January Practice and Process: “Clearing” pt. 2

PRACTICE

As we are making our way through January, Betony and I have been staying true to practicing the two things we put forward at the beginning of the month:
Doing a massive “clearing” of our house.
and
Having a table alter with and a ringing bell to accompany prayer.

Below are some pictures of the house-clearing process. We’ve made it through the BIG categories of clothes, books, and papers. Then Betony has been taking on the major hot-spots of her art studio, sewing-closet and kitchen.

These photos make it look REALLY bad, but part of the process we are doing is to pull each category (clothes, books, papers, etc) out completely before putting it back.
Books Day BEFORE:

Books Day AFTER:

Clothes BEFORE:
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Clothes AFTER:

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Papers Day: (we ended up with two small folders of papers)
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The disaster of the studio BEFORE:
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Studio AFTER (still in process of repainting…) – can you even believe this is the same space?
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There are things that we are learning and processing in doing this! (Please, feel free to leave some of what you’re learning in our comments!)

For me, I’ve been surprised by how the house feels BIGGER. We all of a sudden have plenty of space. We’re aren’t hurting for closets and the floor isn’t constantly covered in toys… I was really feeling the pressure this last year of upgrading our home, keeping up with the Jones’, you know? We’re a family of 5 now. How do we make it in this tiny house? (leaving out the perspective that the rest of the world seems to do just fine with a lot less space and things). Now with this clearing, things feel fine right now. We actually have AMPLE room.
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It’s also made me excited to be home. When I look at our bookshelf, I look at the “greatest hits” of Betony and I’s collection. Each of the books we’ve kept mean a lot to us! Now that the closets and nooks and shelves are looking like that, it gives a great joy. We’re surrounded by things we’ve made a choice to keep because of their importance to us.

Another point with that- because they’re important to us, we want to take better care of what we have. I’ve always wanted to be a good caretaker of my stuff, a good steward. But I never have felt very good at it. I hope this practice of “keeping mainly the things that bring me joy” will help me intrinsically move towards better care.

Lastly, and this sounds strange, overall I feel like I’ve spiritually lost 10 pounds. I don’t know how else to describe it. Coming in to the home, things just feel lighter and less stress-filled. Maybe there’s a beginning sense of “this is what I want my life to be” rather than “I’m failing at the American dream”? Does that make sense?

PROCESS

Betony and I are taking these practices and letting them guide our artistic process:

As a result, Giants & Pilgrims will be releasing a new song! This is a single from a larger work called “Bellwether”, out later this year. I wrote it while processing this idea of clearing and subtraction then quickly recorded, mixed, and mastered the song with a host of incredibly talented people!

Alongside the song, Betony is creating limited run of a screen-print that will be sold online only the last week of January! It’ll bring a beauty and design to the lyrics from this new song.

Also, Betony is excited to begin the year with a wonderful, clean, and intention-filled studio.

PS

The number of trash bags full of stuff we donated was CRAZY! This is only about 1/6 –

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Announcing the Giants & Pilgrims’ New Art & Music Project: Bellwether

So it’s time for announcements and proclamations.

For each Giants & Pilgrims’ project we choose a theme and explore that theme with art & music. Last year we released Becoming, about the constant process of growing up. The year before that was Almanac No. 1 and the art & music was centered in the realm of family and proven love.

Where are Betony and my hopes and dreams taking Giants & Pilgrims for 2016? What will fuel the works of art & music?

Here’s what we hope to explore this year, in depth:

Belief.

What do Betony and I believe as individuals? As a married couple? What do we really cling to? What do we want to pass on to our children? What do we hold as important and utmost in our lives? The thing behind the thing behind the thing? What are the values and vision and world views that truly shape where we head as a family? What are the words we put towards the big questions of God, metaphysics, doctrine, discovery, and experience?

And this is just a starting place of the questions!

We’re calling the project Bellwether. It’s actually an old shepherding term. A bellwether is a sheep that is a little more aggressive, a little more obnoxious and hungry. (It’s known to get out of pens for food).

And so a bell is placed on it. This not only helps the shepherd know where the sheep is, but it also helps the sheep. As the bell wether wanders for greener pastures, the rest of the sheep follow to new fields of grass.

Betony and I are looking for bells to follow. We’re asking questions. We are hungry and we hope to find great fields this 2016.

