“Paint like you have all the time in the world” ~ Sue Hoya Sellars
I always say, that I had a chop wood carry water mentorship with my teacher, Sue. The way she approached teaching me was slow and intentional. As she was taught to her, by her teacher, Lenore Thomas Straus. We always started with cafe, and often drew nature. Cafe time with her was the origin of the Red Thread Cafe!
For today’s Red Thread Letter #787, I am sharing a story I am working on reflecting on my time with Sue. I was 23 and I had traded my corporate gig and high heels for an artist in residency, high in the mountains with work boots that became the lineage of Intentional Creativity.
Also within is our Spring calendar and photos from last weekend’s class with Jennifer Berezan!
What are you working on today? Will you come share in the Red Thread Cafe?
Photo by Annette Wagner, at Terra Sophia
Announcing upcoming Spring Semester events for Intentional Creativity!
We have wonderful experiences planned and hope you will join us online or on-location to dive into your self-expression through paint and connection with women creatives in our community.
MUSEA : Intentional Creativity® Events
She Carries Me
With Shiloh Sophia and Jennifer Berezan
Immediate online access upon registration
Red Thread Connect
Free monthly community calls for women
with Shiloh Sophia and the Guild
Call next week 2/19 at 4pm PT
LIBERATE: Free Class
With Shiloh Sophia
Begins 2/23 Online
Dancing Entrepreneur Video Course
With Shiloh Sophia and Mary MacDonald
Begins 3/4 for two weeks online
Trip to United Nations CSW
+ Dancing Entrepreneur Workshop
With Shiloh Sophia
3/7.8.9 in New York, NY
Or, join us for 3/9 only for free
Red Madonna Sisterhood 2020
Guided by Rev. Shiloh Sophia
Begins 3/19 for 13 moons
APOTHECARY: Medicine Painting
With Shiloh Sophia and Jonathan McCloud
Begins 3/20 for 3 weeks
Rose’ and Roses
with Shiloh Sophia and Jonathan McCloud
Painting Party – Saturday night Spring Salon
3/28 at Musette in Tiburon, CA
Coming Home Art Reception
For Shiloh Sophia
Hosted by Jonathan McCloud
4/25 at Musette – Save the date!
INVOCATION: Red Thread Gathering
Guided by Shiloh Sophia
with Dr. Mary McCrystal and Lavender Grace
5/29.30.31 at MUSEA in Sonoma, CA
Will you have some tea time with me? I invite you to sit down with a cuppa and join me for a story about my beginnings as an artist. If you do not identify as an artist, how can you fall more in love with creative acts or beauty that bring you joy? Or to simply savor the ‘in between’ moments of life? Slowing down enough to smell those roses….
Today I went for a long walk by the sea, smelling the air, letting the light filter through the trees, breathing in the world the way she taught me. Now I am writing to share this story with you.
painting by Sue Hoya Sellars
Being an Artist is so Romantic
Tea time with Sue Hoya Sellars – rememberings from over twenty years ago:
“To live a creative life you have to take time for tea” she said, stirring her tea. The spoon clicked against the edge of the cup for a very long time, the sound was a backdrop to the image.
She looked out the window at the morning as if it was the face of a loved one. She placed her tea on the wood stove and picked up her notebook and kept looking.
I tried to see what she was seeing. There was a look in her eye as if what she saw, was so very vast. I saw golden grass and a big tree framed by morning sky, but I wasn’t in love the way she was, and I knew it.
She looked at me, tilting her head, as if asking, ‘are you seeing it?’ I just nodded, smiling and knowing I was about to get this all wrong. She put another piece of wood on the fire, then stared at it for a long time. I did too. I loved the smell of the wood smoke in the morning. The feeling of the warmth on my knees under the afghan of Alice’s mother. The color of the fire now that I could really gaze into. This was a moment I would remember. A feeling I loved.
She, my teacher Sue Hoya, began to draw what she saw and felt out the window. In a moment she indicated I should follow her in this act. Again, I nodded and did as I saw her doing. I tried to make my eyes see in that ‘far away-close up way’ I saw her doing. My hand would not do what my eyes saw. I was used to this challenge. That was why I was here. right? To learn to see. Wasn’t that the reason? I couldn’t remember.
Every once in awhile, she would point out the ridgeline or edge of a tree, or color of grass and invite me to see it with new eyes.
“See how that tree branch curves towards itself?” Or “Note how the ridgeline goes up to the right?” Or “Don’t draw every leaf, write the leaves, as a gesture.”
I just nodded again, trying to listen and see what she was seeing. I did notice, how the longer I looked, the more alive it all seemed. Yet my capacity to communicate that aliveness failed me. I felt alternately frustrated and inspired. I felt like I could never do the golden grass justice.
Birds came and went. A family of deer came and ate and she included them in her drawing. I didn’t. When they looked right at her through the windows she called them “Darlin” and spoke to them as friends. They seemed to listen. Then she said it. Those words…
“Being an artist is so romantic” and she sighed.
