On Art as Solace

“It may be that when we no longer know what to do,
we have come to our real work
and when we no longer know which way to go,
we have begun our real journey.

The mind that is not baffled is not employed.
The impeded stream is the one that sings.”
― Wendell Berry

I went to the neighborhood grocery store today and the line outside and crowd inside was more busy than I had seen it since the very early, very panicky days of the pandemic. There’s a feeling of impending change, chaos, something hard to define. I have been asked a lot about what my plans are for Tuesday night, election night here in the US. This isn’t something I have had to consider in previous years, so I haven’t really had a good answer.

But like Wendell Berry, I recognize that the real journey begins when we realize there is no good answer, no clear road, and that real creative and innovative rewards can come from that as well. So, like other times when I have reached something that seems impossible to navigate around, I will be in my studio for the most part. When I’m creating with my hands, it frees up my mind to process without judgment, and in that processing I often find inspiration, motivation and hope. Honestly I will probably be spending less time online and more in my studio for the next few weeks, so if I don’t post for a little bit, that’s what’s-what.

Other things that my husband and I have planned for Tuesday include a text chain with his friends so that he feels socially connected, and also the two of us planning out some fun things for the remainder of 2020; things that are within our control in terms of geography, budget and pandemic considerations and so are unlikely to change or disappear. It is so important to have things to look forward to.

It will get better, it always does. Take care of yourself. Control what you can control and let the rest be what it will be. Go to your art materials, musical instrument, the draft of your novel or screenplay. Find a way to use this time for good.

Catching Up on a Tuesday

Things have been pretty busy, and time has gotten away from me here in this still unnamed studio. I’ve made a good stack of new work, and spent the weekend in East Texas doing some research and getting some more photos and other items to use.


It was nice to be home in East Texas, and my work on the Pine Curtain project made it a little more interesting to be there. The nature of it being a community history means that it gave me a lot of new things to talk about with my family, which was fun. Both my mom’s side and my dad’s side are from and still live there, a mile or two apart, and their extended families came from other parts of the piney woods. So, with those two perspectives there is a wealth of information and lots to learn. Also, as time is doing its thing with my parents and older relatives (and me!) it is important and valuable to get these stories as close to firsthand as I can, while I can.

During a break in activity, I went to the older of the two community cemeteries and walked around looking for names that matched my research. Many of the headstones from that era (late 1800s) were pretty weathered, but I identified a few who I had been reading about. It was cool to see, and to connect what I am doing to real people.


So, now I am back to the more usual routine, and that always feels good. Now that my Etsy store is stocked and up, I can look toward 2021 and work toward some of those goals!

Art on a Rainy Tuesday

Today is the first day of fall, and here in Texas it is finally cooler and a bit rainy. “Hygge Weather,” I call it, and for this year at least, at my house late September to late February is “Hygge Season.” No one knows what Halloween and the holidays will look like, but we can be pretty sure that being cozy at home is still the best way to go, at least for those of us city-dwellers. So, I decided to try and take a bit of control over these things we can’t control, and embrace the positive.


Yesterday, in my Instagram archive, an interesting post popped up from seven years ago. I was in East Texas at The History Center in Diboll, TX, researching for the novel I was working on at the time. (And technically still am, as I put it away with about a third of it left to finish.) My research was centered on the more salacious bits of East Texas history, not something I’d really make into a print. At the same time, that research is still very valid, as I still go back to the materials I copied to check my facts around locations, names and milestones as I create art around and write Pine Curtain Stories. I put my novel away when my professional career started to ramp up, and I didn’t have any time to devote to it. I had often regretted not finishing that story. Now, with the benefit of hindsight, I have many fewer regrets because I see that time wasn’t wasted. The work I put in then is helping me now, and who knows, maybe I’ll eventually drag my book back out and finish it, too. So, if you’re struggling or feel like you’ve wasted creative time on a project that fizzled out, don’t worry so much. Put it aside and revisit it from time to time, and life may surprise you.


