Archive for January, 2011

Thanks, friends!

Recently, a number of friends passed on the Stylish Blogger Award to yours truly and this blog. Thank you, dear friends: Chea (www.VenusDoesMars.com), Bjorg Nina (viltogvakkert.blogspot.com), Roberto (oloratrementina.blogspot.com), and Linda (lindahensley.blogspot.com/). I hope I haven’t forgotten anyone…?

In order to accept this award there are rules which I will post here:

*Thank and link to the person who awarded you this award.

*Share 7 things about yourself.

*Award 10 recently-discovered great bloggers.

*Contact these bloggers and tell them about the award.

Because so many of my favorite blogs have already been awarded, I will have to give some thought to who I’ll pass it on to in turn. In the meantime, here are:

7 Things About Myself

1. My very favorite breakfast (I am long overdue for this) is lots of sourdough toast with loads of butter, and very hot twig tea. Decaf works too.

2. I work all day in my studio wearing slippers…so cosy!

3. I named my first cat Max. He finally ran away and was adopted by a neighbor after one-too-many residence changes on my part.

4. My favorite movie ‘time-outs’ are romantic comedies (chick flicks), and French Kiss tops the list, followed by You’ve Got Mail. (Not highbrow, I know, but they leave me with a nice, if short-lived illusion that all is well in the world.)

5. “Sorrell” was my Mom’s maiden name. I added it to the middle of Susan Hill to distinguish myself from all the other ones out there, one of whom is a famous novelist.

6. I love to sleep in late and then stay up late into the night, if at all possible. But the sun rising on an early-morning road trip is pretty special too…

7. When I was a kid, I was completely hooked on coming home from school, pouring the biggest glass in the kitchen full of milk (usually an ex-jelly jar with cartoon characters on it), and eating homemade chocolate-chip cookies until the milk ran out. Wish I could still get away with that, but the hip patrol will have none of it.

Stay tuned for my list of Stylish Blogs!

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c. Susan Sorrell Hill

The Illustration Friday word of the week is surrender.

There is no getting around it: limitation is misery. Whether it be a dearth of space, time, money, ability, success or love, “not having enough” of the thing we need (or think we need) is akin to that proverbial slow trip through Hell. Most of us would do anything to avoid it.

Alas, (and as spiritual teachers of all persuasions have always written) limitation does have a purpose. Surely Eleanor Roosevelt was referring to limitation when she said, “A woman is like a teabag. You never know how strong she is until she gets into hot water.” We don’t have to like it… but limitation is, indeed, a great teacher.

Many of us (with the exception of those who are still testosterone-driven and/or caffeine-powered) have begun to suspect that the true name of Life’s game is surrender. This is not the surrender of giving up, losing, passivity, or any other similar mind-set, but Surrender as in an alignment with the greater wisdom, the greater plan of Life. The words of Lao Tzu (previously posted here) describe this definition of “Surrender” quite clearly, translated here by Witter Bynner.

“…When a man is in turmoil, how shall he find peace, save by staying patient till the stream clears? How can a man’s life keep its course if he will not let it flow? Those who flow as life flows, know they need no other force: they feel no wear, they feel no tear, they need no mending, no repair.”

Yet there is this thing about humans and free will: the freedom to choose. We grow and become wise from whatever choices we make, but there is (of course you’ve noticed) a steep price for choosing to go against the flow of Life. Edward Bach, in his classic book, Heal Thyself: An Explanation of the Real Cause and Cure of Disease, wrote convincingly that the root cause of all disease is to be found not on the physical level, as modern medicine would have us believe, but on the level of the spirit. He states unequivocably, that the cause is a conflict between Soul and Mind. (In New Age lingo: a conflict between Head and Heart.) In the words of Lao Tzu: a resistance to Life’s flow.

When I honestly look at my own health and the mirror of my life situation, I see the evidence of resistance to Life’s flow everywhere. That being said… Surrender is not easy. If I ever knew how, I am long out of practice and very rusty. Where did I put that oil can?

“Of It’s Own Weight” (oil on board)

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c. Susan Sorrell Hill

The Illustration Friday word of the week is dusty.

With a particular word and the vision of a finished post held gently in mind, associated words, stories and images will come. Like dusty bunnies and stray hairs at the foot of my refrigerator, their accumulation is inevitable, if only I can stay out of the way long enough. Pure magic! I am surprised every time, most especially when the word of the week is not immediately evocative.

