One Year in the Forest

It’s been an incredible year on an art retreat here in the forests of Fairfax. I really didn’t know what to expect moving into this community, but it’s been incredible. I’ve made a lot of friends and I’m engaged in Climate Action with a local committee, and one national climate outreach group, and there has been so much to learn. The basics of being part of an advisory committee, learnings on the intricacies of state and local resources for mitigating climate change, guiding an All We Can Save Circle, and a genuine friendship with the town itself. But the best thing has been the art.

I’ve had three art shows nationally, one in SF, and made over 200 paintings, with two sold locally. I made two comics and an illustrated book. I learned through a small community on Twitter about the intricacies of the NFT community, opened my first accounts and have a small following on Foundation. I found a way to push through new ideas and concepts, with three completely different art styles that I really feel are groundbreaking and new. And I even own two NFTs.

The forest itself is so incredible. I really learned to respect and be with nature, far from the industrial environment when we lived in the East Bay. It’s been so impactful that I barely remember what it was like when we lived in Emeryville, just a couple of blocks away from Pixar, and nestled between Oakland and Berkeley that combined so many perspectives, diverse and beautiful.

Yet as we did all of this the growing crisis in our world began. Covid was raging in the East Bay, and all over the world, and it was isolating and difficult period happening right after seven years of being in art school. Literally right after. The pandemic started our last semester of school. I went straight from classrooms directly into lockdown, and it took so much to get through that time, much like everyone went through.

When we moved to Fairfax everything changed. Suddenly there were wide spaces to walk in that were so freeing, and I didn’t take a second of it for granted. I started studying nature and post-impressionism, culminating in design and illustrations for the Climate Action Committee, which I rebranded with a logo and style guide, and my private art practice. These were some of the best-received among my friends and colleagues and was both a beginning and completion of spending years studying art. I’ve already moved on to a new period, possibly my fourth since we’ve been in the forest.

I work 12 hour days with just a few reserved for basic life. A lot of that is driven by espresso, which I spent two months studying during a brief period working at Peets. I took online courses from Peets in my spare time, completing the barista training until I was ready to start a shop of my own. But I realized in all this that I couldn’t stop making art. (Besides Peets is the best anyway) It was literally what I lived for, and after all that training in art school, I realized that I could never escape who I am, an artist and illustrator, through and through. The next series I have in my head I promise will be amazing. I’m taking two weeks off to give myself some space to think and plan for the next steps.

Public service is something I’ll always do, and I was a little shocked when I was elected Vice-Chair, which I’m learning about while I take time off of art while I build my practice and look for grants and opportunities. But I’ll never stop making art. Art means so much to me that I can make things for hours, and have to remind myself to sleep. When I’m not making art I’m studying it, going through hundreds of paintings and often returning to a selection of Van Gough’s work I have as an open book in my office, returning to single entries day after day until I let the colourwork seep into my consciousness. In our little apartment in the forest, sometimes it’s quiet and I’ve been given a space to grow, which is exactly what I needed after the formalities of contemporary art education.

When I wasn’t studying art I was enraptured with the UN. I attended every session of the General Assembly and researched economics and culture for each country each leader spoke of. I learned about SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals), the importance of biodiversity and multilateralism, and started earnestly learning new languages with the dream that one day I might work at the UN, but for now, I’m happy to be one of its biggest fans. I really got into global culture, assembling a range of historical analyses and cultures across the continents, all packed away on my kindle so I won’t be bored for years. But it hasn’t been time for that. It’s been time to focus and study art in all of its forms, in both two dimensional and three-dimensional visualizations. I’m starting to learn Unity and learned Marvelous Designer for a book and NFT series called Light Fields. It has been an incredible, relentless year of growth, and I haven’t slowed down.

But I’m now turning my gaze away from the blank page and back into research, while I”m not working on my current assignments. I have so much to read, and while I’ve grown by leaps and bounds I still feel like I’m at the beginning of something. There is so much I want to do. I’ve written so much on this blog, among two books, one science fiction novel and a book on design. I haven’t taken a vacation in two years, so having a working holiday to look for new assignments seems like a dream right now.

And of course, I won’t stop making art, as if I could ever try, as this blog has been such a record of my day to day thoughts, I thought I would write this entry to let it stay for awhile, until I think things through and really plan and prepare for the next phase of our lives. Where will it be? Berlin? New York? Paris? Montreal? Here? I have no idea right now but I wouldn’t take this year back for a second. I learned so much here, and still am. The world is still in crisis, but in moments, in my art, and in poetry, across two languages, I found a true solace that will never leave. I was always looking for a new home, and what I found is it was always within me, in my body, heart and mind. I hope we travel the world again someday, but for now, with the world still in crisis, I hope there is a world we can return to, which I have tried my best to try and create with all my abilities, curiosity, and relentless love of life that is always greater than despair, even though it sometimes gets the best of us, peace is always there. As clear as day, bright as the moonlight across our consciouness. The ever-growing possibility, that the future could be a truly beautiful place, of peace, equality, true happiness, and inescapable reality, that even in our most desperate moments, our hearts are the true refuge, that we have a little time on this earth to help and bring to life.

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