The Park Painters

*Waves* It’s me: Kevin McGillivray. And this: the Pattern Workshop newsletter (working and re-working title). Welcome to a new season. Maybe you didn’t know this newsletter had seasons. Neither did I! We sure are learning a lot together.

Let’s look back at the first season.

Posts: 14
Subscribers: 49 (thank you all for hanging out with me)
Topics: creativity, and what it’s like to practice it

What’s ahead? That’s what I want to talk about today… seasons and fresh starts. Let’s watch the trailer.

On a Tuesday in July, a scene emerges in the park by the river: one by one, painters arrive with wooden easels and bug spray. They gather like geese reuniting to fly south, greeting and then spreading out to find suitable posts.

The park itself enables these events. A public green nestled near the lock, with hills, paths, trees old and young, people old and young. Playgrounds, fishing spots, river trails and cafés. All these conspire to make a place where painters might appear.

Passers-by stop and look, and the painters make conversation about dogs, rain, and the mysteries of electric bikes. Rare moments that feel like community form around the scene. Everyone leaves feeling more at rest.

Park painters with easels

This is outdoor painting season for our group. No, you won’t see us outside during the Wisconsin winter. Winter is for portraits and still lives in the studio. Summer and Fall are for being out-of-doors, where life is. We go where life goes, we appear when life emerges, we move along the way life does.

In online neighborhoods these seasons aren’t so clear. There are no snowy months on the Internet. It clicks along constantly, and we feel compelled to keep up to exist. No posts, no you. No comments, no relationships. That’s an issue for another day—how do we create online places that accept quiet presence as a contribution?

In the meantime, I want to try something in this blog-ish newsletter space to embrace seasonality. As much as we might hope for absolute consistency, I’m not sure that’s ideal, for the same reasons we don’t paint outside in winter. Plus, Robin Sloan says it’s a good idea.

A personal email newsletter ought to be divided into seasons, just like a TV show.

So, this is the first post in a series, a new season. It’s not so different from what you may have read here before. These posts will be about what this newsletter has always been about: practicing creativity. But I want to give it a light structure with a beginning, a middle, and end. Because, after all, creativity often moves in seasons.

To do that, it will line up with my outdoor painting schedule for the year. It starts now and ends when it’s too blustery and dark to paint in the evenings at the park. I’m not sure how many posts there will be. Depends on how long the weather lasts and how often it rains. But it will have an “ending,” at least for this season. And then we’ll see what’s next.

I’m not sure where we’ll end up—new framed canvases? Piles of unfinished pictures? New discoveries on the nature and mysteries of creativity? Hopefully all of the above. This isn’t like watching a produced TV season—there is no plan or script, we’ll figure this out as we go, and I’m grateful you’re along for the journey.

I’ll share updates about what’s on the canvas and other projects, a la weeknotes (another Robin Sloan tip), along with reflections about what I’m learning about creativity as I go. And I’ll share the meta-notes from behind the scenes about where I think all this writing and wandering about creativity is going, and what might be ahead in future seasons.

Things I may be working on this season and sharing updates about:

  • Painting at the park
  • An updated website for paintings and related writing
  • Writing on Practicing Creativity toward a draft book version
  • Dismantling, repairing, renovating this online home (my website and this newsletter) to better support seasonal cycles
  • Self-publishing a chapbook about vegetables that’s been sitting on my hard drive for a few years
  • Laying foundations for an online membership program that could grow to support more efforts like these in the future (???)

I have more to say and share, but I’ll leave this meta post where it is and write to you again sooner than later. Heading to the park again this Tuesday. Hope to see you there, online or off.

Painting easels on a park bench


Kevin McGillivray

Kevin McGillivray is a web developer, painter, and writer in Wisconsin. He writes about creativity, online and offline neighborhoods, and vegetables. He paints and dives.

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