Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Downtown Denver

Every day, I walk downtown to work. It's a nice little walk. I like the view of the buildings and the sky. The morning is usually peaceful and quiet, especially if I can take it upon myself to get up and get to work early. From our last apartment, I had a 45-minute walk to work. My current walking commute from our apartment in Capitol Hill takes only 20 minutes. It's a nice change to have a shorter commute. I work more hours now, though, so it doesn't feel like I am saving any time (although having a full-time job is great and much appreciated).

Sometimes on the weekends Brian and I walk downtown to the movie theater. We try to use his car as little as possible--especially if we're going to be back after 4 or 6 pm. It's hard to find parking in Cap Hill after that time. It's nice being able to walk, though. The last movie we went to see was "Black Panther". We tried seeing "Lady Bird", but our seats were really close to the screen and we had to leave. They did warn us, but we thought they wouldn't be as close as they were. Those were the closest movie seats I've ever seen! We would have been tilting our necks all the way back the entire time. I still need to rent "Lady Bird" when it comes out.

Downtown Denver starts just after the Capitol Building and morphs into Lower Downtown (LoDo) somewhere along the way. It is not my favorite place in Denver, and it's not the first neighborhood I would recommend to see if you are visiting, but I do like going there from time to time. There are some cool old buildings amidst the taller office buildings, and there are a few decent restaurants peppered throughout the neighborhood. It looks a bit grungy during the day, but the lights on the trees give it a little sparkle at night.

Sometimes while walking through 16th Street Mall, we get a little flustered by the hustle and bustle, but then again sometimes I want to be part of the noise and the crowd. The Denver Art Museum is near downtown and the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver is in LoDo. I love going to Union Station in LoDo from time to time to enjoy the architecture of the building and the open seating area where you can sit and enjoy a sandwich or coffee from one of the surrounding cafes. There are couches, armchairs, and a shuffleboard table. If you're in Denver for a layover, getting to downtown from the airport is easy on the A Train. Then you can take the free shuttle from Union Station all along 16th Street Mall.

We like living in the middle of the city, for now. It's fun to have restaurants and bars at our fingertips. The noise of traffic and exhaust fumes coming in our window is not so fun. We're hoping to move to a smaller town soon. I imagine being surrounded by trees and waking up to hear birds chirping in the morning. I imagine having a four-season porch and taking my coffee out to my wicker chair to sit in the mornings with Kiki on her special porch dog bed. These dreams are nice, and they're taking over my thoughts more and more these days, but we will have to wait and see for that. For now, we take advantage of where we're living and enjoy our time at the local eateries and drinkeries.

What's your favorite kind of place to live? Are you living there now, or are you dreaming about it like me?

Seoul Sadness

Last night as I was falling asleep, I dreamt about Seoul and felt that heartbreaking feeling of loss that haunted me for my first year back in the United States. This morning, Brian was looking at his old neighborhood on Google Maps and I decided to find mine. I found the place I moved to in a suburb of Seoul 11 years ago. I "walked" the streets of my first neighborhood in Korea. I found the corner store I used to stop at on my way to work for a coffee in one of those little plastic cups with the lid and straw that you punch through the foil. The owners were so nice and friendly. When I first went to the store, they said something to me in Korean and I repeated it back to them. I thought that it meant 'hello', and I was proud of myself for learning my first word in Korean. It was only a few days or weeks later that I learned that it meant 'welcome'.

As I looked at the street view, it all came back to me. I found the bridge over the road where I dropped a bag of groceries when I was sick. I found the park with the man-made lake where I used to walk around and around while listening to music on my headphones. My favorite part was the lily garden, even though it would be swarming with mosquitoes in the summertime. It was a little scary, but incredibly beautiful, to walk through the park during an intense summer storm with a lot of lightning--one of the first that I experienced. I have so many fond memories there that for a minute, I just wanted to go back. I just wanted to walk all of the streets I'd walked before one more time. I wanted to be there, in Korea, sitting outside of a convenience store drinking coffee or other beverages with my friends. I wanted to be on the subway watching the landscape slide smoothly by on my way into Seoul on a Saturday. I wanted to be in my favorite cafes, just to know that they were real and I had really been there before.

