A Sunday Bike Ride
Updated: Jul 29
My mind has been supremely cluttered lately, with what-ifs and whys and when-will-life-return-to-normals. This new lifestyle we’re all facing has gotten me so jumbled I’ve been wondering which direction my art career is heading, or whether or not it will survive.
One of the things I like to do when my mind is cluttered is add something to my Wordless Diary, but I knew this clutter was more about the endless choices of mediums, papers, and styles surrounding me in my home.
I had a feeling it wasn’t clutter at all, but cabin fever.
So I suggested to the family that we get out for a walk, but Goo upgraded that suggestion to a bike ride. Since I’d already promised her a bike ride this weekend, I couldn’t exactly refuse, so my husband dusted off the bike rack and cleaned the cobwebs off our helmets. We decided to bring Howl too, and so it would just be me and Goo riding bikes, while my husband
As we pulled into the parking lot of one of our favorite biking trails, where forever ago we took a 10-mile family bike trip to a nearby town for some lunch, there was a familiar excitement I hadn’t felt in a while. And when Goo climbed onto her two-wheeled bike and whizzed off down the trail, I realized that the last time we were here she was still using training wheels. And the time before that, she was riding in a special chair attached to daddy’s bike. We’d been coming to this trail since before she was born, and now it was all sort of flashing before my eyes. All the way back to when she was two and strapped into her little bike car that hitched to the back of daddy’s bike.
Yummy breeze in my hair and clothes, I let go of the clutter and this new, stuck-inside, homeschooling, close-quarters lifestyle, and pretended like everything was back to normal and that we were simply enjoying a Sunday morning.
One of the first things that struck me was the earthy scent of mud. I love the smell of mud (yes I know that's weird). Suddenly my mind was racing with thoughts of art pieces relating to mud, but I brushed them away. I was de-cluttering. I had to let the mud clear from the water so I could see the bottom.
The next thing that struck me was the sound of a red-winged blackbird. They have a very distinct call, one you really don’t start hearing around here until late spring through late summer. I thought of their color, mostly black with a single bloom of red and yellow on their wings. Art thoughts resumed. Art thoughts were brushed away.
I forced myself to enjoy the bike ride without making it about work. Sounds silly, that I would have to force something like that, but I can very easily slip into the workaholic mindset.
Goo and I made it to our deemed destination, the old train bridge, drank some water with Husband and Howl, splashed it on each other to beat the heat. Then we turned around and made our way back to the car. It was a short bike ride, maybe about thirty minutes, but we had a blast. And I had a clearer head.
The only thing I wanted to do, then, after a delicious lunch of grilled mozzarella basil sandwiches, was paint mud. And, because I’m no longer telling myself no, I pulled out the acrylic paint. Burnt umber, alizarin crimson, naples yellow, cobalt blue, and a fun color called vanilla ice cream, made some of the yummiest browns.
I used these browns to make several small “sketches” and focused on enjoying the process. I played around with mark making, scribbled around with my oil pastels, and found a good balance between the mud mixtures. Then I began to formulate a few ideas for a potential finished piece.
I taped down two 11x14 sheets of canvas paper and used an intuitive approach to get started. I used the darkest brown I could mix up—cobalt and umber—and mixed a bit of the vanilla ice cream and naples on the paper instead of the palette.
Once it was dry, I added a lighter, peachy color made with alizarin crimson, naples, and the vanilla. This became my “landscape” and from there I was able to add a few wheel shapes, yellow speckles (some with red, to remind me of those red-winged blackbirds) and I also made sure to harmonize the pieces with one another, creating lines that start on one painting and end on the next. For the green river/leaves I used an oil pastel.
Once the piece was “finished” I realized I had been more honest today than I had been in a long time. I can look at these two paintings and see our bike ride, all of the things we saw along the way, and even feel how it felt to smell that mud.
I think what I love most is that others might see something completely different, and that’s what makes abstract art so fun.
I suppose the moral of the story is, get out and smell the dirt. Dig around in your garden. Water the flowers. Get messy, and sweaty, and have some mozzarella basil sandwiches. Brush aside the work mentality even for a moment to let that mud clear. That way, when you get back into it, you’ll have a brand-new perspective and a light-hearted mood to allow that perspective to shine.
Hope everyone had a nice Memorial Day weekend.
Until next time, may your bikes be well-tuned and your paint be extra muddy.