Meanwhile, my mind was on to the chores for the day. We had to chop wood and repair a fence and clean up a pile of something somewhere. Why wasn’t that bothering her? I was dreading the work ahead instead of savoring time for tea and I knew it. But I just couldn’t seem to relax into this. She could see I was restless but said nothing to me about it. She never scolded me, although she did look over the top of her glasses at me in a way that needed no words.
We hardly have time to draw a deer, I thought. The morning light changed and our tea was empty and she just kept going. Adding layers and then colors with her sharp pencils. After what felt like an eternity with my drawing, I gathered up my courage and proclaimed, “I’m done” my voice sounding like a child’s pride in my ears. I regretted it as soon as I had spoken it. Thankfully she ignored me and kept drawing.
I remembered saying something like that when looking at a painting at the museum of Monet’s haystack. I could not imagine what there was to see for so long. At that time she had told me she could see where he had struggled with the stack. And she showed me a flurry of brushstrokes I will never forget seeing.
She glanced over finally, nodding, and said, “Good good. Then You are just getting started. It’s an important attempt, but you aren’t done yet.” She went on to point out what I had not been seeing. And said: “When you draw grass, you are listening to the grass, asking what it wants.”
She kept drawing a while and I watched her hands and her eyes and their sacred relationship. Then asked me to name my image. I wrote “offering to morning tea – a romance” but didn’t share it out loud. The title, felt just right, even more than the image.
She turned on a video. “We are going to watch about how the universe is made now”.
“I might need another cup of tea for that” I laughed, setting down my drawing, and feeling, proud in my own way of my attempt. Finally feeling relaxed and relieved.
She laughed, patting me on the back. Looking at my drawing, nodding, and saying nothing about it and giving one of those upside-down smile frowns that acknowledges – at least you tried. I would have to get used to that. Her praise was not in her words. It was in her attention. And in the ways she taught me to bring intention.
“I’ll put the eggs on first,” she said. She cracked our neighbor’s chicken eggs into a cast-iron skillet on the wood stove.
“How long will that take?” I asked. I was hungry now. Had drawing made me so hungry?
“As long as it does,” She said. They can cook while we watch Stephen Hawking.” Then she laid on some collards dusted with soy and brewers yeast. We had picked them at the coast the day before. She said we would eat them, and now we were about to toast them for breakfast.
After the video, which I barely understood, but loved the imagery, she looked at my drawing again and said. “nice title” and went to trade her slippers for her work boots. I was 23 and had just left a life of high heels, computers and martinis for a life of drawing grass and toasting greens on a wood stove.
When she returned with her boots on she said “Later on we can take these drawings and bring them into our paintings. These are notes for our paintings. When we make the paintings we will put our intention into them, drawing off of what we saw and experienced today. I’ll be in the barn. Put on your waffle-stompers, we have work to do! Come on out when you are ready.”
I sat there for a long time. I added some gold to my grass and closed my eyes. Feeling just how good it felt to be in this space, this place, by this fire, with this teacher. It wasn’t about how good of an artist I was. It was more about how it felt to choose art as my life.
For the next several years, and then for many years after that, I kept drawing. This time was what she called ‘cafe’. Eventually, I could see what she meant by the life of an artist being romantic. I was too young and too fast to get it then, but now cafe is the most romantic thing in my life. Shared with my lover and my friends, and yes, we fall in love with the day. And at 49 I am finally beginning to see the ridgeline and the grasses and speak to deer.
I came to call this teaching, Tea with my Muse and is the inspiration for Red Thread Cafe and what I invite all of our Intentional Creativity community to experience. Cafe has drawing, teachings, poetry, watching, sacred speaking – anything that calls up the creative world and allows us to enter the mystery and honor it with our time.
Note This story is not word for word, but a re-imagined scenario. Something like this happened most of the days we would spend together. Except when we would drive over three hours to the museum, and have cafe there. Then we would talk about artists, and how they lived. And how we too, can choose to live life like an artist.
Announcing Coming Home Art Reception at Musette Atelier on April 25!
You are invited to join me in Tiburon as I celebrate a ‘coming home’ to Marin County and the mountains and oceans that have loved me for so many years. This show will feature my Coming Home art collection, and I will read from my new book of poetry, ‘Cosmic Cowgirls’, and my upcoming fiction book ‘FishWife’. I would love to see you there. All are welcome and we will have champagne and cake! Save the date for now and we will share a link to RSVP as we near.
Photos from this past weekend at MUSEA with the incredible Jennifer Berezan for She Carries Me class. We had a full house at MUSEA (the most students ever at one time!) and women tuning in from around the world. It was such an honor and delight to lead with Jennifer and gather in community for sacred song and painting.
Recent Red Thread Letters from Shiloh Sophia:
Beyond the Fear + United Nations NY Trip #785