Rhythm / Devotion is a series of interviews intended to illuminate the connection to ritual & rhythm in our daily lives. This series explores the intimacy of routine, the magic of the ordinary, & how these small acts of devotion set the stage for larger workings in the world ~
What is your name & where are you in the world?
My name is Conner, those who are close to me call me Connie, I’ve come to he/him pronouns in more recent times. I’m currently in Winston Salem, NC. A small city close to the Sauratown Mountain region.
How do you define yourself & your work?
I am an artist and I am also currently teaching drawing. Drawings and paintings cover my entire house and most of my thoughts. I always think about things I want to make or I’m looking around for things to inspire me. I am an artist, that is who I am and it is also my work. I’ve tried to prove to myself that I’m something else, but I constantly prove myself wrong. This is what compels me, what keeps me going.
Will you walk us through what a day in your life looks like? Begin with how you greet the morning & guide us until you close off the day in the eve ~
I’ve become incredibly busy recently and have had to be more regimented with my schedule. The second I wakeup I drink coffee, take a shower, and eat a very dense breakfast. I then move to some form of making, it can be prepping canvas, drawing, painting, or building some sort of furniture. I will bounce around these things for a while. Then eventually go for a walk or a run. Go to the hardware store. Go to the grocery store. Return home for lunch that I’ve pre-made. Go back to working in the studio until the day is over. Eat dinner. Go to sleep. Repeat.
My life is boring. It is quiet. I’m very happy with its simplicity.
You are a visual artist & painter ~ how do you prepare yourself &/or your space to enter into these practices?
There really is no separation of space. I think interesting things happen when you work in the same place that you live, it allows me to go deep into my psyche. But I guess what I’m thinking about is how do I keep myself motivated. I try to keep two streams flowing at the same time, one stream is this thing that I already know that I’ve just been slowly adding to. The other stream is where I experiment, allow myself to fail, and sort of push through my own thresholds.
What do you do/not do if you are feeling stuck around your work?
I think the easiest answer is to just start. Don’t think too hard. I tend to just work on whatever is compelling me in that moment, even something small and seemingly insignificant can be painted beautifully. Once I start I can find the painting head space pretty quickly. I also try not to use sketchbooks. I typically keep like 15-20 canvases available to work on, and I have a lot of sheets of paper to work on. When I have a lot of drawing and painting surface available I feel more liberated and less scared of blank spaces. I try to keep things feeling not too precious.
I utilize a lot of different methods to keep myself engaged, I use stop watches, set timers, so I don't spend too much time in one place. And I have all of these little prompts to keep me going. Everything is valid. Everything is corny. Everything is unoriginal. A constant mantra to keep my studio flowing along.
If I’m in a rut, or overthinking myself into circles I will shift my focus to something else. In a drawing/painting I might shift my attention to the walls, the flowers, the floors, the curtains then rebuild narratives from those things. Or I might shift myself to some other material exploration, this might be where I start tinkering around with objects and sculptural stuff.
I think one of the best things I’ve re-incorporated into my practice is drawing from observation. There are a lot of surprising things that happen when looking at the minutiae of everyday life, even just looking at a pile of wires fills me with wonder.
Do you have a movement practice?
I’m always talking about engaging your whole body when drawing and painting: we tend to just get stuck in our wrist and fingers because it gives us this sense of control, and it also feels very close to writing. But when we engage our shoulder, elbow, torso, knees our mark making becomes more dynamic, giving us a wider range of expression. It’s a sensory vernacular, and the more ways we can move the more vocabulary we give ourselves and the more complex our expression can become.
What does structure mean to you, or what is your philosophy around ritual/routine?
Don’t even get me started with structure. This is something I’ve realized about myself more recently: I tried to be more free flowing and it just doesn’t work. I still feel fresh in sobriety, and in recovery, and living by my whims sometimes can lead me into a troubling mind set. If I’m not careful my world can quickly turn into a den of vices. If I’m not careful I will end up in a hole somewhere. When my days are rigidly laid out for me in writing I do the best mentally. I had to figure out what works best for myself, and it’s not because I lack focus, I just know how to really fuck my life up.
What are you listening to, reading, or watching these days?
I’m constantly looking at books with images in them. I really love coffee table books, or exhibition catalogs. I really love vintage how-to books that show you how to make things like curtains or quilts. I don’t actually make any of the stuff but they end up in my paintings. I’ve been looking at Dutch Floral Paintings, they had to be painted through multiple seasons so they feel a bit like seeing time collapse into itself. I was in a kayak the other day listening to Kassi Valazza looking at the movement of water. I like talking on the phone with my friends. I’m always looking at the sky and the clouds.
Any last words of wisdom?
Sometimes, don’t do it.
Don’t deprive yourself of hitting rock bottom, your most important lessons can be learned down there.
And don’t underestimate beauty.
Everything is corny.
How can we find your work?
Thank you so much, Connie, for your inspiring work in this world & for sharing your rhythm devotion with us ~
I connect the essence of Hobblebush as a companion to Conner Calhoun, his rhythm/devotion, & his work in the world.
I made my Hobblebush (Viburnum alnifolium) during the morning of the 4th of June 2020 on Peaceable Street in Redding, CT. After gently gathering a few Hobblebush bracts & flowers, I left them to sit in a bowl of water placed upon a mossy, low stone wall that edged a quiet, shady, spring-fed pond.
Hobblebush essence is a beautiful one for always finding a sense of peace & tranquility in our lives, despite what may be occurring in the external world, or the collective. This essence reminds us of the importance of solace & of coming into our own place of solace as often as needed to replenish & renew.
Hobblebush is also called Witch Hobble (coming from the Old English wice, meaning "pliant" or "bendable") & this does seem to speak wonderfully to this essence. It helps us to not be bothered easily, rather, of learning & building healthy priorities & routines in our lives. The reason this bush is dubbed "hobble" comes from the branches' ability to take root once they have grown long enough to reach the ground. Think of this essence when you need your own habits, practices, or dreams to be nourished so they may also take root.
Hobblebush helps us to take time to relax, enjoy, observe, integrate, & release. This essence is also fantastic for helping us to release the pressure to always be doing, creating, perfecting, or accomplishing. This essence helps us embrace the art of not-doing & helps us to reach an inner harmony that can be found, nourished, & visited when the world gets too loud or whenever we may need to relax, to return to the true self. From here, hobblebush opens us up to moments of spontaneity, inspiration, & wonder in the small moments of our days. This is an essence which instills tranquility & encourages freedom in daydreaming.
Hobblebush essence reminds us that there is an innate perfection in simply being, in being simply. This essence brings us into comfort with ourselves as we are & allows us to give that same grace to others in our lives. It tells us that some of the most generous moments we can give to one another & to ourselves resides in quiet presence & reverence of one other just as we are.
Find a bottle of Hobblebush essence for yourself or a loved one here ~