Seed Catalogs and Just Waiting to See What Happens

Mixed media collage
©2017  Molly Larson Cook


The autumn rains have come just in time to coincide with the election chaos, the end of my show and the ongoing pandemic, all of which have left me drained and unmotivated to get back to work. 

I visited the studio twice last week and the hallway of closed doors and empty spaces was hard enough, but when I opened my own door and sat for a few minutes in my still bright but almost empty space, nothing cheered me up.  I felt as if I were in a morgue.

This is not a good thing for a creative spirit. 

To be clear, I don’t believe that creativity comes because there’s a show in the offing or a concert or a potential sale.  I believe creativity is a spark in the human spirit that can’t be denied.  It can, however, be stricken, immobilized or blocked by the right set of circumstances.  Artists and writers have been known to stop their work for all kinds of reasons. 

So what do we do?  Just call a time out for ourselves?  Be patient?  Clean the closets?  Pray that something will come?  Forgive ourselves, by all means, for the “sin” of not working.  All and none of the above. 

When I work with writers who are stuck, I give them prompts.  Exercises to keep the muscles working.  And right now I’m doing the same for myself.  We don’t throw the babies out with the bath water.  But we don’t let the troubling pauses in our work take us down either.  . 

I know when it’s time to clean the brushes and sort the tubes of paint.  I can figure out the small things and keep myself busy.  But I’m not talking about busy work and this is not about small things. 

I’ve begun to take a longer look at some of my older work, going all the way back to my days with collages.  I’m not inclined to work on them again, but I’m not discounting anything right now.  What drew me to them in the first place?  Why did I shift from collages to abstract expressionism and paint?  What did I gain?  Lose?  These quiet days with the chilly rain and wind are a time to pause and reflect, review and reconsider. 

When I was a child, I loved paging through the seed catalogs that arrived about now at my grandmother’s house in eastern Oregon.  She was a consummate gardener with flowers and flowering shrubs in every corner of her yard.  But they didn’t just get there on their own.  And they didn’t come in the dead of winter either. They came in good time because of those lovely catalogs filled with color – every shade of rose, every color of tulip, every lily, the gladioli, the spirea, the smallest flowers to the most showy and all of them come to life from the seed catalogs. 

I feel a deep connection always between the flowers and my love of color.  Sometimes one true thing is enough.

I guess in a sense, this is the time for me to pore over the “seed catalogs” of my work and find inspiration.  Or go with the philosophy of Michael Lotenero whose work I discovered today.  In an interview for Cool Hunting, Lotenero says:

“I really just come in and go to work…I treat it like I just need to be here and see what happens. I like to tinker around and sort of play with things, play with ideas. It’s rare that I go, ‘Oh, I’m going to do a show in March and work toward that.’ I just come in, do the work and things find places.”


“You do get caught up in ‘Oh, that was really successful,’ or ‘I’m able to do that and let people know that’s mine.’ You want to stay there…it does feel nice to break off and do other things. It’s scary, though, too…You want to be comfortable; you want to be happy with what you’re doing… But other things can happen, too. You have to be open to that. And when things do happen, something else can happen, and I might find that it’d be a really cool big painting.”


“I like things just to happen as opposed to trying too hard. I feel like when I push it, or my hand is too heavy, I ruin it—it’s like hearing your own voice on a recording…You just have to make things and see what happens.”

Good enough for me.

For more about him, go here:





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