Friday, July 27, 2007

By the Bridge

Delaware Memorial Bridge by Levin
Delaware Memorial Bridge by Levin Above:
"The Storm That Passed"
pencil drawing in moleskine sketchbook

"The Storm That Passed"
acrylic on paper

Nature was giving me a hint of its power by pushing my car around with the force of its gusty winds as I sketched from the safety of the driver's seat. Somehow life seems so much clearer when I sit by the water as it changes rapidly there. No matter how threatening the weather seems, the clouds always break to show the beautiful blue sky behind. Why is it on a dark stormy day we tend to forget how quickly the sun comes out again? It always comes back to shine. Always.

I'm starting to fall in love with this spot by the bridge. The structure is constant but the scene forever changes. I could paint it every day of my life and never run out of new ways of seeing it. It is sort of like life I guess. When I was younger I thought at a certain point I would have life pretty well figured out and I would just be following some sort of plan. Now, I realize there is no real plan and every day things change and the view is different. That being said, I truly don't understand when people say they are bored. Perhaps they are not looking hard enough.

Monday, July 23, 2007

One Man's Trash

Salem Nuclear Plant by Lori Levin
"Not So Distant Threat"
acylic on canvas

My Saturday morning routine is simple. At 6AM I make a special treat of my version of french toast made with the healthiest of ingredients to give me energy for the next few hours painting en plein air. This past Saturday was no exception and the morning promised to be great as it was cool, crisp and clear for a July morning. I planned to paint marshes so that I would have three versions completed. However, when I got to the site I yearned to paint, the traffic was so heavy I feared it would not be wise to stand on the shoulder of this busy road.

I then decided to paint on the beach in Elsinboro but a voice in my head directed me down Ft. Elfsborg Road. No marshes were to be found but there on my right was the smoke plume of the nuclear plant lit by the morning sun overlooking the farmland of Salem County. It reminded me of my cancer in that it was something ominous yet beautiful. I had to paint it. As I set up I kept wondering who the heck would want a freaking painting of the nuke plant and therefore why should I paint it. I just knew I had to paint it even if it collected dust in the studio.

As the birds sang and that little bee came around that follows me to every painting site, a handsome cyclist stopped to admire my work. It turns out that he worked at the plant and mentioned that the executives would contact me about owning such art for the corporate offices. Once he peddled off a local farmer came by and thanked me for creating such a lovely piece about the beauty of his backyard. He mentioned how he loves how the light changes the color of the cooling tower. Another fellow stepped out of his house to wave and give me the thumbs up. Two phrases entered my mind. "Build it and they will come" and "one man's trash is another man's treasure."

(Please pardon the skewing of the horizontal landscape. I was too close to the painting when I photographed it.)

Friday, July 20, 2007

Nobody Screams Get Me An Artist

Liberty "View From the Top"
pencil sketch in moleskine sketchbook

While I waited over an hour for my doctor and his entourage to come into the room yesterday, I sketched the Liberty Place buildings, as seen from the window of the 15th floor, Penn Tower of the University of Pennsylvania Hospital. It only took me a few minutes, the rest of the time I spent reading the articles in the Philadelphia Weekly. It was so funny to watch him and all the other white coats walk by, quickly peaking in the room to watch me draw. Isn’t it funny how attracted people are to creativity in progress yet so many avoid it themselves out of fear. My dear Dr. Schuster was going on about how he loved to draw and was often told to pursue art. I asked him why he never did, while he was right in my face feeling under my arms and around my chest for swollen lymph nodes. He looked deeply into my eyes with his eyes looking somewhat crazed and said, “because everyone screams ‘get me a doctor’ not ‘get me an artist’.” I laughed. Maybe if we all screamed for artists and creative release we wouldn’t need the doctors.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

The Big R!

Yup, you guessed it.