We’ll be creating towards an end project to be released this fall/winter, but we plan to share the process as well. Each month Betony and I are choosing a theme that will be our centering of exploration and practice. We will dig in to this Bellwether theme to as the year progresses. January’s Bellwether theme is “clearing” – see our full exploration of that theme here tomorrow.

“Is There Beauty in the Monotony?” or “Why I Wrote the song Sunrise, Sunrise, Sunrise”

Sunrise, Sunrise, Sunrise

We have a window in our bedroom. Each morning the sun shines through in various colors, depending on the season and cloud cover and make of the light. It falls onto our hardwood floors.

Honestly, most mornings as I awake to this light and find myself next to my best friend (and often with a baby or child in our bed as well) I have a strong sense of gratitude. It is the birth of another day. And I get to spend this day with my Love and my family.

Then at the end of the day we are spent. It’s not easy raising kids and doing the daily, monotonous business of all that needs to be done. Many nights as we lay together in bed, exhausted, the moon brings soft light to this closing. That light glows through that same window and on those same hardwood floors.

There are many songs about living the day in and day out life, a poetic look at the sacred rhythms that, when stepped back from and observed, are quite beautiful. I wrote the song “Sunrise, Sunrise, Sunrise” with this idea in mind. Even the title exemplifies the theme I was going for.

On an additional note I was also inspired for this song by a strange source. And you all can make fun of me for this.

When I first heard the big, overly-dramatic song from Fiddler On the Roof “Sunrise, Sunset”, I was moved; even as a sixth grader. I loved the idea that day to day, season to season, life moves fast and it’s so good to share that with the person you love. I was moved in sixth grade hearing this song.

Now I hear it as a 37-year-old and WEEP. I mean SOB. No kidding. The bittersweet truths represented in the tremendous arc of this music takes me out.

So I wrote the lyrics of this song with the same premise. Together we have each day. We’re watching our kids grow and leave the house, we’re dancing and taking it from sun to moon until our last days. And we’re so blessed.

Sunrise, Sunrise, Sunrise (Lyrics)

Will you wake with me, In the sunrise
Will you wait with me in the moonlight
How we’ll lay, And both be held
Folding limbs
As last lights fail –

Oh you’ll walk with me
In the one light
Oh you’ll sing with me
The one line
How you’ll smile
How we’ll laugh
How we’ll stand
As oceans pass —

Oh you’ll dance with me
At first sight
And fall asleep, beat
After night after after night
How we’ll watch
Them fly away
How we’ll say we love the race that they would take –

Won’t you wait with me
For the sunrise
Holding close to me
In the one light
We’ll all move on Far from here
My dust to dust And your dust near –

Why I Wrote the Song “Boxing Shadows” or What Happens When You Get What You Want?

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“I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it’s not the answer”

-Jim Carrey

What happens when you get what you want?

Let me tell a personal story.

I had a strong, single-minded dream for several years of my life. I desperately wanted to achieve this dream. It was a goal that I hoped for and prayed for and worked towards. Honestly, it was really a strange and simple dream.

I wanted to release an album with Worship Circle Records. (I’m sure many of you are wondering who Worship Circle Records are…)

I had been writing and leading worship music for many years and Worship Circle Records had put out my favorite album of all time in this genre. Their album “Enter the Worship Circle: Circle One” was a stripped down, raw collection of great songwriting and expression. This little, independent record company was being led by great people and I wanted badly to be a part of it.

Well, I got the chance to do it. After a songwriting intensive and through good relationships (and this is many years later) I released an album with them. I had done it. I had achieved this goal.

Rewind just a bit. Before anything with the album went forward I remember my wife turning to me and saying, “You know, if you get to do this and release an album with them you’ll just find something else to obsess about afterwards. This isn’t really an end-all goal that will make you happy”

As the record was coming out I smiled and enjoyed it all, but my wife’s words stuck with me. It wasn’t but a few months later that I started thinking: Now what? I know this is an arrival point but… what’s next?

What happens when you get what you want? What happens when you reach that goal or achieve that victory? After the initial joy and sense of success, what are we left with?

Nothing. Not really. That sounds so defeatist but it rings true to me. After you climb that peak you deeply enjoy the moment and then you climb back down. And you start dreaming about other peaks.

That’s okay.

I think what that teaches us is that it’s not about the peak. Life needs to be about something more expansive and all encompassing, something bigger than our goals.

