another summer ends

Its grey and raining here today.

It perfectly suits my mood, I’m a little sad and grey myself.

Suddenly summer is over. Technically it has been over for me for a week. Classes started back up at both schools where I teach last Tuesday, but it has felt like summer because my sister and Mum were here visiting after the wedding. We had a lot of fun playing tourist in my backyard, visiting parks and museums and just spending precious time as a family. Yesterday they went home.

It is beyond words, living so far away from them all, my parents and sisters, their spouses and children. I am incredibly lucky in my life here, I have the love of a really good man, and my children, and my grandchild. I have a beautiful home. I have meaningful work. I have friends. Somedays though I am still sad to be so far away from the place that will always be my home.

Life goes on. My work calls to me. Life has laundry and dishes and papers to mark.

And I can look forward to a less grey day, next summer, when hopefully the entire family will be back together again, even if it is only for a few brief glorious summer days.

And just like that summer is gone

The last official week of summer was spent helping our youngest get ready for school while recovering from another surgery. Here’s hoping that sets her up for a better year ahead.
This week was the first week of classes. This semester I have picked up some extra work, so I am teaching 5 classes at 3 different colleges. The college i usually teach at treats their adjuncts very well, but one of the new colleges has pretty much abandoned me to sink or swim. I am glad i have so much experience under my belt or it could have been disastrous rather than just stressful. I also scheduled a workshop one evening this week. I survived, but it was a pretty foolish thing to do to myself!


And around packing and hospitals and teaching I also squeezed in time for the last festival of the summer


And to finish up a new installation for the faculty show at the college where I usually teach. The curator took this nice picture of me at work.


Actually the weather is still very lovely, summer is not really over quite yet, so I am hoping I might be able to make some paper from plants from the garden before the sun slips away. And I have some new projects on the go in the studio.
But first, coffee in the sunshine on the porch.

Summer week 6

Last week, rather on a whim I went to look at a house. It got me thinking about the future. We have lived in our house for over 20 years, and I still love it as much as the first time I saw it. But, it is a large house, maybe a little too big now the last of our children is getting ready to marry and leave the nest. We live in a great neighborhood, convenient to our jobs, but we have been thinking about making a change. Maybe it would be nice to mark this transition in our lives with a new, smaller home, with more room for our toys in out buildings. And thinking about a new home has got me thinking about where I want to take other parts of my life, and I have been dreaming about different futures. Dreaming big dreams. Thinking about change is big and scary, but I don’t want the next phase of our life together to run on autopilot, so I think it is time to get out the journals and give it some serious thought.
That house was beautiful, but way too much, even though I could imagine myself living there, I also realized I want to simplify my domestic life and make more time to spend experiencing life and making art.
It feels like change is coming!

coming or going?

simple abundance july 25

I was driving my youngest daughter back to camp earlier this week when we passed a truck just like the one we were riding in – “watch out” she said, “we just passed ourselves going – we’re in a time paradox!” Too much Dr. Who in this house maybe?

But honestly that is pretty much how I have been feeling all year. Somehow I cannot seem to get grounded at all, and although some incredible and splendid things have happened, I feel they have all slipped by half-appreciated in a blur. I have been far too busy living to have a life. All of my good intentions seem rather tattered and I am feeling glad that a new school year is just around the corner (and a little freaked out about how much work I HAVEN’T done on my new lectures) and with it a fresh mental start.

I am trying to be gentle with myself – but I am frustrated by the fact that so many of the projects I had hoped to complete this year are still unfinished in the studio.I have made incremental progress on a few – the signatures for women’s work are almost completed – but I didn’t finish it in time to enter it in the Rochester Art of the Book show as I had hoped. I know it WILL get finished – and probably pretty soon, but I feel as if I have let myself down yet again. I know the only way forward is to pick myself up and renew my efforts, but I honestly just feel a bit tired. I’d like to just take a nap – in the woods away from everything.

never done....

never done….

I have signed up for the August round of the root 30 day journal project – just to see if anything comes to the surface. Obviously something is holding me back from following through with my commitment to myself, to make more time for my own art, maybe by going back to my journals I can figure it out. While I am waiting for August – I have decided to reread Simple Abundance and journal about whatever that brings up – maybe by staying in the pages of my journal where it is safe to make mistakes I can rekindle my energies and get back to work.

Now back to my coffee and preparations for the upcoming Bookfest at WNYBAC


OK so it is not Thursday – but here is my throwback thought for the week. It’s about community and how important it is as an artist to have a supportive tribe to rely on. I am thinking about this for many many reasons this week, but here are a few of them.