I haven't felt this way for a long time, but a dream or a picture can bring it back. A little part of my heart is broken by being far away from the place that I called home for 7 years. I look back and have my regrets, things I should have done differently, things I didn't do. I want to live it one more time, slowly, just to take it all in breathe by breathe. But I know I won't be doing that, and I know that I might not even visit. I do hope that I can visit someday, though. I would have to go for two or three weeks to give me time to visit the first city I lived in and all of the places that hold memories for me in Seoul. I would want to take at least one trip to the mountains and one trip to the beach. If only some of my friends from Seoul could visit at the same time. That would be an amazing trip.

Missing home in Korea wasn't the same as missing Korea at home. When I lived in Korea, I always knew that I would move home eventually. I knew that even if I ended up living abroad forever, I would at least visit home as often as I could. But with Korea, I don't know if I will ever walk those streets again.

How are all of you doing with living abroad or moving home again after living abroad? Has anyone else experienced these feelings?

Sunday, March 4, 2018

A YouTube Drawing Lesson

This morning I watched a documentary on Louise Bourgeois presented by Tracey Emin. I am always inspired to make art after seeing art by someone I admire. When we got back from the dog park, I sat down with this drawing lesson and tried my hand at sketching. I would like to build a regular sketching practice in order to improve my drawing skills, but also for my own enjoyment and relaxation.

When I sketch, I sometimes hold my breath and get anxious as I am trying to get my hand to move a certain way. My stomach knots up and my hand becomes tense. I would like to teach myself how to draw without the anxiety and tenseness. Art can be a form of meditation for me, but not if it is tying my stomach in knots to do a simple sketch.This is why I plan to also make breathing exercises and yoga a part of my life routine, in hopes that it will seep into my everyday actions and help me to do even simple tasks with focus and clarity. I will keep drawing spheres until I am able to breathe and draw at the same time. After just a little bit of practice, my sphere and my breathing are already getting better.

'How to Draw Ep. #01' is a very good place to start for someone who wants to get back to the basics and relearn drawing skills after not drawing for a long time, or for someone who has never sketched at all. I took a drawing class in college over ten years ago and I need to brush up on my basic drawing skills. In the past five years, I've been making mostly line drawings. I enjoy these drawings, but I reached a point where I couldn't do anything else and now I would like to expand my abilities. In this drawing lesson, I like how he presents his lesson and doesn't give you too much information all at once. It's easy to watch this video and get started immediately. I also appreciate that he lays out the tools that you will need and gives you information about them. Part of learning any skill is understanding the tools that are required and how to use them.

If I chose to dedicate more time right now to learning how to draw, I would take a class from Skillshare. For now, I will keep sketching here and there when I feel like making time.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Self-Doubt & Making Art

Whenever I go to a gallery or art museum, I alternate between getting butterflies and my stomach dropping. It is so exciting to see what all of these great people have made, and I want to make things too. I want to understand what people have made, and I want it to change my life or expand my awareness or open a door to feelings that I have brushed under the rug or didn't even know I had. Being in that creative environment makes me want to stay there forever, but I fear that I cannot or do not know how to make art a part of my daily life. It's a feeling of something being just beyond my fingertips--I can almost touch it before it disperses in a cloud of smoke.

I wander through the museum and think about the times in my life when I lose all faith in art. I wonder why we make it at all and what it even means. There are a lot of other people who have those same thoughts, but I wonder if they also have a great love for art, or if they were never very interested in the first place. From a young age, I made art and wanted to make more art. I greatly enjoy looking at art, watching documentaries about art, hanging it on my walls, and learning as much as I can. But I can't seem to keep art straight in my mind. What is it for? Why is it here? How does it play a role in my life?

A lot of these thoughts and feelings come from the frustration that  I feel when I cannot express what I would like to express through art. I have thoughts, feelings, and ideas that I would like to express, but I haven't taken the time to build the skills needed to express them. Then I wonder if art has any worth if it has no deeper meaning. I ask myself, "Do I have deeper ideas that are worth expressing?" Even now, I'm sitting here thinking, "But I also just love the feel of pencil on paper and the look of an image coming to life--whether it's the human form or a landscape or something more abstract."