This morning it went like this: the Illustration Friday word is dusty>>bummer!!>>patience! ok, dusty>>dust>>the Charlie Brown “Pigpen” character>>too stupid! too obvious! patience! dusty>>dust>>ashes>>aboriginal adolescent’s individuation technique from their mothers>>boring! patience! dusty>>dust>>dust devil>>tornado>>ah! the tornados of my childhood>>the tornado that came the year I was watching “Creature from the Black Lagoon”>>image from the Fright Night poster for the radio station KVMR>>vignettes from my year in Minnesota>>ah>>relief>>direction>>getting it all down>>tweaking>>finished blog post.

This all happened while I was doing yoga. I had already given myself permission to miss posting for this week’s Illustration Friday, so my mind was free to word-associate with no pressure. (I wonder…could manifestation work just like word association?)

You are probably wondering where “Creature from the Black Lagoon” fits in? Patience!!

It was the year my family lived in Coon Rapids, Minnesota. Dad changed jobs and states frequently, in his climbing-the-corporate-ladder way, so my childhood is mostly a blur punctuated by tiny vignettes of memory. Why some particular memories stick, I am without clue, but that year in Minnesota is a larger memory file than most.

That year, I french-kissed my first boy behind the baseball dugouts. That was the same baseball field which the Fire Department flooded every winter to create a skating rink, complete with warming shack, hot cocoa and wood stove. I had new, brilliantly-white skates that year, and quickly learned that flying over the ice as fast as I could, and away from family, was a particularly sweet kind of freedom.

It was that year in Minnesota when the boy next door (the one who painted those god-awful models of characters with huge, bloodshot eyes, lolling tongues and over-size hands, wrapped around the steering wheels of screaming roadsters complete with flame-spouting tailpipes) told me that he would show me “his” if I would show him “mine.” (I didn’t).

It was the year my Dad showed me how to ‘burn it in’ with a hard ball, wearing my brand new, Vasoline-oiled baseball glove that I had finally paid off with a fifty-cents-a-week allowance. It was that year, too, that we made an igloo from a seven-foot-high pile left by the snow plow. When we finished digging out the entry tunnel and main room, we hosed the whole thing down so it would freeze solid. (That igloo lasted until Spring.)

It was that year that I learned, on a dare, to ride a skateboard down an impossibly steep driveway, while we waited for the school bus. (My out-of-character courage was no doubt inspired by the cute rich boy down the street, who arrived daily with slicked-back, wet hair from morning laps in the family pool.) At that same bus stop, I remember being completely mortified to be wearing, for the first time, a long fake-suede, fake-fox-collared coat that my Dad had picked out at the local White Front department store. For some mysterious reason, Minnesota’s sub-zero temperatures caused that coat to freeze stiff as a board around my embarrassed young body. (It wasn’t all that warm, either.)

That year, while working on a Social Studies assignment, I realized that I adored colored pencils, ink and paper. My geography report was probably a direct plagiarism from the family encyclopedia, but the maps I made to go with it were Works of Art. I can still remember basking in the glow of that teacher’s praise.

And finally, getting back to the Creature, it was that year in Minnesota when I first saw the movie, Creature from the Black Lagoon. It was a birthday/slumber party at a friend’s house, and we had stayed up all night, scaring ourselves silly with a feast of horror movies. That morning, groggy-eyed but happy, toast and jam in hands, we were watching the Creature. We were young enough then to suspend skepticism and technical criticism, and so were all appropriately scared. I remember thinking that I would have to be especially careful down at the nearby river from then on. Suddenly, our parents burst into the room. The sudden shift of realities was alarming in itself, without the equally-sudden, alarming, announcement that we were all being bundled off (in our pajamas) for our homes’ basement shelters: a tornado had been spotted. The look of that ominous, dark sky still lingers, superimposed over other memories of the The Wizard of Oz’s tornado scene, but the memory of the rest of that day in the basement is lost. I do remember being sorry that I’d missed the movie’s ending. When I came across the Creature on late-night television, years later, the scary magic was gone…I had grown up.

