trying to ride too hard. Sunday, I focused on keeping my heart rate low which seemed to alleviate some of the struggle. Swimming - although inconsistent - seems to be the one thing I'm NOT struggling with.

When I look at the big picture, the problem has been getting more than one workout a day. There are two main reasons. The first is that my [regular] job has me working late on weekdays and weekends. Not because I'm slow, but there's just a LOT to get done and only one programmer (me). We just hired another so I'm hoping it will help with the workload in the future.

The second reason is that I've recently been hit with inspiration to create new fine art prints. As an artist (or someone who wishes she could be a working artist), I have learned one thing: never f*ck with inspiration. If my art were a source of income, I'd probably suffer from debilitating artist's block 80% of the time. But when uninspired, all I do is flip the switch and running, biking, and swimming become my physical and mental outlet for stress. So, when the rare event of true inspiration happens, I must follow it. It's not like I even have a choice. And I have absolutely no control when and where it happens. All I know is I have to drop everything and "get it out" to avoid becoming agitated, edgy, and losing sleep.

My latest print was inspired by an iPhone photo I took of a bunch of snow-covered trees in University Circle - the "museum-university-hospital" area of Cleveland. I don't know why, but I felt compelled to take this particular photo from the fourth floor window of my workplace (the

The first color (actually the first two colors, the other one being white) was a light pastel orange, here is the linoleum block and the printed color:

The second color was a blue-green. To some, it looked finished at this point (because most of the tree shapes were carved) - I have always been very precise in carving linoleum, but this new Clear Carve stuff was a more difficult to work with because the "carved" pieces don't break away nicely, so I was expecting some major issues ("easy to carve" isn't how I would describe it, as I have several v-shaped scabs on my fingers after stabbing myself several times with linoleum cutters), but was happily surprized with the result after this color:

And the final color was an almost-black with violet added:

I made only ten prints. But I was very happy with the result, and I'm already working on another one with the other piece of Clear Carve that I bought.

My training is so inconsistent lately that I have very little news to report, but here's a quick overview followed by something else I've been doing lately that I feel like blogging about.

No, this blog is not about my 2014 racing season. It's about finding inspiration for my art while [attempting] running. The other day, I dug out my trail shoes and went for a run after a soaking rain. The trail was lonely, but I was moved by all the footprints and bike tire prints in the mud, despite the bleak landscape created by winter rain in Cleveland. I tried to capture it in my latest print, titled "Scenes from the Towpath: Signs of Life" (this one is much bigger than all my others - it's 8 in x10 in, and it's the largest I've ever printed with my tiny etching press). It took about three evenings of work to produce - using an acrylic plate and only my drypoint needle:

No, this blog is not about my 2014 racing season. It's about finding inspiration for my art while [attempting] running. The other day, I dug out my trail shoes and went for a run after a soaking rain.

Meet my little etching press.

I've been dwelling on a new blog post for so long that I can't remember when my last one happened or what it was about. But I feel a brain-dump coming on so I'll just start writing.

Several times since creating this blog, my first post of the new year has been a recommitment to personal athletic goals. It usually comes after the realization that spending most of my time trying to please others (family, friends, peers, bosses) is a losing battle, that hard work rarely pays off in the workplace, and that I am crap at office politics (well,.. politics in general). After the realization, I crawl in a hole and bash myself to pieces, then crawl out, stand up (slowly), and recommit myself to a new season of running or triathlon. This has been the only thing that depends entirely on me.. and the one way for me to reap the benefits of goal-setting and hard work.

This year, part of me so desperately wants to write that athletic recommitment blog, but I can't. I can't put my "all" into training when I know damn well that my hamstring tendon is still injured. Lately I've had to remove myself from social media because most friends and those I follow are runners and triathletes. After reading and celebrating everyone else's successes for the last few months, I now find myself, not inspired by them, but feeling like a bigger loser, viewing my 2013 season as a huge fail, and declaring my 2014 season a failure before it even happens.

Before racing in London, I had the injury diagnosis. And after returning, I was forced to take time off and focus on healing. Then I survived a car accident. Then I survived buying a new car - which was, perhaps, more stressful than the accident. To avoid going insane, I started compulsively drawing again.

And then came an unexpected light at the end of the tunnel that had nothing to do with training. Somewhere in the mess of the interwebs, I landed upon several artists' websites describing intaglio printmaking with an acrylic plate. I was instantly hooked. My etching press (bought to expedite the process of making Christmas cards) would no longer have to sit in a corner unused for eleven months out of the year. Almost immediately, I was digging out tools, impulse-buying plastic plates and ink, and pulling my old printmaking studio books off the shelf.

