Fully Equipped


“We come marvelously equipped into a world offering a cornucopia of things to see, touch, smell, taste and hear, and we come with wiring to dream, remember, imagine,” Peter London writes in “No More Secondhand Art.”

Sometimes we forget how fully equipped we are — and how wondrous the world is. It’s easy to get lost in emails, constantly binging cell phones, inane conversations, day job drama, even self-defeating relationships.

Being more present continues to be my goal — and it’s a constant struggle. Occasionally I find myself texting while walking my dog, I stop, put the phone in my pocket, sigh and notice the bending necks of sunflowers, wilting knee-high daisies, gardens of succulents, strange alien-like plants. You can almost see the summer air lingering, seemingly saying the days are long, life is sweet but short.

I find the best thing has been plunging into my chilly apartment pool. I can’t think of anything but breath, light, temperature and movement.

The lovely poet Aimee Herman tells me that she takes time to stop along her journey and check to make sure all of her parts have shown up with her. I like her concept of inventory of self. What would that include, Aimee? Memories too?

I write to Lily, who now exploring Paris, that I want to be more authentic, spontaneous, brave and original. These are things we could practice daily at the Art Farm — but back in real life, I don’t know how to experiment with that, how to show it, put it into action.

Lily writes, “I think we all need the right context and the right place and the right people to allow those things to come out. You can’t do it in a vacuum.”

LindsayPeyton_just when you thought you would turn all your lights out it shines copy 2

My painting “Just When You Thought You Would Turn Out all Your Lights, It Shines”

Everything I’ve ever wanted to say through painting is what the act of painting actually speaks in and of itself — it’s the reduction of a chaotic life into a simple and beautiful scene. It’s editing the details, focusing light, speaking to movement the fade of particles into each other, the melting of substance into entropy, the building of one thing onto another as it happens constantly and with certainty. All of that is expressed in the classic style of painting. Adding layer upon layer, thought upon thought, slowly, thoughtfully, constantly building up the surface of the painting so that it still allows the layers beneath to exist and breathe. Painting, covering, smearing everything out and starting over.

Home Again

IMG_1123_2Returning to my tiny, closet of a studio

It’s hard to believe that it’s been two weeks since I returned home from my residency at the Art Farm. When I first arrived, I held on to that fierce feeling of being alive that I had gained. I felt like I was listening better, enjoying people more, laughing more genuinely and seeing things more clearly than before.  That lasted a couple of days — and then I felt weighted, heavy, lonely, puttering around the city and half-heartedly trying to catch up at work after a month away.

I didn’t paint at all — until yesterday. And I felt guilty about that. At the same time, I was missing the hours in the studio. I was both nostalgic for the long chunks of time I devoted to art on the farm and yet totally unmotivated to pick up a brush. Even my journal entries became boring and whiny.

Talking to the other residents has helped. Selina said she hasn’t had much time to be creative. Some of the girls reported feeling tired as well. And then I read Carmella’s entry about “Getting over Guilt” on her blog http://www.therestlesswriter.com. She wrote “. . . all along, I was giving myself an internal verbal beat down. You should be writing. Those pieces need editing. Why aren’t you sending work out? You’re never going to be a writer at this rate. I don’t want guilt to be a constant part of my psyche.”

And I agree. We artists are fragile in so many ways, despite our attempts to go out and conquer. We have to be gentle to ourselves — and that’s a big challenge for me.

Guilt and fear should be replaced by brighter things — love, passion, creativity, integrity, light.

Van Gogh wrote in a letter to his brother ” . . . it certainly is true that it is better to be high-spirited, even though one makes more mistakes, then to be narrow-minded and over prudent. It is good to love many things, for therein lies true strength; whosoever loves much, performs and can accomplish much, and what is done in love is well done.”


The fact that we have been given life doesn’t mean that we realize the nature of the life we are given. The creative process has the potential to wake us up to the vast unexplored domain of our own nature. 

— Peter London

Making Time and Space for Play


At a certain point during my residency at the Art Farm, I thought, “This place is like a playground for adults.” There was a ladder to climb into the sky and a unicorn swing to fly through a floating barn, which was basically a jungle gym itself. I often perched on a swing in Lily’s studio while drinking wine and chatting with the girls and we made little forts of our studios — we claimed the space as our own, made room to explore art and get messy. We tromped through fields to discover hidden sculptures, dove into lakes, raced down waterslides in the moonlight, hiked through prairies and rested on rooftops to take in the view and soak in the stars.

Now that I’m back at home, I’ve been focused on how to not forget that feeling of the Art Farm — the sense that a day can stretch, that hours last for days, that a day can be a month. I woke up knowing that spending as many hours as possible in my studio was my top priority — but also understanding that equally important was chatting over coffee with Aimee, having long car ride philosophy sessions with Lily, jogging with Raluca and soaking up the sun and water with Carmella.

“To create art drawn from within is to create a world of our own and also to uncover an all-but-forgotten original, primal self,” Peter London writes in “No More Secondhand Art.”

He talks about how children explore, how fairy tales are part of everyday life for young minds. Of this original self, he explains:  “Its waking and sleeping life was full of adventurous experiments and confrontations with unknown territory. It wept freely, laughed openly and felt itself grow daily physically, intellectually, socially and spiritually . . . The original self seems to also have been rather artistic; it loved to make things, intricate, finely made things, privately meaningful things. There seemed to be an easy and graceful way of playing, fantasizing, creating stories and things, sometimes with others, often alone.”

