The kids go back to school this week. It got me thinking.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the beginnings of that fantastic period when first I put all my energy and focus into making artwork inspired by the paintings in the cave of Lascaux in France.

What did I do to get to that place? What were my processes?

I can remember at least one clearly.

I remember I set aside a day of soul-searching, determined to start from scratch in my search for inspiration.

I put a pile of my favorite art and art history books on my work table, and made a bunch of bookmarks. (Okay, strips of torn paper, but they were ready to go!)

I slowly leafed through each one, marking pages of images and artwork that intrigued me. Anything that caught my attention got a bookmark.

Today, there are only two pages I can clearly remember marking. One was the Bayeaux Tapestry, a 230 foot long embroidered piece depicting the Norman Invasion in 1066. It was supposedly created by Queen Matilda, wife of the William the Conqueror, so of course it shows the winner’s point of view.

I loved the horses, especially panels like this one showing the horses being unloaded from the ships. I can’t find the charming panel showing the boat full of horses, with rows of their heads and necks showing above the boat, looking anxiously around at the waters of the English Channel.

Of course, the other pages I marked depicted more “French horses”, the painted ones from the cave of Lascaux.

Last weekend, we visited the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, and I discovered for the first time their collection of Northern American artifacts.

Many artifacts tugged at my heart, but the first was this beautiful painted buffalo robe. And not surprisingly, what captivated me was the little painted horses, reminding me so much of the ones in the Bayeux Tapestry.

I found other beautiful objects in the exhibits there, and sketched madly on a scrap of paper I found in my purse. I plan to go back soon and spend an afternoon there.

And on this second day of the new year, I realize there is something I can do to recapture the heady excitement of those early days, when I first discovered my passion and my inspiration:

I can take time off to study.

I don’t mean the normal reading I do, browsing through magazines and books looking for a neat new idea for a closure or a color scheme.

I mean the total immersion, the time set aside to do nothing but browse, and peruse, and accumulate images and simply think. Nothing but art and artifacts before me, and noting which ones speak to me. Making notes and sketches. Listening to, and following my heart.

A true study period.

It’s been hard to set aside that kind of time in the last few years. Seems like there’s always another exhibit, or show, or order or something to get out the door. This year, I really have the time.

I remember, too, the what–what I wanted to make–came first. The why came later.

Fair enough. One step at a time. Can’t wait to see what the results will be!

Author: Luann Udell

I find it just as important to write about my art as to make it. I am fascinated by stories. You can tell when people are speaking their truth--their eyes light up, their voices become strong, their entire body posture becomes powerful and upright. I love it when people get to this place in their work, their relationships, their art. As I work from this powerful place in MY heart, I share this process with others--so they have a strong place to stand, too. Because the world needs our beautiful art. All of it we can make, as fast as we can! Whether it's a bowl, a painting, a song, a garden, a story, if it makes our world a better place, we need to do everything in our power to get it out there.

7 thoughts on “STUDY PERIOD”

  1. very insightful. also, the idea of total immersion helps to FOCUS- at least for me. I have so many differnt things I want to paint and collage- new techniques- that I can’t seem to FOCUS in on one area long enough to really dig deep, not just scratch the surface.
    always enjoy your posts-


  2. Immersion, hrm. I’ve never quite thought of it that way. Nice.

    It’s always interesting to see the themes creative folk turn to time and again, and it’s neat to see how horses are obviously a strong theme for you. I once had a conversation with a woman about totems and how they can guide us. Does that ring true for you?


  3. Ali, oh YES!!

    I remember I got so caught up in the horses a few years ago, I had to rein myself in. (A little pun intended… :^)

    Another artist, in response to my plea for feedback, asked thoughtfully, “Does it always have to be about the horses?” I realized I had let my inspiration and totem to take over all of my themes, which was not my intention….

    Since then, I’ve opened my heart and welcomed other powerful totems in. And yes, “totem” is indeed how I think of them. These new spirit guides have enriched my art greatly.

    But the horses were the first, and the most powerful. They are my touchstone.

    They are what I turn to when I need strength, and courage, and inspiration.


  4. Just returned from the UK over holiday and had the chance to visit the Elgin Marbles & The Terracotta Army. I love the British Museum system because they allow one to take photos of their open exhibits (Terrcotta Army not included).

    I wonder if they’d let me take charcoal rubbings, too?



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