This was mid-November - in the midst of the pre-holiday rush. Still hanging over my head was my yearly "other" creative endeavor: block-printing my 2013 card (which due to my procrastination, became its own fiasco of a time crunch). But, I don't f*ck with inspiration. Especially when it is artistic inspiration. I must drop everything and follow it.

And now, after a couple months, I am able to relax a bit and write about it.

For my first prints, I used random photographs I shot on my iPhone. And I couldn't even wait for the purchased materials to arrive. In desperation to get started, I scrounged up some old scraps of plexiglass from an old picture frame and secretly cut it into rectangles at 5:00 a.m. in the farthest corner of the basement to avoid waking up my husband Jim. (If you've ever scored and cut plexiglass, you already know it sounds like a gunshot.)

My first print was average at best, and more impulse purchases were required to find the right ink and all the right tools. I'm still developing my techniques, but I'm seeing improvement (there's that hard-work thing again...). In the even that I never race again, I hope I've found something that keeps me creatively and energetically engaged and has future development and growth potential.

2014 now seems like a new direction. I have some new art and I'm hopeful about my future artistic possibilities for the first time in about ten years. Creating stuff is giving me a sense of internal fulfillment, and if I can no longer compete at the level I'd like to as an athlete, all does not seem lost.

Anyway.. below are a few of the new intaglio prints - starting with the first one - made from a photo of my headlights while I was driving at night. The method I'm using is called "drypoint" - scratching the image into the plate directly instead of etching it with acid (and thus avoiding the hazardous-materials-in-the-house issue). In the future, I would like to switch the imagery and use some of my drawings for inspiration, but my photos are giving me ideas for now.

"Headlights on Boston Mills Road"
"Riverfront Trail Scene 2"
"Le Canal"
"Scenes from the Towpath I"
"Afternoon Near Corn Hill"

For most of my life, I've intermittently asked myself the question: how can I make it as an artist? The answer always comes back quickly: I can't.

But before you string me up by my toes for being "negative," hear me out. I do NOT believe it's impossible to "make it" as an artist. As the eternal idealist, I feel quite quite the opposite - I believe that if I work hard enough, I actually COULD make it as an artist - and by "make it," I mean, generate enough income to be self-sufficient.

Unfortunately, defining success this way and making it a goal is self-defeating in a field as subjective as visual art (except in rare cases like that of Andy Warhol). For many artists, including me, expression comes from within and rarely serves the masses (again, with the exception of rare cases such as Michelangelo or Jacques-Louis David who produced incredible inspired commissioned work). And feel free to debate "what IS art?" for the rest of your years, but when it comes to creating art, let me simply quote Albert Pinkham Ryder: "The artist needs but a roof, a crust of bread, and his easel, and all the rest God gives him in abundance. He must live to paint and not paint to live."

Mind you, few artists have the ability to live according to Pinkham Ryder's ideal. My personal artistic inspiration is a very powerful feeling. It can make me deliriously happy. But sometimes I think it will drive me insane. If I deny it, I will start to feel sick. I won't be able to sleep. Or eat. Or focus on anything else. But then, it comes and goes. And when it goes, it leaves me with gobs of unfinished work, curled up in a heap on the floor, depressed, hating myself, crying, and confused. It's quite a vicious thing. Especially because I'm not even trying to make a living with my art.

Recently, I've been riding a new wave of inspiration - both to draw and to explore various printmaking techniques - notably, intaglio with plastic (acrylic) plates. I'll write about that in a subsequent blog. But what I really wanted to write about is my latest drawing and the story from which it came - involving a long-ago search for elusive inspiration.

It was back when I was in college - studying engineering. I was a die-hard sci-fi buff, and I saw a contest in a magazine to create an image for something called "the supreme intelligence" from the upcoming remake of "Invaders from Mars." Until that day (and well after, I might add), all of my art fit into the category of realism. But part of me longed to draw something mind-bogglingly creative. Something that had very little resemblance to earth or human or animal. You know, something like H. R. Giger's Alien... yes, that's it, I wanted to design something totally unique, yet horrific, and I was haunted by this one thought for many days.

Drawing a mental blank, I had almost completely given up hope while mulling it over before bed one night. That night, I had my scariest nightmare to this day. I was in a cave, and something terrifying crawled out of a hole in the ground in front of me. Something completely unreal and unearthly. And within a matter of seconds, this unfathomable horror was out of the ground and racing toward me at breakneck speed. It had no legs and I couldn't figure out how it moved forward, it just did. Unable to get away, I woke myself up instead - with a scream on my lips. I didn't sleep the rest of the night. And I chose never to draw it. I was too frightened.

Until this year.

