Thursday, November 7, 2013

Note from Bill Canright. You can see that I have not changed this partner blog to reflect Maggie's passing. It is not my intention to be misleading but rather to encourage you to pursue the entire blog as most of it was written by Maggie. You will be glad to know that we have partially updated her gallery pages to include many new works, eliminate sold pieces, and add prices and an easy way to purchase paintings by my email.

Many have asked me how Maggie managed to accomplish so is part of the answer. For the last ten or more years, this inspirational philosophy was printed in large type and posted where Maggie would see it every day:

"...Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never have otherwise occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way. I have learned a deep respect for one of Goethe's couplets:
'Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.'"
–W.H Murray 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

"Death is nothing at all"

On Saturday, August 31, a group of around 50 friends gathered for a "closing" party. It was the last day for the Best of Maggie Price, a gallery exhibition showing sixty of her pastels and oils. At noon we raised our glasses to Maggie--a fine artist, loyal friend, mentor, mother, sister and loved and loving wife. Before proposing the toast the following poem by Henry Scott Holland was read:

Death is nothing at all.
I have only slipped away to the next room.
I am I and you are you.
Whatever we were to each other,
That, we still are.

Call me by my old familiar name.
Speak to me in the easy way
which you always used.
Put no difference in your tone.
Wear no air of solemnity or sorrow.

Laugh as we always laughed
at the little jokes we enjoyed together.
Play, smile, think of me. Pray for me.
Let my name be the household word
that it always was.
Let it be spoken without effect.
Without the trace of a shadow on it.

Life means all that it ever meant.
It is the same that it ever was.
There is absolute unbroken continuity.
Why should I be out of mind
because I am out of sight?

I am but waiting for you.
For an interval.
Somewhere. Very near.
Just around the corner.

All is well.

Don't be surprised if this brought tears to your eyes. It certainly did for me, but they are much closer to tears of joy than any I have shed since her passing. I have been fortunate in receiving numerous messages from Maggie since she left and they were all upbeat, one liners, like "laugh a lot" saying essentially everything in the poem. These thoughts--no, these facts--have taken me from wishing I was dead to getting on with life and looking forward to a joyful reunion with the one whose ring I will wear until I slip away to that next room.

This poem is something everyone who has lost or will lose a dear one should keep and remember.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Don't miss the boat

I realize that Painting Partners hasn't been doing much painting lately. One partner, Maggie Price has passed on and the other, Bill Canright has been too busy with the incredible number of things a surviving spouse has to deal with and feeling too much grief to be in the mood to paint.
However there is so much you may have missed, if like me, you were unaware of the way this type of blog works. I didn't know until recently that this blog has dozens of entries going back to 2009. Just click on the blue "more blogs" at the end of this batch.

Her daughter, Amy has taken up pastel painting and may soon be adding her beginner's insights to this partnership.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

An explanation to our readers

Her daughter and I, her husband, have promised to keep Maggie's web site active, and we definitely will do so. The demands and emotional overload caused by her death have kept us from accomplishing much. Parts of the site are things only Maggie could do, but we will be presenting a lot of interesting material from her files in the workshop reviews and greatly expanding her gallery pages with options to purchase. I have found great difficulty contemplating painting things that I will not be able to show to her and get her suggestions. But I WILL get back to painting and will follow her lead in discussing particular works in the Painting Partners. The graphics will change, but the title will not, as my painting is and always will be partly the result of a partnership that continues in a quiet way.
Bill Canright, PSA, IAPS/MC, PSNM

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Nice things are happening

I am happy to report that a number of very nice things are developing to honor and remember Maggie. The International Association of Pastel Societies has founded a perpetual award, the Maggie Price Award of Excellence. Donations are pouring in. You can learn more about it on The Pastel Journal will run a feature in the next issue. It is also covered in Plein Air’s web site. The Pastel Society of America sent an excellent announcement to their entire membership. PSA used a photo by Brenda Matson which I will add with this blog.

And last but not least, I am working with the New Mexico Art League to hang a 50+ show, “The Best of Maggie Price.”

I am also happy to report that the bitterness, anger and questioning...why?  why? that my earlier posting reflected, has gone away. Mostly. Now it’s just the constant ache of missing her. I cannot answer the question why she died when she was living such a useful life. I leave the question to the  will of God, with faith. However this is not blind faith for there is certainly Divine Wisdom underlying the event. Some refer to her death as a loss, as it certainly is. But the loss is temporary and she is not LOST to me. The love bond that brought us together, and kept us together is still very real and will take us together again.

