I bought this Turkish coffee pot in Istanbul years ago, in a little bazaar filled with rugs and leather jackets and the aroma of exotic spices. Today seemed like a good day to put it into a painting, using autumn tones but hopeful little flowers to help us get through the winter that’s almost upon us. When Spring comes again, we can hope that most of us will have been vaccinated, and we can begin to emerge into the light again.
Obviously, arts and crafts fairs were very few, if any, this summer. I was very lucky to have been able to participate in one in my own community last month. It turned out to be pretty successful for me, since I sold a lot of my books. It was also a lot of fun.
I met some neighbors I hadn’t known before, and had a chance to chat with plenty of others, everyone appropriately masked and distance, of course. I think we’re all finding out just how creative we can be in meeting the challenges of new situations. They say that whatever doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, right?
I’ve been researching and writing the fictionalized memoir of my Grandmother Riva’s life since the beginning of this crazy year. Since I have scant documentation, there are enormous gaps in my knowledge, so I’ve resorted to extensively researching the history of the times and places she knew as a girl and young woman. While I can’t know many of the details of her actual experiences, at least I’m now able to put what I do know into an accurate context.
This experience is endlessly fascinating for me, especially since I’m old enough now to have a broader perspective on history and life than I would have had as a young woman. I’m telling myself the story I wish she could have told me when she had the chance, if only life and language barriers hadn’t intervened. I’m hoping the end result will be something my own adult grandchildren will be able to appreciate as the story of where they, themselves, began.
On the most basic level, my grandparents always said they came from Russia, but when I looked at a map, the towns they were born in are in present-day Ukraine. However, delving into the history of the area, I discovered that this was known as the Pale of Jewish Settlement, originally part of the Kingdom of Poland, which was partitioned by the great powers of the late eighteenth century between the Prussian (or German) Empire, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and the Russian Empire. Suddenly, previously inexplicable aspects of my grandmother’s life, such as her education in an Austrian gymnazia, began to make sense. My grandmother lived in at least three different countries before she left home to come to America, even though she never moved from the Tarnopol Oblast! The borders of those countries remained in nearly constant flux for well over a hundred years.
So with this, my latest book, I’m on a journey of my own, only now, it’s personal. I know how the story ends, but it’s the in-between parts that are making this a journey of discovery for me. It’s challenging but it’s also an exciting adventure. I’m just going along for the ride!
One thing good about being a painter and a writer is that I always work from home, anyway. So keeping busy has never been a problem. I’ve just sent A Wonderful Good Morning off to my Beta readers for comments and corrections, and then, one more final editing (I hope it will be final), and it will be ready for release.
Writing this book has been an interesting process, taking me a bit out of my comfort zone by venturing into the supernatural. Meteorologist Tim Pfeiffer and his girlfriend Natalie take off for a romantic river cruise on the Rhine, but Tim runs into a problem when the ship takes a detour into another dimension. The story is my take on what happens when we humans mess with Mother Nature.
On an entirely different tack, my next effort will be a fictionalized memoir told by my grandmother, who was born in what is now Ukraine in 1884 and died in Chicago in 1975. In between, she saw her world turned upside-down, not once but several times. I’m researching her life and times and finding it all fascinating. Can’t wait to see how it turns out! Working title: Riva’s Journey.
Stay safe, wear your masks.
Creating a painting and crafting a novel have a lot of similarities in common. First, you have an idea, a sort of vague concept you’d like to explore. So you do a sketch or write a little story, just to see if the process takes you anywhere. You doodle around a little and more ideas happen. Eventually, you figure out a rough composition, so you pencil that in. Then you begin to fill in the blanks with solid color. You add shading. You scratch out some parts, move other parts, throw in some new ones. More shading, soften some edges, sharpen others. You stand back and look at it, trying to see it with fresh eyes even though you’ve been looking at it for ages already. You decide to let it sit a while and move on to something else.
A week later, you look at your project again, and now you can see things you didn’t see before. You do all this again and again, as many times as it takes. You add the darks. You stroke in the highlights. You correct errors. Finally, finally—you sign it! It’s done! Somewhere from out of the depths of—your mind? your heart? previous experiences you didn’t even know you remembered?—you’ve created a masterpiece, ready to present itself to the world and face the music. The orchestra rises! Ta-da!
I’ve been working on three projects simultaneously recently, one minor, two major (Yes, a musical metaphor. There’s a reason all these things are group together under the category of “Arts.”). I’m nearly finished with a small floral painting, A Shadowed Spring. It just needs some more of the darks and lights I spoke of earlier. My new novel, A Wonderful Good Morning, is in its 5th or 6th iteration and is coming along very satisfactorily. And my newest novel, Riva’s Journey, will be a fictionalized memoir told in the voice of my paternal grandmother.