As many of my readers know I work part time with the Cattaraugus County Arts Council as a creativity consultant to their business program for artists ABLE. Last week was out last monthly meeting with this great group of creative people, and although our support for this group will continue on indefinitely, this intensive part of the program is coming to an end. As part of our wrap-up we talked about what we had learned from the program, and one of the artists said that something I had said at the very first meeting had profoundly changed the way he thought about his work. He had said he was reluctant to share his photography in case people didn’t like it, and I had said who cares? And I meant it – our work is our own given only to us, if we don’t do it it never manifests in the world. I really believe our job is just to do the work, not to make judgements about it, just to do it and put it out in the world. I was glad something I had said had encouraged a fellow artists to stay on the path and keep on working – that is such a great feeling! Bringing this program to a close made me think about my NYFA Mark experience, and how powerful it was to be acknowledged as an artist and be taken seriously. (If you are new to me and my blog you can read about that here). But also it is about seeing that others are in the same place as you – that even the most seasoned and accomplished veterans wrestle with the same problems.

The second incident was when a past student dropped by to visit – she has been in a bit of a bleak place in her life and wanted to reignite her creativity and work her way back to emotional health. I sent her off with a long list of recommended reading, and I hope that along with a chat over coffee I was able to help her a bit! I remember “beginning” as an artist, and I told her that right now I still struggle with the same thoughts as then. Doubt assails me less often, but doubt still comes, and that for me I have to remember to just keep working and wait for the work to find its own way. So many people support me when doubt creeps in, and my blog readers especially have become such an amazing support network of people, most of whom I only know through this cyber-space connection. It is good to be able to pay that feeling forward.

Also this week I read this post over at Tattered and Worn about balance – and I felt refreshed and reassured and able to get back to work with less concern about how out of whack my life has been lately – I just decided to drop the pie on the floor and eat it! (Now you will have to go read the post to see what on earth I am talking about!). I read this blog almost every day with my morning coffee – I hope you have time to read at least this one post this weekend – you will be glad you did!

This blog has been a catalyst for me in meeting and making my tribe. Through it I have met so many amazing generous artists willing to share their talents and advice. Being online and reading other blogs makes me feel less alone, inspires me to get up out of my rut and go back to work, fills my mind with the splendor of their work, and encourages my inner child to get up and go play again. So I am very happy to say that I was contacted this week by Jill Zaheer from Jazworks to be part of a blog-hop. Jill and I met as paper swap partners through LaWendula’s amazing and FREE paper swap. (I encourage you to go check it out and sign up – it is really FREE). So next weekend I will be posting my answers to her questions and linking to the next blogs in the hop. I hope you will go and visit Jill’s blog and look at her incredible work, which has such a unique signature style, and then backtrack along the hop and check out the other artists who are playing. Maybe on the way you will find a little something to help you today. Thanks for visiting – and I’ll be back with a new post in a few days. blogging it turns out is much like riding, when you fall off you just need to get back on and ride again!


day 21 from my root journal

day 21 from my root journal

After weeks of being sick or my kids being sick I was looking forward to a whole nights rest – or not – at 4am I was still restlessly tossing, my brain firing on all cylinders. Really crazy! I wrote out a long list of niggly things that were stuck in my head (apparently) and came up with an idea for a new work – and while I appreciate the input from my genius – is a little sleep really too much to ask?

when artists teach….

one for sorrow

one for sorrow

It’s official – I am completely overwhelmed this term. I offer the following photos as evidence – and these are the clean-ish rooms.

there was a table under there..

there was a table under there..


and no clean plates…

This morning I had to eat my breakfast crumpets from a bowl as there were no clean plates!! I am up to my eyeballs in final exams – research papers to mark and stupid questions. Oh and I believe a holiday also rapidly approaching. The studio has spilled out into the dining room – mostly because my office is so trashed I can barely get through the door and there are books on every flat surface. I keep telling myself only two more weeks – but the truth is that now my hours have been cut I won’t be able to really take a break and will have to keep working at job number two over the holidays. I am exceptionally bummed out about this, I have work I NEED to do. The ideas are piling up. Gah! What’s an artist to do? I am beginning to wonder if I will have any work to show at all next year! The solo show next October may be a tad empty if I can’t figure out a better solution.

I did manage to make a little time this weekend to finish my collages for this event – which I am looking forward to. I sort f cheated and revisited the magpie series for some of these.

OK enough online procrastination – those papers won’t grade themselves.

and the universe said…

keep those lists coming please!!

keep those lists coming please!!

So it has been a bit bleak around here, which is partly why I have been so uncharacteristically silent – my hubby hasn’t had work in a while and the economic noose is feeling a bit tight. BUT a few days ago I decided to try and buck myself up by not only counting my blessings (which are MYRIAD) but but sharing the wealth a little. Several of my friends have ongoing kickstarter projects, so I made a small donation to each – and to a local organization too. It is funny how focusing outward makes everything less scary. I’m not any richer or more financially secure than I was before but I FEEL better. Huh!