Maybe the answer is that there is no answer. Maybe there are hundreds and hundreds of answers. If you enjoy sketching just for the sake of sketching, then that is your answer. Sketch away to your hearts content. If you enjoy creating or viewing complex abstract paintings with meanings hidden in every nook and cranny, then that is your answer. Wander endlessly through galleries and museums taking in the images in front of you, letting them sink deeply into your mind. Put on some music and just paint. If you enjoy immense installations that boldly confront viewers with an intensely colorful and vivid view on life, then that is your answer. Ask yourself what questions you need to have answered, and take them on in whichever way suits you best.

Whatever we each want to do and see is up to us. If you don't want to look at art, don't look at art. If you want to enjoy the pure beauty of the colors of paintings at a museum or if you want to analyze them and ask what they mean, then do so. If you want to buy prints and hang them in your house or send art postcards to friends, then this is your way of enjoying and engaging in art. We all have our own way of living that is different from everyone else. We do things differently, and we enjoy things differently. We all bring a different meaning to everything we see, experience, and do.

This is why, when I have the thought that it's useless to make art and I should never make art again, I find myself also thinking, "Why not?" I can make art because I like the process, or the product, or the feel of pencil scratching a line across a blank white page. I can make art because it always seems to help me express myself, even if it wasn't exactly what I had envisioned. I am usually surprised at how what I am feeling somehow finds a way to show up on paper even when I wasn't planning on showing it.

In the end, maybe some of us will make a difference in the world with art, or maybe just within ourselves. Both are important. If it something that we feel drawn to do, it doesn't matter if we have it hanging in a big museum or fancy gallery. Art can be very therapeutic and healing. I haven't made art in a while, but I would like to make it a part of my life again, eventually. I could do it now, and start making art every day. But I've been spending time on other things that I want to spend time on. I don't know how big of a presence art will end up having in my life, and that's okay.

When I'm ready, I will start over. I'd like to start from the beginning and take a drawing class on evenings or weekends. I want to learn basic skills again and use them as building blocks for making better art and to be able to express myself more clearly. I will pay better attention and work harder on sharpening my skills than I did when I was younger. I will take it slowly, and learn deeply, as I am trying to do with every aspect of my life. I suspect that I was in too much of a rush to see what kind of finished product I could make when I was younger, and that got in the way of learning and living. 

What is the thing in your life that you struggle with but still want to do? How have you found the motivation to keep doing it? Whatever it is you want to do, give it a try. Don't let anyone hold you back--especially yourself. 

(The photos in this post were taken at the Denver Art Museum.)

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

An Art Opening

A few weeks ago I met Brian after work and we walked from Downtown Denver to RiNo (River North). The light was pretty, and we admired the cityscape as we went on our way. The buildings stood shining against the slowly darkening sky, which was becoming that deep blue that I love so much about Colorado. It's nice to live in Capitol Hill, work Downtown, and be able to walk to several other interesting neighborhoods. Lately I've been craving the peace of the countryside, the ocean, and the forests, but I will enjoy the city while I'm here.

We were headed to Finn's Manor to meet some friends for dinner before making our way over to RedLine for their opening of 10X. The show includes past resident artists and is a celebration of their 10th anniversary. They have many residents and keep their studios open for visitors. It's neat to get a peak into the artist's workspace and see what they're up to. I like to see works in progress and other pieces that aren't on display in the main gallery space. It's also interesting to get a glimpse of the tools that you don't see when you're just looking at a finished piece of art on a white wall, neatly framed or presented.

RiNo is the first neighborhood that Brian and I became acquainted with when we moved to Denver. We drove through the city and around again trying to get a look at everything. I looked at the map and found a place called Mockery Brewing. It had an interesting name and was sure to have some food to accompany the drink, so we followed the directions and ended up in RiNo for our first dinner in Denver. We were a little surprised when we arrived. It was a very industrial looking place and didn't look like what I had in mind when I thought of a city. Little did we know that there were art galleries, murals, restaurants, and bars in a fairly bustling part of the neighborhood a few blocks away. Although we had expected something different from Denver, we've come to enjoy what it is and we've gotten to know the different neighborhoods quite well over the past two years.

It's always a fun time at Finn's Manor. I enjoy the outdoor seating and food trucks so much. Maybe it's my days sitting outside of convenience stores enjoying kimbap and makgeolli with friends in Seoul or summer BBQs with family in the Columbia River Gorge, but there is always something special about sitting outdoors for a meal. Maybe it's just that we spend much of our waking lives (and our sleeping lives too) enclosed within the walls of our homes and workplaces, but I enjoy getting outside whenever I can.

