Unearthing creative possibilities: Trish Roque's website, personal blog, & portfolio

Archive for the ‘Heart’ Category

New blog over at trishroque.com

The holiday sabbatical has been over for a while. I’ve actually been working on a new site, a blog specifically dedicated to my artwork.

I will no longer be maintaining this blog but it will remain up for archival purposes.

Head on over to the new blog and say hello:

http://trishroque.com/

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An etching, a doodle, and some figure sketches

I can’t believe it’s been nearly ten days since my last post. I didn’t think that my dog’s death would affect me so much – this just means that I cannot underestimate the bonds I share with my animal companions. Siwa was very special and will never be replaced.

However, I haven’t been entirely useless. I managed to make my first etching in close to ten years! It felt good to work with copper, and to finally run a plate through my printing press! This etching was done for a charity event for Locks of Love, the organization that collects hair to create wigs for disadvantaged children who have lost their hair for medical reasons. I am in the process of growing out my hair and am hoping that it will be long enough in a couple of months to donate the ten inches they require.

Below are the various states I needed to get the plate to a point that I was happy with. The final print was on Arches paper and approximately 8″ x 10″ with a plate size of 5″ x 3″. The print is an edition size of 16 and is a combination of hard and soft ground techniques. It was a lot of fun!

The first state was a simple hardground line drawing.

The first state was a simple hardground line drawing.

State 2 involved a softground texture with cheesecloth. Unfortunately my stop out was a little thick and hard to control so some texture and open biting occurred on my hardground lines.

State 2 involved a softground texture with cheesecloth. Unfortunately my stop-out was a little thick and hard to control so some texture and open biting occurred on my hardground lines.

State 3 involved burnishing away some of the unwanted lines and textures created by state 2, then re-etching the figure with another hardground bite.

State 3 required burnishing away some of the unwanted lines and textures created by state 2, then re-etching the figure with another hardground bite. I also drew more lines for the heart/hair wings of the heart.

State 4 was more burnishing and more etching of lines that I wanted to stand out.

State 4 was more burnishing and more etching of lines that I wanted to stand out.

The final state... for now anyway...

The final state... for now anyway... Not the best print since I sent that out for the charity/show. This print in particular was over-wiped. Oh well, I'm out of practice.

A fun & whimsical doodle:

Tree creature with owl.

Tree creature with owl.

These figure sketches were done the day after my dog passed away. I didn’t have much sleep but I knew I needed to draw so I got myself to my figure drawing class. These sketches showed my lack of concentration but hey, I think showing up to the class was half the battle!

Quick figure study - I was trying to focus on the hands. My concentration was off that night!

Quick figure study - I was trying to focus on the hands. My concentration was off that night!

Anothe quick study ~30 minutes. Again, my lack of concentration felt obvious.

Anothe quick study ~30 minutes. Again, my lack of concentration felt obvious.

More quick, unfocused studies. But its the effort that counts right?

More quick, unfocused studies. But it's the effort that counts right?

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Grieving the death of my old furry friend

The Doubts

I set up a bed next to Siwa so that I could be with her through the night. I also sketched her to try to calm my mind and remain as emotionally stable as I could for her.

I set up a bed next to Siwa so that I could be with her through the night. I also sketched her to try to calm my mind and remain as emotionally stable as I could for her.

It’s been three days since Siwa passed away and the feelings are still very raw. I find myself thinking about the 35-hours prior to her passing, second-guessing my decision, wondering “What if I had________”, insert the appropriate word to fit the action/non-action I should have/could have taken. That is what makes the decision to euthanize a pet so difficult…when the doubts creep in once the decision has been made.

I spent the last 35 hours of Siwa’s life by her side, never leaving her once. I set up a bed next to hers, not really sleeping at all that night, trying to listen to her, for any movement that she might try to make.  I would move her occasionally so that she would not be in one position for too long, to help keep her blood circulating. I constantly cleaned her fur of the blood that would occasionally trickle from her mouth and I would keep changing the towel under her so she would not have to sleep in her own bloody drool.

Sketch therapy

Sketch therapy

[Here’s some advice for people with pets: have at least 5 towels designated specifically for your pet. Cut one big towel into several pieces that can be soaked in hot water when needed. This is what I did to clean the blood from her face. As the towels got soiled, I’d just grab another clean one, and as we used the towels, Jon would throw them in the washing machine so that we would have a constant supply of fresh towels.]

To keep my mind calm and my emotions stable, I decided to do some sketches of her. I believe animals are quite perceptive and can sense stress in their humans, and because of my emotional bond to this dog, I knew she could sense my immense grief. They are not the best drawings of her, but in the effort to draw, I like to think that I lessened her stress by trying to remain calm and focused.

Another Siwa sketch

Another Siwa sketch

I somehow slept several hours that night and it was during those hours that she managed to move herself. When I awoke, she had shifted on her bed, flipping herself completely around so that her head and her torso were on the bed, her bottom half on the ground. She seemed to be sleeping peacefully but when she heard my movements, she lifted her head and looked at me. And the thought that she MIGHT make it through this crept back into my mind. She even managed a tail wag.