By the completion of the show and IAPS convention in mid June I expect to have this site updated throughout and will be adding many new paintings to her galleries. We made very little effort to market our work because we were very busy with workshops, travel, writing and business details. As a result there is a large collection of her recent work still available. Final assembly on this site will be done as soon as the show is over in mid June. Direct purchases will be possible on the site.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

A tragic and senseless loss

Maggie lost her battle with cancer early Thursday, April 4. After her weakened condition and the "chemo brain" it was impossible for her to continue the blog. To say that I am devastated is a huge understatement. She was my world and I would have gladly left at the same time. Obviously we don't get to choose when we go. If we did, she would still be here. Her desire was to continue sharing things of beauty and showing others how to do the same. I intend to do what I can to continue her work. Her web site will continue with its current offerings and will be updated with gems from her extensive writing.
Maggie's husband, Bill Canright

Monday, March 4, 2013

Why We Paint

Posted by Maggie

Why we paint

Yesterday I was interviewed on film by Barbara Lohbeck,  the director of Masterworks New Mexico.  I will be judging  the standard division artwork, which is juried into the exhibition by three jurors. Each must be a member of a society, the Pastel Society of New Mexico, the New Mexico Watercolor Society, or the Rio Grande Art Association. (For those who can visit, the show is open April 5-27, Tuesday-Sunday 10-5 weekly. Information about the reception will be at

One of the questions Barbara asked is why I might choose to paint a certain subject.  I woke thinking about it in the middle of the night.  

I have long wondered about why the first painters painted.  We have all seen reproductions of the cave paintings in France.  The easy answer is, it was informational.

But below that, I think, is self awareness.

The painter looked at his or her hand and used its mark to indicate his relationship to the world at that moment in time.  Continuing further, he added in his relationship with the deer, which referenced its relationship with him and both places in the world.

In the end, isn't that all we paint?

The subject of this painting, Morning, Heading North, is in an area north of Albuquerque just a few miles north of where Georgia O'Keeffe lived.  It's about two hours from home, so it is a frequent first stop anytime we're heading north. We've painted plein air many times and I've taken thousands of photos.

But what this is about is a moment in time when I was there. This is how I saw it.  This is how it felt.

Why do you paint?

Monday, February 25, 2013

Two Blog Night

Posted by Maggie

The blog here and the next were finished at the same time, so I'm posting them together.


Staying at home so much, which is a pleasure, has still not been the same as when I stayed at home in the winter in previous years. I have spent more time sitting in one place rather than moving from spot to spot at high speed. So I’ve noticed lots of “ordinary things” which have inspired still-life work,  since I cannot get out yet for plein air painting. It’s back down in the 40s and 50s but in a few weeks we should have 60s.

I painted this wall red in my living room so the paintings on it would look good. When I open the blinds to see the mountain, though, I pay more attention to outside than inside. The moment of this shadow is fleeting, and I did use a photo reminder, butthe many times I’ve noticed it were significant.

Paintings on the wall:  of Prickly Pear and Shadow, 16x20, Traffic Jam, 28x40, The Boulders, 16x20, all ©2012 Maggie Price.

In the winter – January and February – when the sun is in a certain northern position, I have noticed and loved how it threw the plant shadow on the red wall in the very early morning. Finally I realized it was time to paint it.

“Shadow as subject” is something I’ve thought a lot about, and wrote about in my second book, Painting Sunlight & Shadow with Pastel.  People often think of a shadow as a minor element or subordinate to the painting, but it is more important than that.

One of my very favorite lines from the book: “Sunlight and shadow are forever paired, the yin and yang of describing form.” One cannot exist without the other.

Red Wall, 6x8, oil, © Maggie Price 2013

Please select;

Keeping Up

Posted by Maggie

Something I keep hearing both in relation to cancer (which I’m tired of writing about, and plan to minimize now that I’m getting well) also relates to art, and that’s attitude.

As you may know if you’ve followed my blog, when I was first diagnosed, after the initial shock, my determination was to beat this thing. I decided to hit on all fronts: radiation, chemo, steroids, and the drugs the doctors recommended. On my side, diet, acupuncture, and attitude. In the end, I am not certain but what attitude is the most important.