“Fright Night”   (detail) (Pen and ink)   Click image for a complete view: the Creature from the Black Lagoon is the guy fifth from the left…

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Susanna Meir, over at Trade Your Talent, has kindly posted a blog interview with me today.

Based in Berlin, Germany, Susanna writes,

“Trade Your Talent is a blog about everything that shows how inspired young artists are, whether it is design, art, music or acting. Many young artists often decide not to pursue a career in art, but in this blog I want to show how many artists successfully pursued their dream. Maybe one day it will become a network for artists, who will inspire each other globally.”

You can read it here:  http://tradeyourtalent.blogspot.com/

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c. Susan Sorrell Hill

The Illustration Friday word of the week is chicken.

“Chicken!” That taunt ranked high among the vicious weapons of childhood peers and siblings. Aimed directly for the solar plexus like an executioner’s sword, it spurred us on to do things unthinkable, sometimes things inappropriate and even dangerous. That most of us survive our tender years is, perhaps, a small miracle.

The scars and tender places are still here, though, beneath the aging skin. Now it takes only a sideways look, a roll of the eyes, or a deprecating tone, to bring out the fierce desire to prove someone wrong, to prove ourselves still “good enough.”

We humans are a competitive bunch…and we are the walking wounded.


“The Bear Refused to Play” (watercolor, pen and ink, colored pencil)

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c. Susan Sorrell Hill

The Illustration Friday word of the week is deja-vu.

Artists do love working in series…and we also love revisiting our favorite subjects, symbols and situations. Psychologists would sagely say that we are “working something out,” something which usually resides deep at the bottom of our subconscious…something which can be safely explored with pencil, paint and paper. Perhaps we are.

Regardless of the psychological implications, it is just plain fun to make a second, third or hundredth version of something which we feel so connected with. Each time, we see the object or the subject from a slightly different perspective, and perhaps with a bit more clarity. Working in series can be a very effective way  for an artist to discover exactly what she is trying to express with her art. Following the hand and the eye is an excellent way to discover the heart…

My favorite movie on the subject of deja-vu is the very funny (and vintage) Groundhog Day. Bill Murray plays to perfection a man who is rude, arrogant and altogether unpleasant to the people around him…and he wonders (again and again) why he can’t get the girl of his dreams. Fortunately for him, every morning is a new chance to do the same things all over, but in a better way. Doing so eventually leads him to a reality where he is kinder, gentler, and, of course, gets the girl. It’s an entertaining comedy, but it does have a profound point to make: every morning is a deja-vu…we wake up in the same life, with the same people and the same jobs, houses, health and circumstances. What will we do differently today with those constants, so that…ultimately…our life flows sweetly?

c. Susan Sorrell Hill

“Gate” versions 1 and 2 (watercolor, gouache, gesso, pen and ink)

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c. Susan Sorrell Hill

The Illustration Friday word of the week is resolutions.

My Northern California cabin fever is quite ready for a distraction when this holiday season rolls around. Still, it does seem odd that a New Year would be officially scheduled in the dead of winter, when newness of any sort seems impossibly far away.

Did you know that before the adoption of the current Gregorian Calendar, New Year’s Day was celebrated on March 25th in most European towns? In some areas of France during those Middle Ages, New Year’s was a week-long holiday ending on April 1st. Beginning a new year in Spring, celebrating a fresh start along with little green plants, budding trees and baby animals feels so much more in tune with the cycles of Nature. Do we owe this disparity to the Industrial Revolution? Whatever the new calendar’s purpose, it does look like a lot like humans messing with yet one more thing that already worked perfectly.

On the other hand, anyone who has ever suffered from insomnia knows that in the middle of the longest and darkest night, great suffering is sometimes followed by great insight…prompting new directions and the most heart-felt of resolutions. Conventional astrology’s description of the New Moon (dark) phase sounds very much like this: a time for endings followed by new beginnings. Perhaps our current New Year’s date is more akin to this phase of introspection and renewal…setting the stage for a rebirth of activities when Mother Nature’s green Spring finally arrives. (At least, here in the Northern Hemisphere…)

Whatever your personal and social cycles are at this time of the year, I wish you all the ever-increasing ability to find the peace and beauty inherent in every moment. May you find both in abundance in 2011.

“Deep in their roots, all flowers keep the light” (Theodore Roethke)

“Dreaming” (watercolor, pen & ink, pastel, gesso)

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