I was surprised and beyond elated today that the doctors used that word. It wasn't supposed to be discussed for a couple more months. I just can't believe it. However, after much discussion amongst all the guys with the letters after their names, they all agreed it was true. It was also commented that they haven't seen anyone with such rapid healing in the radiation damaged site before. Doctors were asking ME what I was doing. I told them exercise, flax oil and prayer. I wonder if that will go in the medical books. Doubtful. Seems like I had the last word though and we all know how I love that.

To all my friends and family, thank you again for your prayers and support. You rode that roller coaster with me and for that I'll always be thankful.

A quick "shout out" to my buddies Vicki, Dave and Joe for their quick and joyful communication today. Isn't it interesting how new friendships are formed and old ones strengthened during times like this?

Be well everyone!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Changing Weather

Delaware Memorial Bridge by Levin
Delaware Memorial Bridge by Levin
"The Storm That Wasn't"
pencil sketch in moleskine book

"The Storm That Wasn't"
acrylic on paper

The other night I saw a storm approaching and quickly put my supplies into my car and rushed to Riverview Beach Park to do another study about the Delaware Memorial Bridge. It started to get dark and dreary with this strange orange glow peaking through as the evening approached. The excitement that a pending storm brings set in as I began to work. However, it never happened. The clouds built then quickly broke apart. No rain, not even a rumble of thunder. Folks continued to walk their dogs and life went on as usual as it does on a warm summer evening in the park.

I couldn't help but think about my own storm that never happened. I'm still trying to get that feeling of foreboding out of my mind. Just like when the weatherman predicts a massive weather event and it doesn't come to fruition, we all seem to talk about what could have been and breathe a collective sigh of relief. Sigh.

On a lighter note, I listened to the weatherman this morning. He said Salem County would miss the early morning rain. I laced up and went for my morning constitutional. He was wrong. I finished my last mile in a drenching downpour. I laughed the entire way home.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Up the Down Escalator

Lori's Plein Air Set Up
Marsh by Lori Levin

"Marsh Reflections"


acrylic on canvas

"Marsh Reflections" was painted en plein air alongside the road right near Fort Mott. It was one of those days that no matter what I did I felt like I was fighting a losing battle. I tried to head out early to paint but everything delayed my leaving the house. Then upon setting up my work station (see the above photo taken during painting "Morning Marsh") the flies came at me with a vengeance. The breeze shifted, which brought the flies and a very fishy smell. I refused to quit. Smacking biting flies off my legs and wishing I had brought sun screen I tried to stay focused. Then, in the distance, I hear a strange rumble interrupting the quiet still of the marsh. It grew louder. This did not bode well. Suddenly an 18 wheeler came flying down the road like it was on the interstate. This is a dead end road. Even though I was safely on the dirt shoulder the ground shuddered beneath me and my disposable palette flipped up and paint was everywhere. I continued painting. Then a cyclist, with quite the kit I must say, swerved awfully close to me because HE WAS ANSWERING HIS CELL PHONE! Ok people, if you are on your bike for some exercise and nature, stay the frig off your phone! Folks are funny. I got bitten one more time by a fly and a bee buzzed in my ear and I cursed loudly and packed up to finish the piece at home. Enough was enough. I didn't go through chemo and radiation to be killed on the side of the road for my art.

The lesson here is that if you feel like you are trying to run "up" the "down" escalator, change directions. Seriously, this is a very important lesson to learn. If you are feeling like no matter what you do you just can't make progress it is time to reevaluate and find something else to do. Life is not supposed to be that hard. I swear.

(Blogger is doing weird things with spacing today...please excuse that.)

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Worn Through

Elsinboro by Levin"Worn Through"
acrylic on canvas

Back in 2005 I went for a stroll in Elsinboro Beach , Salem County. It is a strange place of beauty that is somewhat overshadowed by the nuclear plant lurking in the distance. I feel a certain pull to go there as I find an interesting juxtaposition between what is natural and what man has created. While walking along the beach that day I saw this little hole in the built up sand that the water had worn a path through. Rocks were perfectly lined up to direct the eye to this little natural bridge of sorts. It begged one to look at what was on the other side. I photographed it and did a tiny oil sketch of it in hopes of doing a larger piece later.