Years ago, as part of my t’ai chi study, I read a book by Dan Millman, Way of the Peaceful Warrior, which has to do in part with developing and improving physical ability through visualization. There was a story he told about coaching students to visualize successfully completing an exercise. One young woman had trouble with the balance beam so he told her to visualize crossing it. When she made funny noises he asked what was happening. “I keep falling off,” she said.

Too many times, I hear “I can’t do that. I can’t draw. I can’t get it right. “

If you say things like that, however you believe or understand the universal life force/God/higher power, you’re putting those words out there. Listener, who doubtless has a lot of other things to do, hears repeatedly, “I can’t draw,” and gives what you’re asking for. Wouldn’t it be better to have what you ask for and get be, “I’m improving my drawing every day.”

 Don’t visualize falling off your painting.

Just so every blog has a painting, here is one I like because it illustrates the choice: when the wave comes in or goes out, what will you do?
Incoming,  4x6 oil, © Maggie Price 2013, $180. 

Please select;

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Too Many Ravens

Posted by Maggie

Raven Winter, 6x6, oil on prepared board, ©Maggie Price
It has been a season of too many ravens, but I have tried not to take it personally.

Yes, I know in many cultures, they are a symbol of death. I have ignored this, as I have long ignored facing mortality, until it sidled by with a black-winged, knowing glance.

But where I live, Raven is also the Trickster. He changes the world, and people, through deceit and trickery. You can’t trust him.

I could be disturbed by the cacophony outside the window. But I think perhaps Raven and his friends are laughing at me, thinking they’ve got me worried and on the run, when there’s really no need for fear at all.  If I paint him, perhaps I will understand his tricks.

Already as it’s warming the ravens are departing. Soon we’ll see the sharp-nosed roadrunner with his keen eye and fast feet, and the happy summer birds are already here— giggling finches with their giddy summer warble, and bobble topped quail sitting on the posts calling each other.  

Who worries about ravens when you can have songbirds?

If you are interested in purchasing this painting, the shipping is free within the US (excluding Alaska and Hawaii). For foreign orders please contact me for shipping information. DO NOT order from outside the US without checking shipping, or your order will be canceled. Shipping may be delayed if paint is wet; I will let you know by email.

Please select;

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Bill's Valentine

Valentine’s Day, 2013

Posted by Bill

It is by no means a normal Valentine’s Day. Like most husbands, I try to find creative ideas to celebrate, but this year is tough. No jewelry, she doesn’t want it. No flowers, there have been too many. No candy, she doesn’t eat sugar.

Our lives since the discovery of Maggie’s brain cancer on December 21 have been chaotic, to say the least. But now with more positive medical news—watching her walking again with more mobility and indomitable spirit, things are looking good.  Good enough that I can relax a little. Her spirit was shown by the first blog on this subject which was written at the lowest or almost lowest point in this trial. Written in the middle of the night when she could have simply despaired.

Our experience with reputable hospitals was mostly bad in spite of the best efforts of seriously overworked staffs. At the first hospital where we spent several days  while they tried to figure out the next step, I heard one nurse tell another that he wished he could be cloned so that he could catch up with the demands put on him. We spent several days before and after Christmas there and that meant many things were closed, unavailable, understaffed etc. We then spent day and a half at another hospital where a neurosurgeon was available, but it was also understaffed and seriously overcrowded.Then on to brain surgery for the biopsy and three days in in the intensive care unit which became overcrowded but was well-staffed.

My point mentioning all of the above is that I had to be with her all of the time, because she was not getting adequate attention from hospital staff. Not that I would have left anyway. The result was that by the time we got home after nine days in hospitals I was fine physically, but my mind was suffering from too much lost sleep. My memory was about gone and my attention span was very short. However, it was all about Maggie and I was glad  that I was spending as much time as I could with her while it was still possible. It seemed like a privilege. All I cared about was her survival and recovery. I would do whatever needed to be done and spend whatever needed to be spent without hesitation. Anyone involved that didn’t have the same attitude was irrelevant along with any problems they might have.

I found the possibility of going on without her totally unacceptable. The only way I could handle it was to say to myself, “Fine. if she goes, I’ll be right behind her.” That possibility presented a bleak and pointless life of sadness. To do another painting that I couldn’t show to her would be like a stab in the heart.

