Believing in the Impossible

Another piece that sold at the Art Walk."Sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."~ Lewis Carroll

The first time I read the above quote, I was thrilled beyond belief. I thought to myself, "So I'm NOT the only crazy person on the planet." Because it's true ~ except my six impossible things usually come to me in the late afternoon lull ~ around 3 pm when my brain is no longer capable of working on anything that requires details or grace. It's when I CAN'T focus that the world becomes clear to me. I begin to envision all the wild, nutty things I want from life, no holds barred ~ from hundreds of acres of land in Northern California to retire on to my marbled pieces hanging in museums. And I believe it possible. All of it. I've never let a dream die ~ at least not in the hands of someone else. If I choose to let a dream go because it no longer fits into my lifestyle, that's one thing. But the freedom to believe in the impossible is the fire that fuels my passions, creativity, and explorations. I did not always have this unwavering conviction. Age and experience definitely played a role in its acquisition. But now that I have it, I'm keeping it. 'Cause it is FUN.

(The image above is another great piece I sold at the Art Walk last Saturday ~ and it's going to hang in the living room of the lovely couple that bought it!)

Failure ~ it does the Body Good!

Good People Are Good

There is always ~ always! ~ a moment, right before I step into the studio, where a wave of self-doubt washes over me. "Who do you think you are believing that you're an Ebru artist?" is what usually runs through my head. Or, "You do not have what it takes to bring this medium to the next level." Or I'm suddenly seized by the terrifying thought that I have NOT ONE, SINGLE creative idea left in my head.

I know I'm not alone when it comes to thinking this way ~ other artists, writers, performers, and humankind in general have the same insecurities and fears when it comes to their creative work or doing something that means something to them (like raising kids or starting a business or running a marathon) but that has never brought me comfort. Believe it or not, embracing failure has been key to me moving beyond the fear and self-doubt; learning to be okay with things not turning out the way I wanted them to ~ even when they are a complete and total bomb. The little mantra I tell myself (and my students!) before I begin to marble is that there is no such thing as bad or ugly or wrong in my studio ~ just things I would do differently the next time.

There are many reasons why I left my last job in Corporate America years ago but as I write about this I realize that one of the main ones was that there was NO ROOM for failure. Not even a little wiggle room. (Most of that attitude permeated my department not because of my direct boss but because of her boss.) And when you can't fail, you don't try. You don't put effort into anything at all. You instantly cringe at the slightest hint of a new idea, and you become a zombie cranking out exactly the same bland things you did the day before because they didn't upset the apple cart. I vividly remember on my last day, I damn near sprinted out of that building, I could not get away from that feeling fast enough. I may not have known consciously why until now, but deep down on some cellular level, there was a knowing: without failure, I could not thrive.

I have learned a lot in the marbling studio these past few years. Not just about the art form, but about myself too. When I do my demos, I tell the audience that marbling is not for the perfectionist. There are so many variables and you are at the mercy of things completely out of your hands ~ like the weather or even something as seemingly innocuous as the air moving when you reach for a tool. To be a good marbler, you have to let go of control in order to be in control; you have to learn what NOT to do, in order to learn WHAT to do.

Failure is a tool. Don't be afraid to use it.

The Virus of Perfection

Miniature Marbling by Barb Skoog"The beauty of the true ideal is its hospitality towards woundedness, weakness, failure and fall-back. Yet so many people are infected with the virus of perfection. They cannot rest; they allow themselves no ease until they come close to the cleansed domain of perfection. This false notion of perfection does damage and puts their lives under great strain.

It is a wonderful day in a life when one is finally able to stand before the long, deep mirror of one’s own reflection and view oneself with appreciation, acceptance, and forgiveness.

On that day one breaks through the falsity of images and expectations which have blinded one’s spirit. One can only learn to see who one is when one learns to view oneself with the most intimate and forgiving compassion.”

― John O’Donohue, Beauty: The Invisible Embrace

Taking Flight

"When women were birds we knew our greatest freedom was in taking flight at night when we could steal the heavenly darkness for ourselves, navigating through the intelligence of stars and the constellations of our own making in the delights and terror of our own uncertainty."~ Terry Tempest Williams

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Below are a few pieces which will be available at Peach Tree Gallery's Holiday Show this weekend. All are matted (and ready for you to frame!) with bright white matboard of conservation grade and measure either 11"x14" or 8"x10".


Listen to Green

"How wonderful it would be if one could only be worthy of hearing the song of the grass. Each blade of grass sings out to God without any ulterior motive and without expecting any reward. It is most wonderful to hear its song and worship God in its midst."~ Rabbi Nachman of Bratzlav

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Peach Tree Holiday Show December 8 & 9

My second favorite piece ~ available at Peach Tree Gallery's Holiday Show. Custom framing, marbled on Texoprint paper from USA, floating on a sea foam-colored mat, brown-burgundy frame, final size 29.5" x 24".

