Musings from the Desert
Camper Life – Original Tiny House Living
Living in the desert in a camper forces one to simplify and refocus. With limited space, objects get prioritized and weeded out. Organization is essential. Resources are also prioritized and life revolves around them. Water is finite- the tanks will only hold so much fresh water. Bathing and hair washing becomes a ritual. Bodies are perfectly capable of staying healthy and balanced without a constant barrage of shampoos and products slathered all over them. Dishes can be washed with minimal water. Without a connection to a sewer, grey water and black water tanks have to be dumped at dump sites. All trash has to be carried out. We live in a closed system.
Space for food storage is limited. We have a lot of canned food, including pork and chicken that we butchered and processed from our own farm. The refrigerator is small and the freezer smaller. Even during non-pandemic times, we only went to town once a week, and now once every few weeks for supplies. I eat very little processed food, and I take the time to cook and prepare my meals as part of my daily rituals. Because we have an excellent solar charging system, electricity isn’t a big issue. But for those without solar, a fossil fuel-powered generator is the only option. For heat, we use an electric heater run on solar energy, and sometimes propane when the skies have been overcast. The challenges and rewards of independence and a small footprint are worth this complicated lifestyle.
Always the Art
With art, one thing always seems to lead to another. I started out with the intention to just dabble in gouache for awhile until I got a feel for it, and then switch back to watercolor. But it lead me down a path toward a fuller understanding of my own artistic process.
I have never liked painting landscapes. Traditionally, most of the subject matter that I’ve painted has been pretty subjective, bordering on illustrative. When I was a kid I spent countless hours drawing animals, particularly horses. I thought that if I could draw them perfectly, they would come to life. I worked tirelessly to find that soul through perfectly imitating what they looked like in life. (Only much later did I discover that art can often capture a feeling or spirit through a few brush strokes, or certain colors, and don't need to be photographic to convey deep emotions.) Landscapes bored me. Man-made objects never inspired me. I come from a line of illustrative artists, and my daughters continue with that tradition. I recently found an illustration that my great-grandmother did of tree anatomy for her 1920's-era high school biology class. It's breathtaking.
A few years ago I decided to push myself out of my comfort zone and challenge myself with landscapes and new mediums, specifically watercolor (and now gouache). After dabbling with landscapes with gouache and feeling frustrated, I decided to go back into my wheelhouse of illustrative animals (desert animals since I'm here). It's been fun and feels good to be back doing something familiar in order to get comfortable with the medium.
Last year I had a conversation with my sister about feeling stuck and frustrated artistically. She gave me the book, “Big Magic”, by Elizabeth Gilbert. Now that I've read it, I pass on the recommendation to anyone who feels held back from their creativity.
"I believe this is one of the oldest and most generous tricks the universe plays on us human beings, both for its own amusement and for ours: The universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them. The hunt to uncover those jewels- that's creative living. The courage to go on that hunt in the first place- that's what separates a mundane existence from a more enchanted one."
11/3/2022 10:58:50 pm
When Adrian Brown, the founder of Great Northern Tanks (Australian owned Rural Water Tanks) was looking for a tank suitable for his cattle station,
Leave a Reply.
Artist, homesteader, teacher and adventurer. Turning over every literal and figurative rock that I can find, living curiously and creatively outside of the conventions of the common world.
facebook: Karrie Steely Fine Art and Creative Services
Youtube: Homesteading and High Adventure