I have to admit that I have never felt so totally unqualified and incompetent as I did being a caregiver and nursemaid. I also had never in my life gone through a period when there was no light at the end of the tunnel. Whether recovering from an operation, getting through special forces training, or a nasty divorce, there was always the assurance that it would end and things would get better. It didn’t seem that way during the first month of our trial.

So what to do for Valentine’s? Celebrate the wonderful progress she’s made, talk about all the places we’ve been and things we’ve done, and how wonderful our lives have been together, and how much more there is to come.

The painting, Fond Memories, 11x14, $550, is one of many happy memories from a trip to Scotland. When we go to teach a workshop, we go early to get over jet lag and paint enough to reaquaint ourselves with the local scenery, which very unlike New Mexico. For one thing, it rains. This painting is across Loch Ewe from Gairloch on the northwestern coast of Scotland. We stayed in a quaint hotel—they are all quaint in Scotland—and the next morning, woke to gale force winds pounding the enormous glass windows looking out from the breakfast room. It was spectacular. After a bit, two clearly local fishermen came in for breakfast. They didn’t seem to be used to the place, and we wondered if they had been forced in by the weather. They looked at the menu, rejected the porridge, the full Scottish breakfast (eggs, bacon, sausages, mushrooms, haggis, grilled tomatoes, toasts, marmalade) and ordered kippers. We had never tried those, though we both usually like to try something new frequently when in a foreign country. It turned out to be a good thing. They were enormous spiny fish, smoked, pungently awful. We finished breakfast quickly and went out to more pleasant memories!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Eight Weeks

Posted by Maggie 

Much longer than I expected it would be, before I could truly paint.  But then, there never were any accurate expectations. I didn’t expect to be told I had cancer. I did not expect to wake up and have no use of my left side for weeks. And apparently, at least one of my doctors did not expect that to change. But it did. I’m walking, and able to sit at the easel to paint.

I cannot hold pastels very well because the steroids I take (in addition to giving me a pumpkin face) make my hands shake. But for some reason, holding a brush is easier, so I’m working in oils for a while.

Personal style as an artist is something people often worry about when they begin to paint. Students have often asked me how to develop it. The answer is, it will just happen. And it will evolve, and change, as you grow as an artist, and if you observe it over many years you may see that while it changes, it is always you, and always unique.

So, I was not surprised to see a change in my style. It is looser and less defined than most of my work. But I like it, and it is what is true today, though it likely will change over the next few months. This is the view looking northeast from our house towards Santa Fe, at sunrise. 

Hope, 6x8, oil on panel, ©Maggie Price
(For those who saw this post previously, the painting was listed on eBay. For some reason they removed it. As it turned out, I had felt uneasy using that service anyway, so I am not replacing it. If you were interested in purchasing, please leave a comment or send me a message on Facebook if you are a friend.)

I called the painting Hope, because I always find every sunrise, every morning, a hopeful and wonderful thing. I hope yours will be as well.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

You are what you eat

Posted by Maggie

I mentioned that one aspect of what I'm doing to fight the cancer is diet. For those who are interested, I'm following a diet called the ketogenic cancer diet.

I've always been a believer in paying attention to what you eat. "Garbage in, garbage out," doesn't just apply to data. It makes sense that if you put junk food in your body, your health will not be as optimal as if you don't.

In the early '70s I was a strict vegetarian. My daughter's hyperactivity was controlled better by removing meat, sugar and preservatives from our diet than any drug that could be given her. We remained on that diet for many years, and while we did not consume refined sugar, we did use honey and lots of fruit. We also ate dairy products, and eggs.  Looking back, if I had it to do again, I'd cut back on those.

As time passed, the children in the house grew up and made their own choices, which included adding meat back into their diets. I eventually began eating fish and chicken but never touched red meat again.

For years I was misdiagnosed with regard to stomach problems, until just a few years ago when I found I had celiac disease (inability to tolerate any form of wheat or gluten) and an intolerance to dairy products, particularly casein. I've gotten that under control, and while it's not an easy diet to maintain, it
is worth it to feel healthy.

Then came the cancer. One thing I read was that people who have had long-untreated celiac disease have a higher probability of developing certain cancers. It is frustrating to think I could have missed this, with a proper diagnosis earlier, but that's water under the bridge now.