As I keep returning to Homer as a creative focus, the concept of Ghost Towns rattles around in my head. Ghosts of the past, ghosts of what might have been. Literal ghosts? Some say yes. And yet, to me, it never really felt sad or like it has dwelled in missed opportunities. Homer’s population is small, for sure. It has hovered between 350 and 500 for most of my life. But it has always been so busy and vibrant. At the same time, it was definitely insular, “the bubble” as I call it, and I did have a hard time acclimating as my life got bigger. So, in a way, those woods and fields are also full of ghosts I loved and then left behind.


So, how does this circle back to art? As I have mentioned before, for me, art helps me make sense of things that are hard to process and harder to articulate. When I am making a print or painting, especially for this project, it opens up new parts of my mind to communicate with, and to communicate without overthinking. At the same time, art begets art, and when I am working on a piece, thinking about the story behind it, my mind is more open to ideas about future pieces, or stories, or research I want to go back to.


Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”

Rainer Maria Rilke

All in how you look at it

Gel Print plate with acrylic painting, post-printing.

I’ve wanted to create on bigger canvases for a while now, and made my first 16 x 20 print using a large gel plate. I wasn’t sure how it would go, as I had only printed on paper, and never paper as large as this canvas.

As with my other work, I wanted to keep it loose and a little abstract. I enjoy it when the piece tells me where it’s going. But where was this going? For a while, it was hard to tell. Maybe nowhere good!

I added layers and pattern until I was happy with it. But as I became happier with the flowers, I realized there was still a lot of space to fill. My flowers looked like they were floating in space! Not the look I was going for. And yet, I knew if I wasn’t careful, I would overwork the piece.

I walked away for a few hours, then came back and started to rotate the canvas, something pretty easy to do with these more abstract pieces. I also added some marks, which I admit are not my best work. 😀 But, that’s okay, that’s why we experiment!

I turned it on its side, and found the perfect spot for a vase or pot to go. So, that balances out the painting a bit more, and now I can begin adding the finishing touches and fix the marks that I don’t like as much. This is still a work in progress, for sure.

The lesson here is to look at your art from all angles! I stared at this painting for a while before I realized I could turn the actual canvas. It was that easy to change perspective and find a solution. Especially in more abstract works, don’t forget to use ALL of the tools in your box, even the ones that in hindsight, seem pretty obvious.


Working on a larger piece is fun, and poses new challenges to overcome. My biggest challenges were filling the space, and balancing enough definition to make it look “finished” at that size, while keeping it in my loose style without going too abstract. In general, I like the piece and think it’s a great start. This is more for practice and won’t be for sale, but I plan to have at least three large canvases available when I open my art shop next month.

Art on a Monday

Abstract floral monotype by Stephanie Khattak.

“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.”
― Thomas Merton , No Man Is an Island

It’s Monday in “Studio No-Name,” and I’m still thinking on what to call my creative space. It won’t be Studio No-Name!

The process of naming my studio makes me think of the saying, “you must name it to claim it.” I have struggled with “claiming” my identity as an artist over the years, for all the reasons that many people do. I’m not conventionally educated. It’s not my primary income. I’m just not “there yet.” It doesn’t feel like “work”. But art is art and artists are artists. I think it’s important to take steps to legitimize the work that we do, whether our pieces are hung in galleries, displayed proudly at Mom’s house or decorating our own spaces. I’m trying to be better at claiming my practice, and so should you! (Even if we’ve never met, if you’re an artist, I suspect that you can relate to this.)

With that in mind, earlier today, I renewed my Texas Visual Arts Association membership and made a spreadsheet for places to submit work to in the next few months. This isn’t something I have done before, and I’m excited to try! It’s not an easy season of life to be an artist, especially an emerging artist, but opportunities are still there.


I have started a series of work that will be ready for sale in October. I closed my store at the beginning of the year, but I miss having it as a goal to work toward. The sales are nice, of course, but so is the self-directed goal of making enough work to post.

Because my Pine Curtain project is so specific, those pieces won’t be for sale, at least not right away. So, that frees my mind to switch to different subject matter and processes for a while. The above abstract floral is one of a few smaller works on paper that will be available, and I am also working, for the first time, on some larger pieces!