It was very clear though that she was in pain. She still could not get up on her own and everytime I offered her water or chicken broth, she would turn her head away. I gave her the last injection of the painkiller her oncologist prescribed the day before. It was hard to determine if the blank look in her eyes was a result of the painkiller or if it was really the sign that she was ready to go.

Trying to remain calm & focused by sketching.

Trying to remain calm & focused by sketching.

Making the Preparations

Once I knew her vet’s office was open, I gave them a call to try to schedule at-home euthanasia.  I had spoken to them months prior to see if they could do this and they had responded with a possible yes, pending  the day’s schedule.  But because it was Monday, the receptionist could not give me an answer right away. I had to wait a couple of hours to hear back from them.

It’s the waiting that is the hardest. After having made a decision, seeing a dog suffer anymore than she has to, even with the painkillers, is very difficult. It also leaves opportunities for doubts, for wavering and indecision to occur.

My emotional state was obvious in the lines I drew. I was trying to focus but her proportions were clearly off.

My emotional state was obvious in the lines I drew. I was trying to focus but her proportions were clearly off.

I knew that she loved being outside so I managed to move her to her favorite morning spot. I grabbed my journal for more sketch therapy. Sketching is a wonderful way to remain present in the moment and even though I had not practiced much zazen in the past week, I like to think that the sketching served the same purpose.

At that point, my vet called back to say that she would not be able to come to the house because Monday always proved to be a very busy day for them. She could come by on Tuesday.  I was devastated. Fortunately, Jon decided to take the day off from work. He called other vets who made house calls, and found one who could come by that afternoon. She was expensive, and although I did not want to factor this into my decision process, I knew I had no choice. We made alternative plans.

Siwas favorite morning spot.

Siwa's favorite morning spot.

Jon made all the phone calls because I knew I would just break down and cry. He called her oncologist’s office to see if they would euthanize her in the car. This was the next best choice. The car was a second home to her; it meant adventure; it meant hiking, camping, traveling to forests, deserts, the SNOW! It meant FUN! He also called the crematorium to see if they could cremate her and have her ashes return to us that day.

I had been planning for this day from the time she was diagnosed with cancer and had researched options. I found the crematorium and drove there in the months before so that I would know how to get there. I did not want to be running around when the day came, trying to figure out what to do while in an emotional frenzy. And although it had not exactly turned out the way I had hoped, we had enough options to make informed decisions to make her death as respectable as we could.

About an hour prior to her passing. I moved her into the shade to keep her cool - she was a snow dog after all.

Photo taken about an hour prior to her passing. We moved her into the shade to keep her cool - she was a snow dog after all.

The Final Goodbye

When the time came, Jon and I put her bed into the car and drove to her oncologist’s clinic. We had the back windows of the car partially opened. I could see her occasionally trying to lift her head, as though she was sniffing at the passing scents. It seemed like she was trying to get up, but couldn’t.  When we got to the clinic, I climbed into the back of the car and laid down next to her, while Jon informed the clinic of our arrival.

I brought a warm wet towel to keep her face and fur clean from the blood coming from her mouth.  I tried to remain calm and whispered in her ear how much I loved her, that we would go for a walk,  and make the trip to Tahoe where she could roll in the snow (she LOVED snow), and that she would have chicken for dinner. I could hear my husband sobbing outside the car (there was no room for him in the car). This was the first time he had ever witnessed an animal euthanized, and even though this wasn’t my first, it NEVER gets easier.

I whispered a Tibetan Buddhist chant in her ear. I repeated this over and over, even as the vet and technician placed the final injection in her vein.  I laid next to her trying to remain calm and present, grooming her with the wet towel, telling her I loved her and wishing her a favorite rebirth.

Some People to Thank

This whole process was much harder than I thought it would be but it was made easier by the compassion and kindness of people, some of whom were strangers, and some who knew and cared for Siwa.

  • First and foremost, I need to thank Jon my husband, who was with me throughout the whole process. Siwa was his first dog after all, and she was the perfect dog for him to get introduced to. He was more of a cat person, and Siwa was part cat so that worked out well.
  • The Bay Area Veterinary Specialists: they had been treating Siwa for her cancer since early 2008 and knew her well. I especially want to thank Dr. Chiarello and Josue, the vet technician, who both responded with compassion when I made my emergency call on Sunday. I was comforted to know that she would pass on in the hands of people who had known and cared for her. They also gave me the gift of another two years with my dog. I had talked directly with Josue (pronounced Hosway) on Sunday and when he heard that it was Siwa I was calling about, he responded with “Oh, I know Siwa.” It didn’t take much but his response got me bawling on the phone. He was the technician present at Siwa’s passing.
  • Groveway Veterinary Hospital: especially Nicole and David who managed to rearrange the day’s schedule to accommodate our desire to have her cremated and returned to us that same afternoon.
  • Friends and Family: their kind and supportive words have really helped. Many of them had adventures with her in the Sierras, Tahoe, and the deserts, lakes and mountains of California and New Mexico.