“A Wonderful Good Morning” has had a number of titles. At one point, I considered, “A Novel in Search of a Genre,” but I decided that would just confuse people. It’s a little bit of a mystery, but really fits somewhat better into the category of Science Fiction, although it’s a lot of fiction and not much science. There’s also some romance, because what’s a novel without romance?
Riva’s Journey is still in the R & D stage. I’ve drafted an outline and an opening chapter, and gathered a lot of facts. I’m figuring it will take me a good year or so to turn this all into a novel of historical fiction. I’m finding the project fascinating and I hope to do my grandmother justice with it. I hope, if she’s watching from somewhere up above, she approves.
So—art in the time of coronavirus isn’t a lot different from ordinary life, even though in other respects, my life, like everyone else’s, is sort of on hold for the duration. Still, the experience of this pandemic is coloring my work, as I’m sure it’s coloring the work of all artists right now. The next several years will undoubtedly see an explosion of corona-inspired creations. It should be interesting.
It doesn’t look as if this pandemic is going to end anytime soon, so we are all having to get used to a new reality. We’ve become familiar with words and terms we’d never heard until a couple of months ago, at least not in this context. Suddenly we’re knowledgeable about PPE, social distancing, Zoom and so forth. Spring has arrived, a season that normally brings new energy and spirit into our lives. But normal doesn’t exist anymore, does it? And who knows what it will look like going forward. So what happens now?
Art in the age of coronavirus is an interesting experience. I can still paint in my studio, but getting my work out into exhibits and galleries is on hold for now.
Like many other artists before me, I’ve found I can paint my feelings, which are complicated. On the one hand, I feel blessed to have a safe place to live and plenty of food to eat. Many, many people are suffering terribly in this pandemic. On the other hand, foregoing the ability to move about freely, coping with sudden shortages of things like disinfectants and toilet paper, and most of all, not meeting with family and friends, is taking a toll. Thank goodness for Zoom!
My latest series, It’s a New World, is my humorous take on the feelings provoked by my new daily life. Prints and several products with images of my paintings can be ordered from Fine Art America. Clink on this link to take a look: https://fineartamerica.com/profiles/barbara-lipkin
Every artist knows that the idea of being inspired to create is overrated. Einstein said it perfectly. “Inspiration is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.” An artist might come up with a great idea, but making it real means getting into your studio or sitting down at your laptop or your piano and getting to work. Nevertheless, sometimes that great idea refuses to stand up and say “hi.”
With everything going on in the world today, not to mention my broken arm, creative ideas have been eluding me lately. I could stand staring at an empty canvas for an hour and absolutely nothing happened. Until this past week, when suddenly, ideas came into my head. The result, so far, is two small paintings, which are my response to the insane situation we find ourselves in at the moment.
“What the Bleep Just Happened” is a nod to Tribune journalist Rex Huppke’s weekly column with the same title. “You’ve Got to Be Kidding” is my take on the corona virus, social distancing, the sudden shortage of toilet paper and so forth.
So I’m right-handed. I broke my left arm 3 weeks ago. When I tell people that, they say, “At least it wasn’t your right.” I suppose I should be grateful, but you try it sometime! Go ahead–dress and undress using only your dominant hand. Takes forever to get my nightgown off, take a one-handed shower, one-handed shampoo, pull on cami, then a shirt. Pants–pull up–a little easier. But it’s all a struggle and I’m exhausted by the time I finish. Whew!
I’m a zip-zip-zip sort of person. I like to get things done and this slow-poke business just isn’t me. Who knew left arms were so important? I just sort of took mine for granted all this time. I have a new appreciation for it now. I will take better care of it.
Good news today, though. The doctor says the bone is healing well and I can start physical therapy later this week. I’m down to a sling, instead of the restrictive immobilizer and I feel as if I’ve been released from prison. Best of all, I can type again, and get back to work. Onward and upward!
I’ve spent a lot of time these past couple of weeks getting ready for my book signing at The Frugal Muse and Music bookstore, which is a week from today! In case you haven’t already marked it on your calendars, it’s: Wednesday, Jan. 29th, 7 to 9 pm, at the Frugal Muse, 75th & Lemont Rd., Darien, southeast corner, in a small shopping center. There are 5 authors: Kate Gingold, Dennis Baritzal, myself, Angela Holtz, and Karen Sjoblom, who between us have published books in a variety of genres. We’ll each be speaking briefly about our writing, and Joe Eddy Brown will entertain us with his music. There’ll be plenty of opportunity to speak with each of us individually, and don’t forget–refreshments! So do plan on coming for a fun evening.
When I first began publishing, I had no idea how much work it would be to get out in front and let people know about it. Except for a fortunate few, the days of turning over a manuscript to a publisher and letting them take it from there while you brush off your hands and get to work on your next opus are over. But on the plus side, it’s a lot of fun participating in these events, finding new author friends as well as new readers. A whole new career emerges! Who knew?