My first attempt has already been posted (without explanation) in one of my drawing-a-day blogs, but here it is again. It was way too cartoony and almost comical - nothing like the horror in my dream. My physical therapist would describe it "like something from Dr. Seuss." (He says most of my drawings look like scary Dr. Seuss.)

This weekend, I tried to draw it for the second time. This one is a much more accurate depiction of it. I'm still baffled as to how it moved in the dream.. maybe I'll figure that out in another drawing:

For most of my life, I've intermittently asked myself the question: how can I make it as an artist? The answer always comes back quickly: I can't.

Today I've surprised even myself and made it three days in a row drawing. What's more surprising is that today is Monday, I'm back at work, and I still found time to draw (a.k.a. lunchtime!). Unfortunately, today's drawing is not truly representational of the thing that triggered it - the music I was listening to. In fact, it is so NON-representational of the music that I'm kind of embarrassed to even mention the two were connected, but I guess this blog is my tell-all.

So, then, the music is a new album by Turin Brakes' vocalist Olly Knights called "If Not Now When?" I must note that the album name was somewhat influential in my deciding to do the Daily Drawing series. Although, until last night, all I knew about it were three things: (1) the album name (2) the titular song (3) the fact that the music was the result of Olly's working through a bout of writer's block.
A quick background...
People say "I remember where I was when..." (fill in your own earth-shattering moment). For me, one of those pivotal moments in life was when I first heard Turin Brakes. I was in Newcastle, England. When Turin Brakes came on stage, my life changed forever. I though I would have to be dragged out of the venue in cardiac arrest during their set. I never had such a strong reaction to music before. Since that day, I look forward to every sound they make. And I had been dying of anticipation until last night, when I received via e-mail the download link for Olly's album. I couldn't get the iPod hooked up to the stereo fast enough.
It was so worth the wait. "If Not Now When?" came just in time for me to work through my own artist block - one that was sort of self-imposed because of time conflicts - to get me back on track with my own creative energy. The album has an energy that ebbs and flows - and it takes you in directions that you don't expect. It defies all typical chord progressions. It has those spine-tingling harmonies that only Olly can deliver. I guess it reminded me of water (even though there's not much reference to water in the lyrics). I think it's because water is my fundamental comfort zone. I'm rarely happier or more at peace than when I'm in water or near water.
So, then, I bring you to today's drawing. If the concept came to me while basking in the calm fluidity of Olly's voice and music, why in hell does this drawing look like an oceanic horror story? Your guess is as good as mine. I hope Olly doesn't take it personally.
(And please, do NOT take my drawing as a statement about the music - if you're interested, please please PLEASE check out the video:
Here's the drawing. Yes, it's on notebook paper. No I'm not still in grade school.

Today I've surprised even myself and made it three days in a row drawing. What's more surprising is that today is Monday, I'm back at work, and I still found time to draw (a.k.a.

It's over when the lemur sings.
(AKA: my last great photo as a Zoo employee)

I'm going to veer off my usual topics of training and racing to write about one of the other big aspects of my life. Yes, I'm going to write about "work."

Even though I don't write about it much, my work has always been an important part of my life. I've been through more than one career change (from engineering to art and design to programming to marketing and back to programming) and many employment changes in my 46 years on the planet. The employment change I'm going through right now has been the most stressful and heart-wrenching of them all.

As of yesterday, I am no longer employed at one of my favorite places in the world, Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. After five years of working in the Zoo's Marketing department, I've accepted a position as a web developer at the Cleveland Museum of Art. With my background in art history, the museum is, perhaps, the only place in Cleveland for which I would have left the Zoo. It is also, perhaps, a better fit for me -- to be in an information technology environment as opposed to a marketing environment.

For five years at the Zoo, I had hoped to make a difference. A difference that would be noticed by those who loved animals as much as I do. A difference that would be obvious to my employer. And for five years, I felt like I was banging my head against a wall. As a web marketer, I kept trying to push the envelope, and I kept getting my butt kicked for it. I was in a constant state of stress about what I was doing because I never quite "got" the role of being a marketer. I struggled to compete with news organizations for my own news. I begged to institute new technology in an organization that was saddled with the inertia of an outdated mindset and I was tired of hearing everyone use the expression "baby steps." And I finally gave up because I was stuck. I wasn't going anywhere. My supervisor once said to me that we worked in a place that "rewarded mediocrity" -- and in the end, that just wasn't good enough for me.