Yesterday I got a call for an interview for a REAL job in my field – actually sort of a dream job for me, so on April 16th send out good vibes and keep your fingers crossed. I also got to spend a wonderful afternoon getting to know the curator of this show – gone viral – better over lunch, followed by a private tour of the exhibit. If you haven’t been to SUNY Fredonia to see it and you live within hailing distance – please go, it is incredible! And then to keep the great vibes going it is finally Spring Break. So I get almost an uninterrupted week in the studio. I will be taking some time out to speak at a conference for these nice people this weekend, and then next weekend I’ll be at the Buffalo Small Press Book Fair on Sunday April 7th. That is enough happiness to get me through the inevitable grading.

And one more thing. The lists are arriving almost daily for this project which I am fondly calling – never done – but if you haven’t sent yours yet, don’t despair! I need hundreds to fill the book, so keep them coming. I am hoping to show the finished book this summer. Want to help, email me at debraeck at debraeck dot com. Thanks!

And now I am off to the studio. Thanks for listening.

happiness – relax!

I have been feeling out-of-sorts for a while now. What should be an exciting new chapter in my life – having my hubby all to myself (having myself all to myself for that matter) is not living up to my expectations. I ought to be happy – I have a great husband, my kids are successfully making their way in the world, I have a beautiful home, my own studio, my art career feels like I am stepping up – so what is my problem??

Then Janet over at tattered and worn posted about a book she was reading – this one: The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. I am a bit of a sucker for self help books, so I thought why not? Luckily my library had the kindle version so I was able to start reading right away! Now I have to say right off the bat I knew I was going to like this book – this is a woman who makes lists, wants rewards and has a life much like mine. This is my kind of self help – charts, lists, stars…. I have already devoured half the book, and started on my first month of my own happiness project. While the author started with boosting her energy I knew my first task should be to relax.

If you don’t know me this might sound a bit silly – but I am so type A. I am always over-scheduled, always on the run, always tense (always even when I am sleeping). If there is a space on my calendar I rush to put something on it. I operate well on full speed, but I really suck at stop. Even if I appear to be stationary, my mind is running on ahead at a mile a minute. (unless I am absorbed in some repetitive task in the studio – but other people don’t need to be DOING something in order to relax!)

I have been trying to learn how to do this – I started taking a yoga class. I discovered I kinda like yoga – but what I REALLY like is how relaxed I feel after class – which is when I realized that I am not often that relaxed. So this is my project for the month – figure out how to stop every now and then. The first task I set myself was to try and get that yoga feeling  before bed. I am a terrible sleeper – I have always been this way – when I was little I used to climb on the window sill and read by the street lamp in front of our house. As a teen I pretty much gave up sleeping! But now as an adult these poor sleeping habits are (probably literally) killing me. I decided to try this simple 8 minute yoga routine I found online before bed each night. Even I can manage 8 minutes of exercise a day. And guess what – I have overslept several days in a row. Now I understand that oversleeping isn’t something one usually gets excited about – but it is something I almost never do (unless medication is involved).

So even though you are all thinking I am a bit nuts – I am excited – this feels like progress.

So… this weekend I am taking a mini break with my husband. I am going to try relaxing for a whole weekend. hmmmm. wish me luck!


Oh poor neglected blog! Where have I been, well honestly alternating between acting like a chicken with my head cut off and relaxing. The beginning of the school year is always so nuts, plus I am still working at the print shop, hoping desperately not to have to borrow money for tuition, so work is keeping me really busy. But I have also been trying to make an effort to be a little better to myself and to spend more time with my poor hubby – who is often as neglected as this blog.

This week has been a banner one for taking care of me. Tuesday night I had the amazing opportunity to hear Christo speak about his work. I can only hope to still be as passionate and filled with enthusiasm for my work when I reach his age. He was a very entertaining speaker and fielded at least an hour of audience questions with grace. It was a memorable evening, I am so grateful the chance came my way.

Yesterday was even more incredible! I taught until 11 and then hopped in a van and headed out to Pennsylvania with a group from Jamestown Audubon to see the Elk. It was a magical day, they are such majestic and enormous animals, we were able to watch them for hours and see two large herds. The boys were all busy bugling and herding up their harems, the girls pretty much ignored them and kept on eating. It was such a wonderful experience. I spent my time rapidly sketching as they moved around. I didn’t draw anything of note, but it was so peaceful and relaxing just to have a pencil in hand and be absorbed in the moment.

I did warn you, only rough rapid sketches!!

Then today I took my first yoga class. I think I may like it!

Of course a busy weekend lies ahead, but I am feeling energized and ready to tackle it head on. This is good as I have to finish up my work for the biennial in Liverpool by Sunday so I can make sure it arrives in time to be installed. Hope you all have a wonderful weekend, and stayed tuned next week for a post about my biennial experience so far!