The food at Finn's Manor is pretty good as far as I can tell. I've heard that the Thai noodles aren't quite a satisfying meal, but they probably make for a good snack or appetizer. We've had the tator tots and chicken sandwiches a couple of times. Nothing says good food truck food like gourmet tator tots! It was a fairly warm winter day, and with the heaters going, it was a fine night to sit outside. I love the decor of the outdoor bar, which I never manage to get a picture of. They've added a covered seating area in front along with some lights. The bar itself is in a shipping container with carved wood tiles covering the walls. The outdoor bar is old-fashioned and charming, and I'm sure the bartenders make a charming old-fashioned at that.

We walked the 15 minutes to RedLine where we were greeted with a large crowd of people milling about the front courtyard and entrance. Getting into the building itself was a bit of a struggle--especially with my backpack, winter coat, and scarf-that's-really-a-blanket. I vow to never again walk straight from work to an event. From now on I plan on dumping my belongings at home, even if it means an extra long walk.

RedLine was packed, but it was fun. There were so many fascinating installations, paintings, photos, and other art. We had to visit the studio of one of our favorite artists residents at RedLine who takes paper made in the traditional Korean method and turns it into gorgeous sculptures. I love being in the studios and imagining the artists hard at work or just having deep art-y discussions with their fellow artists and inspirations. And it also makes me want to make the time for art again, which I sometimes do, but mostly don't. We ended up only staying for as long as it took to meander at an even pace around the gallery. I would've liked to stay longer and take a deeper look, but Brian and I were feeling sick that night. We hailed a Lyft and went on home, our hearts full of a good city, good friends, and good art.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Mount Evans, Colorado

On the 4th of July in 2016, we drove to the peak of Mount Evans at 14,130' when we were still new to Colorado. It's about a two-hour drive from Denver. On our way up, we stopped at a little mountain town for lunch at a diner with a sequin sign that shimmered in the wind. It almost looked like it was lit up. We had burgers with apple pie for dessert. When Brian and I were still in Korea, I found myself having moments of panic that moving back to the US together, finding jobs, and making a new start would not work out. One day I made Brian promise me that we would eat apple pie together on the 4th of July at a diner in the US. Whenever I was fearful for the future after that, I would picture that scene and it would make me feel better. It helped to have an image--a moment--to focus on.

The drive to the top of Mount Evans was beautiful and terrifying. The further up you went, the further down you could fall. The roads became steeper with a larger drop off the side. We were surrounded by tundra that is protected from human feet with signs asking visitors to stay off the delicate landscape. Beyond the tundra there are mountains for as far as you can see. It was raining in the distance the day we were there, which created an even more mystical experience of an already magical place. We stopped at Summit Lake for a bit on our way up. We spent some time staring in awe and went on the trail around the lake. The trail led to more beautiful views down the side of a deep mountain valley. To continue on the trail, you would have to climb up some steep and difficult boulders. We weren't prepared for even a moderate hike, let alone something like that. We chose to get back in the car and drive up to the peak.

At the peak there were a lot of other tourists. It was at this point that I believe I felt the affects of the altitude. We weren't hiking and we were drinking a lot of water, so it wasn't too bad. I would imagine that if we hadn't already lived in Denver for a few months, it would've been worse. We also saw a lot of mountain goats checking out the cars and the humans. One goat was even trying to eat the tire of a big truck. I was a little surprised that so many people were getting so close to the goats. I could foresee a disaster happening, but luckily nobody was charged. I guess these goats are used to visitors, but my rule is to keep well away from wildlife and enjoy them from a distance. I hope they aren't being disturbed too much by tourism.

At the top of Mount Evans we enjoyed more views of the mountains stretching as far as the eye could see. We spent some time taking it all in, walked around a bit, and had a picnic lunch. The drive down the mountain was even more harrowing than the drive up. It was only made worse when it started to rain. By the time we were about halfway down the mountain, it started to hail and our heater wasn't working. The hail eventually stopped, but we were slowed down again by the traffic leaving the mountain for the day. It seemed like many other people had the same idea of getting out of Denver for 4th of July. Although the ride home was a little less than ideal, it was still a great day trip and a nice way to celebrate our first Independence Day at home in the US.

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