However, I don't want you to think I don't respect the organization I worked for. I have a deep respect for the institution that is Cleveland Metroparks and Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, and I feel that with the new executive director, the future is wide open and bright. There are positive changes going on internally, and I'm sad that I won't be around to benefit from them. Five years ago, when I accepted the job offer at the Zoo, I was beyond thrilled to have a coveted position working for a place that was, is, and will continue to be, a great source of civic pride. For those reasons and more, leaving my job at the Zoo was one of the hardest decisions I ever had to make.

In my five years at the Zoo, I had an opportunity to learn about animals from the people that love them and work with them most, the animal keepers. Working with keepers to photograph and videotape animals was the most personally rewarding work I have ever done. It became my mission to show the world what a great Zoo we have in Cleveland. And it was my mission to connect people with animals. But I didn't ONLY learn about animals.

In my five years at the Zoo, I learned about people. I made friendships that will stand the test of time, and I found out what true friendship is all about. When I announced my resignation, instead of being sad to see me go, my friends at the Zoo were happy to see me break free of my shackles and hopefully prosper in a different location. I will miss being close to them on a daily basis.

But in my five years at the Zoo, I also learned there is no such thing as the perfect job. I had thought this was it -- to do what I love in a place that I loved. But marketing wasn't the best fit for me -- a passionate idealist who wears her heart on her sleeve and cannot lie. The Zoo's animal care staff dubbed me: "the most non-marketing person in the marketing department." To state it simply, I found the "hard work pays off" ethic does not work in a marketing environment. It was one of the hardest lessons I ever learned. And to this day, I don't think it has truly sunk in.

I leave behind work that I can hang my hat on. I was able to institute several projects that received positive feedback from our Zoo visitors and audience: blogging, video podcasting, a big social media presence, and an iPhone application. I was also able to utilize and refine my creativity with writing, photography and video shooting and editing. I leave knowing that I can visit the Zoo (and my friends there) anytime I want, and I will continue to support its programs though membership and donations.

Now I look to a future in which I may finally reconcile my two seemingly divergent passions (and college degrees): art and computer programming (via engineering). Giving up a marketing position for an IT position will send me back behind the scenes. I made peace with it by reminding myself that my job is not the only creative outlet in my life. I'm also hoping that less stress at work will translate into less stress out of work -- and thus, less stress in my ironman training. And although money was never part of the equation, with increased wages (and a real salary for the first time in ten years), I will be able to afford some of the things I couldn't before -- I may even feel less stressed out when traveling to races because of the huge monetary expenditures they require.

Finally, one of the things I am looking forward to most is getting back into the art world. Being around great art has always been a source of inspiration for me. And I can finally stand up and tell the world (and my parents) that my art degree was not a waste of time.

It was a very round-about way of getting there, but I think I may finally be there.

I don't have anything to write a long blog about, but I want to stay in practice so I'll write about a few little things. Most of my time lately has been spent either at work (because we've had some really big things going on at the Zoo), logging miles and/or soul searching.

As an athlete, I'm always looking for that one thing that will make me better - whether that means faster or stronger or more durable (always a plus for someone known as the Disaster Magnet). The most recent thing I'm in the middle of is changing my nutrition both in and out of training and racing.

I've become a huge fan of

She even had time to pose
with the photographer *sigh*

About a week ago, the Zoo had a famous visitor, Betty White. I'm sure you know that Betty's popularity has soared recently for many reasons. One of the reasons she's ultra-popular in Cleveland is because of her TV Land show "Hot in Cleveland." She was in town with her costars from the show (Valerie Bertinelli, Jane Leeves and Wendie Malick) to accept the keys to the city from the Mayor. A well-known animal lover, Betty took a side trip to the Zoo for a personal tour from the Zoo Director.

I was "commissioned" to tag along as the official photographer. (What that means is my supervisor said "Betty White is coming to the Zoo tomorrow, do you have time to take some pictures?" Um... what kind of question IS THAT??? My answer? "I'll clear my schedule.")

My world changed that day. Through simple observation (and my camera lens), I got an insight into a woman who has often been called the "Animal Whisperer." I'm convinced Betty White's longevity has something to do with the peace she has with animals and people. I think she left an indelible mark on everyone who met her that day, and I'm now convinced that it may not be all about eating healthy and exercising, but that happiness and peace are essential in keeping us alive and well for many years.

One of the most amazing things Betty White did for us was a one-take 30-second video telling Cleveland about their Zoo. Being behind the video camera for that was one of the most thrilling and nerve-wracking experiences of my life. As the Disaster Magnet, I was SURE that I did something wrong like forgetting to press "play" on the camera.

But I didn't.

I hope that means my disastrous luck is changing.

I don't have anything to write a long blog about, but I want to stay in practice so I'll write about a few little things. Most of my time lately has been spent either at work (because we've had some really big things going on at the Zoo), logging miles and/or soul searching.

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