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

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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. 

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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.

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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.