04.16.17

Posted on: April 16th, 2017 by jmbroekman No Comments
0414-01-320w
crocuses-320w
bluets-320w

I am still trying to get it right, always.

In my more evolved brain, I realize this is an impossible task: getting it right. Whatever “it” is, and whatever “right” is. In April, when the days are longer and the moments of spring peek out from under the leftover snow, “it” is the darkness of memory. “Getting it right” is not letting it get me; an endeavor that appears to be a lost battle. No matter how I try to avoid it, or ignore it, or pretend it no longer exists, grief has a way of slamming me up against a wall every year at this time.

This year I tried giving in to it. I cleared my calendar/schedule, and allowed for some uninterrupted time in my studio, where I worked on writing my sister a letter, by way of a painting. Though I didn’t manage to finish the letter/painting, I did find a certain amount of calm and peace in the process. And I spent a lot of time with her favorite color: purple.

Fifty shades of purple

Purple, it seems, comes in an infinite number of shades and variations. I wonder, did Kukla prefer one that leaned toward blue, or one that was more rose colored? I spent the better part of this past week mixing at least fifty shades of puprle for my sister. It made me think of how hard it is to define what color any particular lilac bush is: is that the “true” color lilac? When I look at the image of the painting on the left – the result of all that purple mixing – it appears more blue than purple; and I suspect there are those, including Kukla, who might argue with me about whether or not you could call this a purple painting.

While I’m not sure I got any of “it right” – the purples, the paintings in general – throwing color and paint around did at least keep the grief, if not at bay, at least in some kind of manageable perspective. The fact that little purple flowers are popping up all of sudden, helped too. I still miss my sister with all my heart and soul, and am beginning to accept that longing as simply a part of what life has handed me. Now the key is to integrate that understanding into my being with some grace.

And special thanks to my friend Debbie Schmitt, for bringing me a box of pansies yesterday, which added to my purple arsenal, and inspired me to get out my watercolors and start a new batch of flower drawings. ‘Tis the season.

boxapansies-320w

Springtime in Venice

Posted on: March 5th, 2017 by jmbroekman 2 Comments
venice palette
IMG_1175-small

The magical city of Venice

In two weeks I will be embarking on a brief getaway to Venice with an old camp friend. Italy has always provided me a boatload of inspiration; and Venice, one of the more sinister and magical cities on my list, is no exception. Two new sketch books are already bound and ready to go. I have no idea how realistic this plan is, but, I have visions of filling one just with bridges, and the other while I drink coffee in a different campo each morning. Spring may arrive on the calendar while I am there, but I suspect the weather will be more cold, wet and raw, than warm and conducive to spending hours at a time sitting outside sketching! So we’ll see how many pages I fill.

Preparation and Perfection

I’ve been distracting myself by trying to pick the perfect palette of colors to fill up my travel box – even if the “perfect palette” (other than my favorite travel tool: pocket-palette) is a pretty ludicrous idea. It’s been a fun exercise – making little swatches of color, putting them next to and mixing them with each other. It serves to remind me what brought me down this path in the first place: color. I can still picture myself as an elementary school child, happily spending countless hours rearranging magic markers in their box – preferably a great big set of them. Painting little swatches and moving them around on my table – or better still, moving the tubes of paint around – this week, transported me right back to those childhood days.

These will be new materials for me in Italy. It’s only in the last five years (the same amount of time in which I have not been back to Italy) that I have had the courage to work with ink and watercolors. I’m looking forward to seeing how I respond to that combination: Italy + Ink.

And perhaps most importantly, dreaming of how I will spend my 10 days is also doing wonders for moving me back towards some level of sanity – at least temporarily. Donna Leon’s books, which take place in Venice, are providing the backdrop for these dreams. I highly recommend them for well-written escapist mystery literature – even if you don’t have plans to visit.

12.31.16

Posted on: December 31st, 2016 by jmbroekman 2 Comments
drawingtableportrait-123116

Drawing Table Portrait; 31 December 2016

Hopeful New Year

Today marks not only the end of 2016 – a year many I know are happy to see go, but also the 12th anniversary of my mother’s death. I’ve been thinking of her all week. Thinking that I’m glad in some ways she is not here to witness what I believe will be a disastrous new administration in our government. Which leads me to my next thought obsession: what does it mean to hope?

What is hope? Is it merely an emotion or simply the opposite of despair? Where does it live? I guess since mid-November, I’ve been having trouble finding this elusive thing called hope. None-the-less, I am going to keep looking. And here is where I think I’ll find it: in the freshly fallen snow laden branches in the woods; the expectant look of a silly dog who can’t wait for me to snap on my snowshoes and head into those woods; the shed full of wood to keep my studio warm all winter long; that cozy warm studio; and all the people in my life who bring me laughter and light. Here’s hoping you too will find hope, strength and joy in all kinds of unexpected places in the year ahead.

Great Cranberry Island Drawings

Posted on: October 12th, 2016 by jmbroekman 1 Comment
0910-po-dailybook-320x386

Great Cranberry Island drawings from my sketchbooks

I am home again, trying to get organized and settled. My studio is in need of a major clean-up, which is often the case after I’ve been away from it for a period of time. In the meantime, though, I’ve posted pictures of several pages of Great Cranberry Island drawings from sketchbooks I completed last month. You can see them here, or by clicking the link in the sidebar to the right under pages, titled “Great Cranberry Island”.

The drawings and sketchbooks are just part of what I did on that little rock off the coast of Maine. I spent most mornings out and about on the rocks, drawing from the magnificent landscape. In the afternoon I was in my studio working on several mixed media abstract paintings on paper. The paintings reflect everything I was inhaling on this spit of land surrounded by water: the light, the natural beauty, the sounds of the tides coming and going; and perhaps most importantly, the paintings are a reflection of the sense of freedom and joy that I felt there. Thank you Heliker-Lahotan Foundation!

Island Living

Posted on: September 27th, 2016 by jmbroekman 4 Comments
gci-bicycle

Island Transportation

It’s been three weeks with my trusty bicycle, and I am finally getting the hang of getting up the island hills. There is only one paved road on Great Cranberry Island, and maybe only three other dirt roads that require a stop sign. It is indeed a small island. Using two wheels and my two legs and feet to power myself around this magical place has been nothing short of delightful. I was not a proficient bike rider before this month – so that is saying something. Turns out, “it’s like riding a bike”, as William, one of my house-mates exclaimed “is like drawing”!

Island living, at least on Great Cranberry, is magical. I’ve gotten a ton of work done – both in and out of sketchbooks. It’s been ages since I have really worked from the landscape, and though the paintings are abstract, they are definitely inspired by my surroundings. The light is extraordinary; every evening when I leave my studio, I am practically knocked off my feet, it is so beautiful. I hop on my bike and chase the sunset. What a gift.

In the last two days, the weather has turned – the woodstove is cooking, and riding a bike has become invigorating. We are in the home stretch of this delightful interlude. This afternoon we are going on an excursion to Little Cranberry (Islesford) to visit with Ashely Bryan. It will be my first foray off the island – but only as far as another one!

If you haven’t been following along there are pictures on instagram (j.broekman), and if you are in Maine, stay tuned; I may do an open studio at some point in October.