My current diet eliminates all grains, not just wheat. The theory of the diet is that cancer cells feed only on sugar and carbohydrates. If those are not present in the body, the cells have no food and begin to die. In one of the many studies done on this diet, a patient had significant (80%) tumor reduction size in 6 weeks. Of course, if you go off the diet, you feed the cells and it can grow right back, so there has to be other treatment, such as radiation and chemo.

I started the diet on January 2. I did not start radiation and chemo until January 23. On January 25 I felt my toes and was able to move them. My radiologist doctor was amazed, but did not expect much further. He certainly did not expect to see me walk, which he saw yesterday. (Okay, just a few feet, and with the walker, but hey, I am getting around!)   I doubt he spent 20 minutes studying diet in medical school, so I did not expect him to agree with my thought that it's the diet that's begun the shrinking of the tumor. But I believe it's true.

So what do I eat? My main goal each day is to consume zero sugar and zero carbs. The diet allows a few, but I find a goal of zero keeps me on track. I eat eggs, avocados, good fats --tumors can't feed on fat--chicken, fish, and unstarchy green vegetables. Nut and seed flours replace grains, and I use a minimal amount of them.  Sound boring? It is not. Everything is freshly prepared, as no mixes or pre-prepared foods are trustworthy. Flavors are great, I eat small amounts every 2-3 hours and am rarely hungry. So far I have lost only about 10 lbs. and most of that was in the hospital.  Not losing weight at this stage is critical as I have no reserves. It's kind of nice having people tell me to eat!

Some months ago, my daughter Amy, who also cannot eat wheat, gluten, or dairy, and I began working on a web site that will offer a variety of allergy-free diet plans and lots of recipes. Her diet and mine were similar when we began this, and her two daughters have the same intolerances we have plus others. We've had fun testing new recipes and making improvements during the two weeks she's been visiting to help me transition into my treatment.

We planned to launch the site this winter. Now we've delayed it to build a section for recipes for the cancer diet. We plan to take the site live within a couple months. I'll post a link when it goes up, for those of you who might be interested.

Meanwhile, on the art front, we set up a new painting space for me yesterday. I have too many doctor appointments today, but tomorrow I hope to paint and then post a blog with my setup and painting to share with you.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Great News!

Posted by Maggie

Yesterday was a day of low and high. It was the last day of construction--the bathroom was done, but the hall and bedroom floors had the carpet removed since I could not walk on it, and new wood floor. I am so glad to have construction workers out of the house. Of course, in typical fashion, they did not finish on time, and I had to leave for radiation without a shower, which distressed me. One of the side effects of radiation, steroids and anti-seizure medication (and probably the chemo as well) is that I get distressed more easily, and it's hard to return to an even keel. So I went off to radiation in a funk.

Radiation is not exactly painful, though it gives me a headache and makes me tired, and burns my scalp. The worst is the mask which bolts my head to the table. It's a good thing it doesn't take a long time. There are tiny breathing holes but the thing is not what you might call comfortable! This is not a very flattering photo but it's reality--I've given up all thoughts of vanity now, though I do hate my swollen face which is a result of steroids and will apparently be months like this. And yes, I'm losing my hair. Oh well it will come back. Meanwhile I'm going a bit strawberry blonde, which is what I was when I was young.

Anyway, this is how they immobilize my head. The red lines show how the radiation goes. I get 8-12 zaps of varying length, most 6,000,000 volts or more. Five days a week for 8-10 weeks,  and chemo every day by pill at home. I'm grateful the chemo is not intravenous! I have terrible veins and it's always an issue to find anything usable.

So after I had radiation I had a doctor appt. This was the beginning of the good part of the day.  The doctor is scheduling me for physical therapy now, which should help me learn walking again. But he also said I could take off the CFP brace from my left leg, and that was a huge change. It made it much easier to control and direct my foot which is now speaking to me most of the time. So much difference that I have been able to get around better in the house. Of course, having the carpet gone at the same time also helped.

For the first time in over a month, yesterday I was able to sleep in my own bed, and had the best night's sleep so far. It's made an enormous difference in my morning! I am so happy to be more mobile and rested.

My wonderful daughter is here now, helping take care of me. For the last 4 weeks I've had sisters here, one after another, and they have been fantastic. I am hoping by the time my daughter leaves I will be much more functional, but I will hate for her to go. She is seriously spoiling me (of course Bill has done that forever!).