London said that art is a means to reconnecting with this original self. I remember when Bob Mosier became my art teacher in high school and started my small class on a journey of becoming actual artists. He told us that we had to be in touch with childhood wonder — and we were only a few years older than being kids then. Now, in my 30s, I feel like so much time has been spent in the drudgery of work, the social obligations, the day-to-day maintenance — and that inner child has been ignored more than she should have been.

I think artists need to make time to play, to explore and to wander. It’s the only way to feed our image bank, to stimulate new ideas and to let that inner creative child live. The question is — how do we encourage playtime in a world that seems to discourage it?

On My Last Couple of Days at Art Farm Nebraska


I wake up with a deep anxiety about leaving the farm and facing the real world — and this makes me realize strongly how much my life has changed lately.

My routine is drastically different. The first step of the day is drenching myself in deet to face not only the mosquitos that swarm outside the door but also those residing in the house — and to stop the ones who have been biting me in my sleep and followed me downstairs for further feasting on my flesh. I put away dishes my roommates have left drying; I wash a few left in the sink. I make coffee in the cracked yellow mug with a little blue bird on it that says “Alouette” — because it’s my favorite shaped mug in the house and because it’s the one Ben brought to me full of fresh coffee in my studio before he left. I boil a little extra water for Z before she stumbles downstairs. I find myself sentimental about the smallest things. The girls who I live with are the same way — we cry together over little things and we laugh so easily that the house shakes.

In my day-to-day existence, I have gotten adept at isolation. I’m a master at loneliness. I am used to taking myself out to solitary whiskeys and dinners alone and pretending that I don’t mind and that somehow getting used to being alone will make it easier to deal with the world. This is not the way I used to be, or the way obviously that I am in my heart, but it’s the way that I have become over the past few years. I add it to the list of things that I would like to change about myself. I don’t want to be afraid that people will hurt me anymore. People will hurt me. I accept that.

I keep thinking — what do I do when I leave this place? How do I stay in this cloud of art that I have created for myself on the farm? How do I keep art as my top priority? How do I stay present?

Aimee texted me, “You leave this place a different person.” I sure hope so.


To create art drawn from within is to create a world of our own and also to uncover an all-but-forgotten original, primal self. 

— Peter London

Fear and Loathing in Nebraska


The fear of losing the thread of return dooms us to sticking pretty close to home. And that is a high price to pay, for this is a very big and a very surprising universe. 

— Peter London, “No More Secondhand Art”

Staying tethered too close to home is definitely not what I’m after. And fear is something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately.

Recently, we Art Farm residents were having dinner at the Don’t Care Bar in Marquette, the town closest to us, population 229. A frantic bartender approached our table asking if any of us could help wait tables since their regular waitress had walked out wordlessly that night, and they were severely shorthanded.

Looking around at the empty restaurant, I shrugged and agreed.

I hate waiting tables and bar-tending and anything else that you do in that industry — mainly because I have worked in every possible post in restaurants and bars for many years, supporting myself though college. It’s not like I forgot about this when I agreed to take the gig on — it’s just that I feel like I should say yes more and see where it takes me.

But the day before my first shift, I found the anxiety sinking in. I’m painfully shy, I remember suddenly. Talking to strangers makes me excessively nervous. What am I doing???

My friend Aimee and I had been talking about how fear can sneak in and start to affect your actions, how younger, wilder, less wise versions of ourselves had led us to make decisions that were dangerous and eventually regrettable — and how that has led us to be — often regrettably — less spontaneous, less wild and less free than we actually hope and want to be.

We agree to let go a little — small things at first — and allow ourselves to return to those essential beings. And I watch as Aimee, afraid of heights, scales a tall ladder, climbs the scaffolding in a barn and jumps out on a rope swing.

I push forward in my own little ways. I go in and do the work. The evening is busier than I expected, a flashback to why I quit waiting tables long ago and a reminder that my current day job isn’t that bad after all. At the end of the night, Patricia, Ben and I put money in the jukebox, order extra large spiced rum-and-cokes and play pool with the locals.

Why is it important to face fears as an artist? Well because art is like life. Because making art is essentially facing fear, facing the blank page, facing your real, innermost emotions, looking at the world and having the courage to say, “This is how I see it.”

It’s balancing your feet on the edge of the floor, reaching out for the piece of rope and swinging out into the open.

And I think to create real art, you have to live for real. And that can be scary sometimes.

It’s I’m-in-Love Kind of Weather


View from my Window

I woke up today and the very first thing that caught my eye as I looked out the window to check the weather was a rabbit jumping through the meadow. It hit me hard — this is a magical kind of place.

Later in the day, I opened the window to my room, and the breeze was so strong that it blew the comforter straight off my bed. The rolling air made my afternoon of interviews for the newspaper more palatable. It was soothing and soft and constant. I went downstairs and all the other girls who live in this house were outside, laughing and chatting.

“It’s beautiful out,” Carmella sighed.

“It’s I’m-in-love kind of weather,” I said. And everyone laughed again in response.

But seriously, it was the kind of day that feels like when you first fall for someone and everything is full of wonder, the good kind of love when you feel at peace instead of that stomach-crushing, anxiety-filled, dangerous variety.

i got a phone call from Chance, and we talked for a while about relationships — all varieties. One of the things that I have been thinking a lot about lately is the need artists have for a community of like-minded individuals. Not that it isn’t a good idea to spend time with a variety of people — but I think it’s important if you’re an artist to surround yourself with other creative types, other driven people, artists with the same work ethic, individuals who feed your emotions and stir up ideas. That’s one of my take-away lessons from the Art Farm.

Chance agreed, “It’s not only needed; it’s imperative.”

Then he admitted that it may be harder to do than it sounds. “The way I live isn’t easy,” he said.