Ancient Knowing

"Real friendship or love is not manufactured or achieved by an act of will or intention. Friendship is always an act of recognition... in the moment of friendship, two souls suddenly recognize each other. It could be a meeting on the street, or at a party or a lecture, or just a simple, banal introduction, then suddenly there is the flash of recognition and the embers of kinship grow. There is an awakening between you, a sense of ancient knowing." - John O'Donohue, Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom

As If The Two Can Be Separated: They Can’t

I know the 2010 football season is behind us but I just came across this article in Sports Illustrated that I think is still relevant today. In talking with reporter S. L Price for the article, “Is it O.K. to Cheer?” (Nov 29, 2010), Michael Vick said, “That’s the truth. I had to go through what I went through to be where I am now.”

This prompted Price to reflect:

“People speak of being conflicted about watching Vick, hating his crime and loving his game, as if the two can be separated. They can’t. Think about it: Can it be that only hard time, earned by vile acts, made Vick the player he is now? For Vick to touch greatness, did dogs have to die?

As long as he keeps playing, and winning, those questions and that uncomfortable sensation aren’t going away. We’re seeing something special now but have no choice except to hear, amid the highlight banter and the roaring crowd, a sound rise as if from the cellar. The scrape of tooth on bone: It, too, is a part of every wondrous pass, every perfect decision Michael Vick makes.”

The article is worth a read. Balanced, understanding, yet unflinching in observation, the piece ultimately is less about Vick and more about us. Forgiving Vick is one thing. But it’s something entirely different to emancipate him from his actions, as he and his supporters are asking us to do every time he steps out onto the field.

And that begs the question: What does a second chance look like? After all, Vick was doing just fine as a construction worker after his release from prison.

I bring this up today because I think we are all faced with giving, and receiving, second chances all the time in our own lives. Granted, most of us aren’t personally dealing with someone who maliciously beat, tortured, and killed dogs. But that certainly doesn’t mitigate our situations any. Baggage is baggage. Some of it is heavier than others. Who we choose to offer a second chance to is as personal a decision as who we choose to marry. But Price is right, it says a lot about who we are.

There is a lot of wiggle room when it comes to forgiveness, redemption, and “moving on.” The definition of “transgressions” is a moving target. But there are certain things I stand for and make no exceptions to. If you hit me, you will never be a part of my life again. If you steal from me, I will not even give you forgiveness let alone a second chance. And if you ever harm those who are the most innocent among us—children and animals—you deserve all the wrath this world can unleash on you, including mine.

Not sure what that says about me, but I’m okay with that.


Do You Choose to Opt Out?

As we de-link ourselves from nature, as we de-link ourselves spiritually from these animals, we lose hope, we lose that spiritual connection, our dignity, that thing within us that keeps us connected to the planet. -Dereck Joubert, Life Lessons from Big Cats, TEDWomen Conference, December 2010

If you aren't aware of TED and TEDTalks yet, then you've been missing out. And you must be living under a rock. TED is a non-profit group that brings together talented people who have "ideas worth sharing" for TED's annual conferences. These people can be scientists, bloggers, writers, entertainers, activists, physicists, or whatever, and they get up and give a 10- to 20-minute talk about their projects/passions/programs. The folks at TED believe that "ideas change lives" and they make these talks available on their website. For free. How cool is that? So when I'm feeling the need to learn something new, or simply the need to get out of my own head for a while, I make my way over to and listen to a talk or two.

The most recent one I watched was given at the TEDWomen conference by documentary filmmakers Beverly and Dereck Joubert who use their films and stellar photography for conservation efforts to save big cats in Africa. The talk itself isn't extraordinary, I've heard better, more interesting, and more creative messages on conversation before, but there were two tiny moments in their talk that really took my breath away. The first was the quote above. This idea that we are naturally linked to the earth was such a beautiful one. With no effort or action or thought on our part, we are connected to something so much bigger than us, so much more powerful than us. I've always felt like I had to ask permission to part of nature and that couldn't be farther from the truth (but that doesn't preclude me from being gracious and showing my gratitude). In fact, just the opposite is true. The only thing that can "de-link" us from nature is ourselves. We have to "opt out," if you will, of this gift and too many people are doing this with reckless abandonment, which ultimately and unfortunately, impacts those of us who chose to embrace our natural connection.

The second stunning moment happens around the 10:25 mark when the leopard they are filming does something that blows me away. I think the talk is worth the full 17 minutes of your life, but if you don't have that kind of time right now, just skip to 10:25 and be prepared for some of the most touching, compassionate, and mind-boggling 2 minutes of your life. Actually, it shouldn't be mind boggling. If there's one thing I've learned in my 40 years on this planet, it's that we are unable to fully grasp what nature is capable of. We try to compartmentalize, identify, categorize, comprehend it...but when we do that, we de-link ourselves from it. And that's the problem. Just sit back and watch what happens and you'll feel that very something that embodies our innate link to nature.

[ted id='1039']

We Are Not A Graceful Species

Surfing on Sunset Beach

We need surf—or dance or yoga—because it reconnects us with our animal bodies. For a little while we practice moving through the world with rhythm, with an intention of efficiency and power. Without it, we become just a bunch of walking heads.

—Peter Heller, Kook: What surfing taught me about love, life, and catching the perfect wave