Last week after I received the news that perhaps the lymphoma beast was back, I pulled out that little sketch. I was full of anger, frustration and frankly rage. I felt just like that little hole in the earth so tread upon, so very worn. I feared I had nothing left to give to this cancer project. For the first time in this process I was terrified to be hopeful. Taking it out on the painting was the only thing I could think to do. At times it was just too painful to continue as I abstracted this image into something that was beyond just an opening in the earth.

As I look at it now I realize that despite my feeling of despair the colors are vibrant and there is a ton of energy in the piece. One cannot feel true anger at something that doesn't matter so for me the fight still obviously had meaning. Once I saw what was before me I was at peace with whatever fate dealt me. I realized I was not as worn through as I thought.

Being a very blessed individual, once again I was given a reprieve. The report came in today that my new scan shows less cellular activity than back in February. This means that it is the highest likelihood that what shows now on the screen is scar tissue and not active tumor. If my next test in 8-12 weeks shows the same or better information the word "remission" will finally be used. Another high possiblity is "cure" but that won't be mentioned for quite a few more years. I do believe now that I will hear that word as well.

I feel like I've won the lottery. I have my friends and family who stood by me every step of the way to thank for strength to keep moving forward.

Thank you everyone for your prayers. As you can see they worked.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

How's the Fishin'?

Morning Marsh by Levin "Morning Marsh"
acrylic on canvas

Sunday morning I was along the roadside of Supawna Meadows painting my little heart out. Last year I saw this little marsh area and knew that someday I would paint it. I have taken many photographs of it but never did they speak to me like standing there. Now that I am a newbie plein air painter I have the freedom of capturing what I see without needing a camera.

I think painting en plein air is so good for teaching one to truly be in the moment. Throughout my life I've always struggled with the concept. I've wasted much time thinking ahead or going over the past while the present just slipped away. As I painted "Morning Marsh" there was no time for anything but putting juicy paint on the canvas. With each passing minute the tide changed and my little mounds of mud were taking on a different look entirely. The light shifted. A blue heron flew into my scene and distracted me. I was stung by a little bee. Not one little second could be wasted on worry or planning. I was forced to just be and do. Truly a beautiful thing.

However, there was one moment that broke the spell. Two good old boys pulled up in their well used pickup truck. They glanced at my painting then walked right over to me in front of my painter's box and asked, "How's the fishin' here?" I'll refrain from comment.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

The Lord Giveth...

Riverview by Lori Levin
Riverview by Lori Levin "Waiting for You"
acrylic on paper

He sure do taketh away too. Well, maybe I'm being a bit dramatic but some weeks it seems as the good definitely comes with the bad. This week I'm happy to say I completed 3 paintings and touched up two old pieces that just needed a little love. I would consider that an extremely productive week in the studio. The art was flowing and it was good.

The above sketch and painting was created at Riverview Beach Park in Pennsville one evening as I was being eaten by noseeums. More perils of painting en plein air. I think it was worth it though. I feel this piece captured what I saw and felt as the day was ending. I'll post the other works later in the week. Don't want to give it to you all at once and spoil you.

So now you are wondering what could be the bad part of the week. Well, I wouldn't say it was bad necessarily, just frustrating. It seems my scan last week, the one that was supposed to declare my cancer finally in remission, came back sort of "questionable". It leaves the good doctors wondering if they got the beast the first time. If they didn't it means some pretty ugly treatment for Lori. However, I cannot get too upset yet as they just don't know. I need another type of scan now and perhaps more blood work to make them feel better. Maybe I should have named this post "Waiting". Or perhaps, "GIVE ME A FREAKING BREAK ALREADY!!!"! I prefer the later.

So, nobody get nervous, it's not time for that yet. Basically I've learned to roll with the punches. I get upset for a day and even dance with the devil. However, I never dance long or let him lead. This is when things get challenging, when you are not actively battling the c-funk and waiting. If I am to survive this stupid thing I must be resilient and focus on all my joy. That focus got me 3 new paintings. It's a good thing...Martha would agree.