Today we're getting a painting stool for me to use in the kitchen and at the easel. Not sure if I'll actually get to paint today or not but it's getting closer. Still fighting the hand shaking but I'm going to paint soon! Will post results whether good or not.

As always thanks for all the emails, support, positive thoughts and prayers. You are all the best!


Monday, January 21, 2013

Roller Coaster Ride

Posted by Maggie

I don't like roller coasters.  In fact I have never liked any carnival ride more extreme than a Ferris Wheel, and I wasn't always sure about that.

Life has been a roller coaster ride for one month now. It's not just the health issues, though they are sometimes daunting, especially with the limited mobility. But to add insult to injury, I've had to spend even more time dealing with health care providers, insurance companies, etc., etc. It seems a bit much to ask to have to do all that, chasing people down to get things in order, while also figuring out how to focus on dealing with disease. Finally I was assigned a patient advocate who is now helping with getting everything organized. With the changes in doctors and hospitals, I lost a couple days before starting treatment, but it's beginning Wednesday.

One high part of the roller coaster ride this week was getting the advance copy of my book. It has been such a pleasure to see it. Another high has continued to be the contact from so many friends and family.   To my artist friends who are on Facebook, I cruise to see what you're all painting and posting. It's fun to keep up that way.

When I can do so, I think we've figured out a way to get my chair in front of an easel, with everything lowered to reach. I can't wait., and it won't be long now.

Happy painting to you all,


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Holding to Optimism

Posted by Maggie

In general, I've always been an optimistic person. I usually wake up with a sense of well-being, of direction, of knowing what I want to accomplish for the day and having some confidence I will do so. It doesn't always work out, of course, but I usually have positive expectations.

They've been a little tougher to maintain lately, but I'm doing it. What's helped now is that there's a plan —I know what day I start treatment and just what is going to be likely to happen.

And because I want to do everything I can to improve my odds I've added in going on a strict anti-cancer diet.  I've had time the last few days to do a lot of research, and there are amazing studies supporting it. The basic theory is that tumor cells are fed only by sugar and carbohydrates, so removing  those from the diet helps starve the tumor at the same time as it's being poisoned and radiated. Makes a lot of sense to me. It's not a huge change for me to make this switch, as I'd already been gluten and dairy free, so it's just the rest of the grains and all forms of sugar that go. It gives me a feeling that I'm contributing to the healing process myself in addition to trusting the doctors to do what they do.

I've sketched a little, nothing great, but good to put pencil to paper. It's still hard to hold a pen or pencil without shaking so I tried a loose watercolor where I just let shaking be part of the process. It was interesting.

One more huge positive came my way yesterday—I heard from my wonderful book publisher that an advance copy of my new book is on its way to me. It will be such a thrill to see it. The books will be available sometime in March, but can be pre-ordered any time here.

I am so glad it was completed and in production before I became ill. I have been very excited about the book and can't wait to see it in print!

Once again thanks to all of who have written, emailed, sent messages and your support and wishes. It means so much to me.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Midnight Roses

Posted by Maggie

It seems forever since I painted. It has been hard to comprehend that it has been three weeks now since I went to the hospital and this life-shattering chain of events began. But in terms of any connection to art, it seems even longer, though I had a painting on the easel the day it began.

Given all that is going on in my life, I've wondered why I have been so focused that I needed to draw or paint, when I'm also overwhelmed by the need to communicate with my leg, to heal from surgery, and so on.

What I think it is, is that I need to know I still am who I am, and a big part of that has to do with my art. If I can put pencil to paper, hold a brush and apply color, think about form and line and value, then I am reconnecting to who I am and what I do.

My hands shake endlessly. I found on an earlier attempt that I cannot hold a pencil or charcoal or pastel well enough to draw. So tonight, when my sleepless spell began, I decided to try some watercolor. Earlier today, with Bill's help and the use of a walker, I stepped a few feet into the studio to select supplies, so they were at hand and ready.

It did seem easier to handle the brush than to try to hold a pen. I loved just playing with color. I have looked at these particular roses, which are closest to the recliner where I spend most of my time, for the last two or three nights. I like them at midnight, when the fireplace behind them is dark and they silhouette in interesting ways.