There’s an incredible remake of the cartoon Wile E. Coyote (NOT done by Looney Toons) in which he CATCHES the road runner. He’s floored that he’s actually done it. He has his friend over and they have a feast. He’s says something like, “You know, it just tastes so good when you work for your food…” But then his friend asks him, “Now what are you going to do?” Even WE know this is a big deal for Wile E. We’ve seen him make countless tries (and loved seeing the failures) to achieve this goal.

The rest of the cartoon we see Wile E. spiral into deep depression and a directionless listlessness. (The gag ends with him strapped into a catapult of his own creation then it quickly cuts to him with his buddy again and Wile E. has become a born again Christian. A cutting joke, but perhaps appropriate?)

I wrote the song “Boxing Shadows” to work through the tension of these questions. What happens if I actually get what I want? What happens when I fail? What happens after each peak is conquered? Will my desires become less? Will I feel like it was all worth it?

On a musical note I did something very on purpose in the song. It begins with janky toy-castle. This is actually a toy my daughters own and they LOVE that I use it. The sound represents to me that thin, immature idea of ourselves as kids. The self-importance of our singular heroics trying to sound strong.

Then the song actually ends with a real trumpet blast (my friend Craig Basarich is incredible). I wanted the song to close with this feeling of maturity and joy that we have in the trials and tensions. That we DO achieve but that’s not what it’s about. It’s that we keep on growing and becoming. That’s where the true adventure lies.

Oh, you won the war, you won the war
and now you’re wandering how you’re so alone
You got the part, you got the part
but why are all lines so damn short?

You’re boxing shadows, you’re not the hero
of great renown, there’s room to grow

Oh, when do you know, when do you know?
That all the work was worth the pay in tolls?
My dreams still howl, my dog still growls
the pack is running faster every hour

You’re boxing shadows, you’re not the hero
of great renown, there’s room to grow
You’re boxing shadows, you’re not the hero
of great renown, there’s room to grow

The New Project Releases: See & Hear “Becoming”

Becoming is the new art and music project from Giants & Pilgrims.

Says Tim Coons in a recent article:

“The project comes from a central idea. When I was young, I couldn’t dream very far. My projections were one day I’d have a wife and kids and be a musician. Well, I have all that now. Am I done growing up? Am I all wise and coasting from here on out? I have ‘arrived’ haven’t I?

“It was a nice surprise to know we never stop growing up. It’s never all figured out. We are still in that process of ‘becoming’ who we’re meant to be, because, though the body may slow down and stop, the soul never does. It’s always dynamic.”

You can listen and purchase the album here.

You can see and purchase 3 prints of the art series here (full series available November 6th).

If you’d like a combination of album + prints pick get that special here.

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“Elixirs” Official Music Video from Giants & Pilgrims

For the past year we’ve been going to the woods with Lucy and Harriet and filming the same 12 shots, whether in summer heat, yellowed leaves, or blanketing snow. The result is this video with an incredible perspective of the seasons and a surprising story that emerged (all caught by Wes Sam-Bruce, the video’s director).

We’ll post more stories soon of how this all came about. For now, enjoy the magic of the video.

(You can pre-order the new album, Becoming, and “Elixirs” here.)

Note: For optimum viewing magic, click the HD button on the video player for best clarity

Pre-Order the New Album Now!

Pre-order for our new album BECOMING has just opened. And you’ll be able to hear the first two songs. We are SO excited to share this with you all!

The art & music project BECOMING is centered in this idea: We are never static. We are always in the process of becoming who we’re meant to be. Though our bodies may come to a slowing point in their growth, the soul is ever-dynamic.

You’re getting a glimpse of the album with this pre-order, then it will be fully released (along with three paintings from the series, prints available) October 6th!

https://giantsandpilgrims.bandcamp.com/album/becoming

 

 

 

The Medals Ceremony: Thanking the Artists Involved with “Becoming”

 

There were many incredible artists who played on the new album, “Becoming”. These contributions took the record from my guitar/vocals/toys-from-the-basement sound to a lush recording that included stand-up bass, drums, more vocals, violins, guitars, trumpet, etc.

In order to thank them properly Betony and I wanted to do some sort of meaningful and creative celebration.

So we had a Medals Ceremony and Listening Party. It was so wonderful and we wanted to share pictures.

First we started with a homemade meal that had several courses. If any of you are ever invited to a dinner that my wife is making… drop everything. I know you like her paintings… well, she’s also an artist with food.

After the meal I put on the music from the Star Wars IV Throne Room Scene. It’s a triumphant fanfare and fits just how I feel about these musicians. They are heroes.

