A Poem: The Climber

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Photo Credit: Crystal Smith
I stumbled upon rock climbing while I was volunteering abroad in Ireland a couple years ago, and was instantly hooked. This past summer, one of my best friends and I decided to join a rock gym near us. It was there that I discovered bouldering, and fell completely in love with it. I think staying active is important for our physical health, but much more importantly I think it improves our mental and spiritual health as well. Although I haven't been able to make it to the rock gym recently because of school, I eagerly await the day when I can get back into it. For me, the most important thing about rock climbing is that it doesn't actually feel like "working out." I encourage you, dear readers, to discover activities that don't make you feel like you are working out, but instead make you come alive, inspire you to work harder, connect you to to other people, and bring you laughter and joy. For me, those activities mostly manifest themselves in dancing and bouldering. What activities do that for you? 
This poem was inspired by the strength, grace, and poise of the climbers I saw around me at the gym. It really did look like they were dancing: I think bouldering, like so many other things in life, is an art form in itself.
  The Climber
Somehow he is...dancing.
Fingers claw the variegated pouch and  
Clouds of dust billow
Before his sinewy frame as he claps the chalk from his hands.
With meticulous grace he clings to the wall,
A peaceful predator roaming free in the wild.
Gently springing into action,
Each movement is studied.
One arm upwards,
A careful foot placed against the rock.
Cross over,
Take a breath.
Every fiber strains
Fit to burst
In a concentration of energy and poise.
All too soon it is over and,
Letting go,
He alights from the wall.
The mat beneath is a
Welcome release from the pain--

by Leanna Jill

Artist Spotlight: Tania Alden

Saturday, December 2, 2017


1. Tell me about your watercolor painting.
 Art was a big part of my childhood, though I never thought that I would become an artist. I started experimenting with watercolor when I was a teenager, but I only started painting regularly about 3 years ago. I never received official instruction in watercolor, but taught myself with mentorship from my artist mother. In the last year I have begun to invest more intentionally in my art. I have set myself painting challenges and goals, studied painters I admire, and took my first official class from a watercolor instructor. I paint as a form of expression. I don’t intend to do it at this point as a business, but it is great when people like my art enough to want to buy it.

2. Who or what inspired you to start painting?
 My mom is my biggest inspiration. Watching her artistic journey and process of discovering herself as an artist has been very powerful to me, especially because my process has been similar in so many ways. She is also just a fantastic artist herself, and her work speaks to me. Her feedback on my work is always of immense value.
Having an artist mom has been a major advantage, but it was also a drawback early on. I felt like I had to be her or nothing, and I wasn’t her, so that is probably why I didn’t consider the possibility of taking myself seriously as an artist until a few years ago.

"Liesel" by Tania Alden
3. Can you describe the process you go through when working on a new piece?
 I paint from photos. It's hard to say what grabs me about a picture...sometimes it's the mood, or an expression that inspires me, especially if it's a person. Sometimes it's the shapes and the light, but for whatever reason something about it strikes me. I know it when it's there and it’s very hard to paint if that inspiration is not there.
Before I begin painting it helps to spend a while looking at the picture and get a feel for it and what I want to do with it. Then I do a quick pencil sketch or value study. I then do the drawing, and because watercolor does not allow for much correction once the paint is applied, it really matters that I get the drawing right. I used to rush this part and was inevitably dissatisfied with the result. Then I wet the page with clean water, mix up my first wash and get started. I paint fairly quickly, I don’t think I have ever taken more than 2 hours on the actual painting part. I have learned to stop painting before I think the painting is finished, and step back to get perspective on it and decide if anything more is needed. Often taking a picture on my phone gives me a better perspective on the painting because narrowing it down into a smaller snapshot helps me see it as a whole. Cameras are also less forgiving and help highlight any major issues! Usually this whole process takes under two hours.

4. What is your favorite thing about watercolor painting?
 The actual putting paint on the paper! Watercolor is magic, and watching it do its thing and move on a wet surface is SO cool! I’m often sad that watercolors have to dry.
And there’s also nothing like reaching that point in a painting when you can see that what you were aiming to do is working, and sometimes working better than what you had envisioned. Having a picture come to life under your brush (especially when painting a person) is so exhilarating.

"Quiet" by Tania Alden
 5. What is the most challenging thing for you about watercolor painting?
Not being able to erase or make big corrections, because in this medium there is very little ability to correct without spoiling the beautiful watercolor washes. I used to ruin many paintings by “fiddling.” It’s also just hard when a painting flops, or doesn’t come together. It can feel very disheartening and it’s always tempting to draw sweeping and inaccurate conclusions about myself as an artist. I’m working on this though.

 6. What use do you think your art serves in this world and/or what is something positive that has come out of sharing your art with others that you did not foresee?  
It’s definitely a struggle to believe that painting has a use. It can be easy to think that it's just me doing this thing and it doesn’t have any relevance beyond that. But I believe that what is so powerful about art is that it captures something true, and in painting that can be a truth as simple as the roundness of a peach, or as big as the natural beauty of a landscape, as nuanced as a person’s expression. But when something true is depicted, it reaches us and uplifts us—challenges us, touches us. And as human beings this enriches our lives.
In my own painting, something that often moves me about a photo and makes me want to paint it is a depiction of innocence. This is particularly why I am drawn to painting children. Being able to depict a true quality as big and as good as innocence is kind of incredible to me. It’s amazing that it is possible. But it is uplifting to me and seems to be something that others respond to and value too.

"Rooted" by Tania Alden
 7. Any thoughts on the interaction between spirituality and your art specifically?
Painting absolutely serves my spiritual life and is an expression of my spiritual state. The times when I’ve painted things I feel the best about often feels like I was channeling something bigger than myself as I painted. It essentially feels like being a vessel. It can feel exhilarating and almost a little unnerving. I absolutely believe that this is the Lord flowing into my work. All good comes from the Lord and so whenever I capture something true or good in a painting, it is because I am giving up control enough to let these qualities flow into my work. It’s a weird intersection of learning skills and practicing them and owning the result… and also knowing that none of it is mine. It goes the other way too: I can paint best when I’m in a spiritual state, and painting often helps put me into a more spiritual state. It takes me out of myself and gives me a sense of purpose and wonder in creation.
I particularly find that painting lifts my mood and helps me move into a more elevated state when I decide to just have fun and play with the paint. And this makes perfect sense too because the Lord created this world for us to enjoy, and play in. Creative play feels like sending a great big thank you to our Creator.

8. Anything else you would like to share?
I’ve recently completed my first watercolor class and I feel like I’m entering this whole new realm of knowledge. I've been realizing just how big the pool is and I’m inspired by how much there is to explore. I have learned so much in the last few months, and there is still SO much room for growth. It is exciting and humbling, and overall makes me want to keep painting! 

"Colour Me" by Tania Alden

"Bright Girl" by Tania Alden
For more masterpieces by Tania, visit her on Instagram: @taniaaldenart

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