It's not a great sketch. Watercolor is a "dabbling" medium for me, not something I do often or seriously, though it's fun. But honestly, my goal was set pretty low. I was more interested in that re-establishing of the art connection than anything, and that felt good.

I often tell my students they should save the occasional early work so that later they can see their progress. I think that's what some of these sketches will be for me --the record of the changes as I get stronger, and begin to regain some skills.

Midnight Roses, watercolor, 1-12-13.

Thursday, January 10, 2013


Posted by Maggie

Last night's blog got derailed. I'm pretty sure it was the Steroid Witch who sent it down a different track than I'd planned. But at 3 am, it's not so easy to fight the Witch.

My plan had been to write about gratitude. I am so overwhelmingly grateful for all the support, comments, posts, and messages from all of you who have been following this blog. Initially, when I first learned what was happening to me, my instinct was to retreat for a while. But I missed my friends and the interaction with my wonderful group of artists on FaceBook.

I guess I just hadn't thought about the fact that so many people would respond, but it was the best gift possible. I don't feel isolated now, and I feel the waves of positive energy coming my way.

I've spent some time thinking about other things to be grateful for over this last couple of weeks. I'm grateful I lived through that first seizure, and the biopsy. I'm so grateful to have a doctor I trust. Family and close friends helping out with everything have been absolutely wonderful. I am so aware there is no way I could have managed without them.

So I am concentrating on the positive and how much is working well, and facing the next few days with determination. And maybe in addition to being grateful, I might learn to be more patient.

Thanks again for the caring support,


On Being Patient (or not)

Posted by Maggie

I am not a patient person.  (Those of you who know me well can quit laughing anytime now.)

I like being busy. I always have lists, schedules, calendars and deadlines. I like knowing what I need to accomplish each day and set out to do it, then cross it off and move on.

So you might not be surprised to know that having to sdend 3 days just getting an appointment with the oncologist who is to start my treatment immediately make me pretty cranky. It's finally all sorted out, but it was just a bunch of medical beuracracy that could have been dealt with days ago.

Ah, well, be patient.

On a good note the new shower walls arrived a couple days early. I am very close to having a lovely, safe new shower.

On my short list of the worst features of this unattractive illness, I am terribly frustrated with the inability to move. I suppose the desire for independent unassisted motion connects right back to that whole bit about impatience and busy-ness.

And I'm impatient to paint. More roses arrived today and they are simply gorgeous. Shaky or not, tomorrow I think I will pull out some pastels.  Night all.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Changes and Challenges

Posted by Maggie

This blog is usually dedicated to art-related subjects. It’s going to get pretty personal for a while. I hope to reconnect to art as we go along, but life doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and art is often pushed around by events, and the blog is going to be the easiest way for me to communicate for a while. So please bear with me, skip ahead or come back later when I hope there will be less pain and more paintings. 

Like a lot of people I joked about the end of the world, or at least a big change, due for December 21, 2112 according to the old Mayan calendar.

I did not expect my own world to crash about my shoulders. In the middle of  a routine trip to the art supply store, I had a seizure. I didn’t know what it was until the doctor told me later; I thought I was just having a weird spell. But it was scary enough to get me to the ER, and begin the sequence of events that led to a fairly quick diagnosis of a tumor on my brain.

You can never prepare for hearing something like that. Denial comes fast. You must have mistaken me for someone who has time for that. Your tests are wrong. Surely it is benign, if it does in fact exist. I have too much to do to have cancer—could we reschedule that for another year? I’m supposed to be on an airplane in 6 days. You must have the wrong person.

Unfortunately, all the denial in the world changed nothing. The thing was/is still in my head.

On the 26th the doctors performed a needle biopsy. Just a little needle, didn’t sound too bad. Well, except for that whole drilling through the skull part. There had been a fair amount of discussion about the bad position of the tumor, which was located on the motor control area for mobility of the left side of my body. I’d lost use of my left arm and leg in the initial seizure, but it came back. When I woke up from surgery, though, it was gone again. The arm came back but I haven’t been able to regain feeling or control of my leg, so cannot walk.

You look for the good stuff. It didn’t affect my ability to think, reason, or speak. I immediately had asked how far away it was from the creativity center, and they said quite a ways. I’m right-handed. I will paint again. 

Three days in neurological ICU was not something I ever want to do again. The hospital staff was great, but everything else was awful. Getting out to await biopsy results became a huge goal.