Final remembrances of Siwa:

Siwa & Me, then in 1996 (she was ~3-4 mos. old; I was 23 YO); and in January 2009

Siwa & Me, then in 1996 (she was ~3-4 mos. old; I was 23 YO); and in January 2009

In Tahoe, Jan. 2009; Siwa absolutely loved snow if you couldnt tell by the big smile on her face. Photo taken by Tom Holub.

In Tahoe, Jan. 2009; Siwa absolutely loved snow if you couldn't tell by the big smile on her face. Photo taken by Tom Holub.

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Buddhist prayer for a dying beloved pet

Oh Buddhas & Bodhisattvas of the 10 directions and the three times,
Please protect and guide Siwa on her journey.
May she be free from fear and from clinging to this life.
May she have a favorite rebirth.

-Tibetan chant

Siwa, about an hour before she passed away

Siwa, 2/14/1996 - 11/16/2009; photo taken about an hour before she passed away

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How the creative person can overcome those days of doubt.

Tree portrait - Im learning to expand beyond my trusty ball point pen and am practicing drawing with carbon pencil. Trees are tough but with enough practice, I hope to understand the essence of trees.

I'm learning to expand beyond my trusty ball point pen and am practicing drawing with carbon pencil. Trees are tough but with enough practice, I hope to understand the essence of trees. Whether or not this tree succeeds is not the question - I'm just drawing and if it takes me 10,000 drawings of trees to get it right - then 10,000 drawings of trees it shall be!

I’m a member of Danny Gregory‘s Everyday Matters Yahoo Group and recently, Louise, one of the members posted an email regarding doubt. More specifically, she asked how members of the group overcome those days when the creativity doesn’t seem to flow and the insecurity is at an all time high.

How does one continue to promote one’s art without the self-consciousness and the fear of being labeled pretentious?

I am very familiar with these feelings so I shared with her some of the ways that I get through those days.

Being confident isn’t everything but it helps.

Having confidence is certainly key to a creative person’s success – whether it’s believing that you’ll eventually be able to paint the way you want to or be able to make a good living from your own creative work. After all, if you don’t believe in yourself, why should others?

Having written that, I also believe that it’s not as essential as some other traits. Because like the ability to draw and paint, I believe confidence can be acquired and strengthened with practice. It’s like a muscle – without the daily exercise, the daily practice, the daily doing – your confidence muscle can atrophy.

So, how to overcome the insecurities and gain confidence?

Being unafraid to fail is more important than confidence.

Drawings and doodles. One of my creative goals is to be able to illustrate the ideas I have floating around in my head so Ive taken to doodling in my journal to find my style. I dont know if I suck or am perceived as pretentious but it ultimately doesn't matter. I am in the process of finding my own style.  The Locks of Love illustration is an idea for an upcoming charity event. I shall post more when I get more details.

One of my creative goals is to be able to illustrate the ideas I have floating around in my head so I've taken to doodling in my journal to find my style. I don't know if I suck or am perceived as pretentious but it ultimately doesn't matter. I am sharing my process of finding my own style. For instance, The Locks of Love illustration is an idea for an upcoming charity event, and the devil-child & cat was Halloween inspiration.

Gain more confidence by doing, painting, drawing, getting yourself out there, participating in conversations, blogging about it, then failing, then learning, and keeping on going.

Learn not to be afraid to make the mistakes. And if there is fear, acknowledge the fear but don’t let your actions be controlled by it. That is at the heart of confidence.

Here are a couple of quotes that I absolutely love and keep close to my heart:

Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.

~Ambrose Redmoon

And my all-time favorite Thomas Edison quote:

I have not failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.

~Thomas Edison

Ack! But what if I suck? What if my work is seen as pretentious?

Recent mark-makings in my sketchbook.

Recent mark-makings in my sketchbook & playing with color.

Yes, I’ve heard those words in my own head many times. Here’s my take on it:

So what if I suck? Yes, I am going to suck, I am going to fail, I am going to make mistakes. See the above paragraph on how to overcome the suckiness and failures.

But eventually, I will figure it out by continuing to draw and create and practice. In the drawing and creating and practicing, my work might come off as pretentious, but that is all a part of figuring out who I am as an artist. The same thing applies to you.

And on the subject of pretentiousness – I think that comes through when a person isn’t being authentically themselves, pretending to be someone they are not. But that is a judgment call and is so subjective.  You can’t control what others think about you anyway so go ahead and just be yourself and have fun doing it!

Maybe you just need a break from the creativity.

So when the doubts hit, and the anxiety, stress and worries start to kick in, maybe you just need to go for a nice long walk. Just like with physical exercise and rest, your creativity muscles also need to relax.

For me, the external world can sometimes get so loud that I can’t hear myself think, let alone be creative. Those are the days when I shut off my computer, I throw the dogs in the car, and take a nice long hike up in the hills. I will come back feeling rejuvenated, and more ready to face that blank piece of paper or canvas.

What have you done that’s worked for you?

Other members of the EDM group suggested switching from one’s media of choice to another that one doesn’t always work with. And others suggested just doodling and making marks in one’s sketchbook (another one of my personal favorites).

What do you do to overcome doubt?

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