I presented them each with a vintage medal (most were from midwest music programs in the 80’s, where they did honors right).

As I gave their medals I said some silly lines about each of them. I’ll recount those here now! And, fair warning, they involve a lot of private jokes.

Mary Claxton (vocals, electric piano)
This aspiring female comic is also an amazing female drummer who masquerades as a female teacher during the day. (she also hates the adjective female)
Girl Woman: Mary Claxton

Brian Claxton (drums, marimba)
One of the best male drummers in Greeley, his playing is both tender and delicious, like slow-cooked brisket. Ladies and gentleman, Brian Claxton.

Hayden Farr (barri-saxophone)
Of all the Becoming musicians, I knew him least of all. But we had a beer together so now we’re best friends. Giants & Pilgrims rookie of the year recipient and the token saxophone player: Hayden Farr

Graham Bylsma (electric guitar)
This young man wins the “most easily mistaken for having just smoked weed” award cause he’s just so chill, is the best guitarist to ever have a bike stolen off of my front porch: Graham Bylsma

Melanie Haskins (violin)
Known for making the best lattes and having the loudest cannon-blast laugh of WELD County, the concert-iest of all Concert violinists: Melanie Haskins

Johnny Burroughs (vocals, guitar)
He’s Greeley’s most eligible bachelor eliciting desire from 12 to 85 year olds, he also wins the award of “most reminds me of Kanickie” from Grease: Johnny Burroughs

Wes Sam-Bruce (video director)
To quote 90’s classic The Addams Family: kitch… Down kitty!” Here’s the Macully Culkin of art! A boy wonder wonder boy: Wes Sam-Bruce

Craig Basarich (trumpet)
The sultan of slice, king of cheese, the colossus of crust, The pope of pizza, the padre of the pie, the great bambino! One of my best friends: Craig Bassarich

Bron Khan (bass)
He wasn’t able to come… so I didn’t write anything silly about him.

After these ridiculous intros and hand-shaking and photo-ops with their medals, we headed into the living room to hear the whole album while eating desert.

As I said, it was a magical night and I’m so thankful for these wonderful artists. I’m honored they would share their gift with Betony and I. They are one of the main reasons I’m so excited to share this album with you.

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Documenting Our Creative Process – A Photo Series

This post is part of an ongoing series we post every couple of weeks, sharing our journey as working artists. Sometimes it is good to take the veil off of the creative process and showcase how we get from A to Z. See some of the other posts here.

So many little aspiring musicians around here.

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This creative mixer/master, the elusive Dave Wilton of Saint Ida’s studio, has been working his magic on our new “Becoming” album. I am almost giddy I am so excited about it.

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Tim has been experimenting downstairs with a new creative venture. Notes, harmonies, layering….sound and smell aren’t that far apart.

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We have been enjoying lots of Chalk art, especially in anticipation of one of our favorite Greeley, CO events, the Greeley Chalk a Lot on Sept. 12th.
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While momma has been painting away on her own projects, Lucy hatched out this fluttery, neon butterfly.
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I have slowly but surely been closeted away working on this new series of ours (“Becoming” will be an album AND art series). I truly can’t wait to share it with you all.
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I love my little studio view of the Treehouse Village. This window also becomes a temporary landing page for collage pieces I haven’t yet incorporated but that are providing inspiration.  IMG_6387

 

Documenting the Creative Process: a Weekly Photo Series

Here are some bits and pieces from our creative process this last week:

I finished up a sweet poster design for the band the Burroughs.  They are doing a LIVE recording at the Moxi theater on May 8th & 9th. We were going for an old school Art Deco feel of a downtown greeley street. My artwork will also be used as their album cover and a T-shirt (and tank-top!).
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tshirt mock up

 

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Tim and Charla Bultman are working on the beginnings of a stellar new project, details still to be announced. But as the person who gets to hear all the songs in their infancy stage, its going to be incredible.

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Harriet (and Lucy) have been creating and coloring all kinds of chalk murals on our driveway. Thank you sunshine.

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I also finished up this Alaska painting for a wonderful couple in town. They spend half their year in Alaska near this really cool mine. Lots of fun symbolism in the various imagery – including the newspaper which is an Alaska paper from the 40’s we found in the crawl space of our house when we moved in

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Whipped up some quick series artwork for Atlas Churchs spring series “Changed”

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Figuring out how many animals I can cut out of a piece of plywood 🙂 Project still TBA….
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