It took almost no time to become aware what wonderful friends and family I have.  I knew I had the best husband in the world but he proves it again hundreds of times a day.  Support and company from family and friends kept me from feeling abandoned.

Going Home

Going home was terrifying. It is hard to comprehend what immobility does to you. Every day, every hour, of those first few days brought such huge challenges, it was exhausting beyond belief. Still recovering from the surgery, learning how to live in my house in this condition has been overwhelming.

We live in a one-story house with no stairs. I thought navigating using a walker and the fling-and-drag foot method of locomotion that currently passes for walking would be doable, if not easy. The first real obstacle came with the realization that the door openings to both bathrooms were three inches narrower than the walker. What were those people thinking? How could anyone not make such a simple measurement in advance? How could I have lived here ten years and not known?

Looking at several upcoming months of chemo and radiation, and not being able to anticipate how much my motor controls might fluctuate from bad to worse to better, it also became obvious there was no way I could get into a shower.  So, in the space of a few days, the house became a remodeling zone. We have a wonderful friend who stepped forward to become the general contractor, and in just a few more days will have a new handicap accessible bathroom.

Meanwhile the biopsy results came back. Not as good as we’d hoped. Okay, way worse.

You look at something like this and every step is a choice. Fight or give up? I choose fight. The word “treatable” has such a nicer ring than “terminal.” Fight it. Chemo it, radiate it, starve it. Eradicate it and move on. I have too much to do and to live for,  to give in or give up. I’m fighting.

Meet the Steroid Witch

I’ve been able to reduce the number of drugs I’m taking moment, but the two biggies remaining for months to come are steroids to reduce the swelling around the tumor, and anti-seizure medicine.

The steroids are really important and really wicked. The big side effects seem to be nausea, thirst, sleeplessness and rage. I call the rage the Steroid Witch.

In spite of everything going on, most of the time I maintain a fairly even keel, a determination to get through this, and am always working on a positive attitude. But I’ve learned to hear the steroid witch coming.

The witch is in a fury, flying easily off the handle at the unfairness of it all.  She brings with her vicious hot flashes that fan the flames of rage, and she can appear without a second’s notice. The steroid witch uses bad language, has come close to throwing things, and is generally an unpleasant person with whom I have almost nothing in common. But she keeps showing up and using my mouth!  I’m hoping she will learn to behave better soon.

Art Calls

I’m itching to paint, but I think I will start with drawing. Now that I can focus a little, I think a sketchbook, pencils, charcoal, would be just right.

For several years, one of my New Year’s goals has been to draw more. Looks like that may really happen in 2013. I’m interested to see how the act of observation and drawing helps exercise my brain. Gotta keep those connections open. If the foot won’t talk to me, I’ll focus on the hands for a while.

My favorite painting subject is usually the landscape. Can’t see much of that from the part of the house where I’m spending my time. But I’ve got vases of flowers, and I think I will draw those, along with some still life objects. I'll post pics when I can.  

The Best Laid Plans

This last summer, we had a long string of back to back workshops. At the end, when we were en route home, I spent a lot of time thinking about what I wanted for 2013. I decided I wanted to take a year to travel and teach a little less, to work on my own painting, and to develop new skills and ideas.

It’s also a convention year for IAPS  (International Association of Pastel Societies). That takes a lot of my time as we get close to the convention. I worked out a good year-long plan for incorporating painting into everything else, and then began revising my five-year plan.

Looks like I’ll get that year at home, but with chemo and radiation infringing on the painting time I had planned.  I guess I won’t know until I get into it how much I can bring to focus for art in order to push forward. But I am going to paint, one way or another.

Here were my broad 2013 goals as of December 20:

1.     Spend more painting time at home, both studio and plein air; draw more
2.     Take frequent 2-3 day painting trips with Bill so we get good time together painting and having fun.
3.     Work on series of daily paintings to focus and sharpen skills; every day for 30 days, several times
4.     Continue to work on making the 2013 IAPS convention the best ever
5.     Give more time to the New Mexico Art League board projects
7.     Organize workshops for following year(s)
8.     Find ways to spend more time with family

Here is my list now:

Beat cancer. 
See above list.

Updates to follow as I can. I can't take phone calls and my ability to respond may be sporadic, but I hope to keep in touch as well as possible.