December 23, 2012

Turning Tables

My family and I continue to slog through trying to get our new house in order when we're all gone so many hours of the day.  It has finally dawned on me how life is going to change in 2014, both as a mom and an artist. 

Along with a few holiday greeting cards for the few people that have our new address, my son has been receiving notices from colleges about items he still needs to turn in to complete his application file.  It's hit me.  He's leaving.  Now I'm trying to type with vision blurred by tears.

Yesterday I was going through the last box to unpack in the master bedroom.  I found one of my old journals and flipped through a few pages.  This volume was started while I was in my 7th year as an infertility patient, documenting a recent miscarriage (my third), and my 5th and final pregnancy.  Much of it was spent in the hospital emergency department or in bed for more than four months, trying to hang on for as long as possible.  I read with tears in my eyes that I hoped my child would one day know how very much we wanted him and how so very hard we worked to keep him alive.  Now he's applying to colleges.  Where did the time go?

So while I am spending up to four hours in the car every day, two of those are spent with him just talking about learning to drive, politics, news, party planning...  I've been selfishly focused a lot on how I have NO time to do anything creative, spending my time behind the wheel or in the grocery store or cleaning up cat barf (thank you Tabitha, I'm never bored).  Next fall, I will have much more time for making art than I ever have before.  Today, I'm not sure how I feel about the impending change.  I'll be an artist first, then mom when the kids have time for me.  The table is turning.  I hope I'm ready.

December 4, 2012

Trying to Make It Work

We survived the month-plus in the rental house with all of the parrots screaming in the tree across the street, the constant thunder of big trucks, the ding-a-linging of the train crossing and the parade of university students that made it nearly impossible to back out of my driveway without taking a life.  Ugh!  It was harder than anticipated. 

We moved into the new house earlier than we'd expected, that coming with its own challenges.  My poor husband tried taking a couple of days off to help unpack, but the phone rang incessantly from his office and he ended up just working from a cell phone.  We've wrestled with cooties, rain, a seriously ill cat (my studio kitty was seriously misdiagnosed by the previous vet, but Tabitha is much better now), house guests (one of which was the most wonderful help with unpacking and more) and every day cut short on both ends due to my having to commute my son to school at varying hours every day.  I'm tired, and my "studio" looks like this:

It's dreadful.  The movers quite literally dumped the contents of my studio desk into boxes and slapped them shut with a tape gun.  In my old studio, I came to realize that I had to get organized so I didn't spend most of every day hunting for one little thing or another, using a rolodex to document the location of every little bit and bobble.  I would look up embroidery needles, and the little card would remind me they were in the bottom left drawer of the desk.  So much for that rolodex.  I found a couple of my art tiles broken, a wire sculpture piece I'd been working on for months smashed flat, and just flat out chaos.  I'm trying to make the space work as a studio, but so far I've had little luck and even less time.

My silver lining is that my crazy, chubby psychotic kitty Charlotte is happy, happy, happy with no more trucks, trains, parrots or jackhammers.  She is off of her anti-anxiety medicine and appears to be enjoying the stairs, getting exercise like the rest of us, whether we want to or not.

This week is about trying to unpack the last of the boxes, pick paint colours for the first floor of the house, decorate for Christmas and not lose my mind in the process.  I think there won't be time for much art for a while, but I can always plot, plan and sketch until I DO find the time.

Until then, there's always chardonnay :-)

October 22, 2012

Finding a New Creative Outlet

With Halloween and my birthday around the corner, I had hoped to try to find anything I could to decorate and celebrate and make this place feel more like home while we wait to move into the home we are buying.  As a family, we're quite nuts about holiday decorating, beginning with Halloween.  We usually have a lot of phony spider webs in the front yard, a number of ghoulish tombstones in the orchard, fog machines, fake bones, and scary music outside, with loads of metal "haunted houses" and illuminated purple- and orange-lighted trees on the fireplace mantle. 

Along with this rental house, we've been given access to what had once been a concrete business next door.  There is what was an old carpeted office and a separate garage in which we stored the last of our belongings and furniture removed from the house we sold.  I started going through one box at a time, looking for the little book of Halloween DVD's and maybe finding something I could bring indoors to work out my creativity demons.  I never found the DVD's, but did find that the movers quite literally dumped the contents of my studio desk drawers in a box, then slapped it shut with a tape gun.  There were rotary cutters, a magnetic pin and needle holder, small boxes and containers of beads and threads...what a mess!  I didn't dare stick my hand in the box to find anything for fear of coming out bleeding.

Alas, there will be none of the usual creative outlet for a while.  We expect to be able to move in to our new home around November 9th or 10th.  I have decided to adopt this laundry room as my new studio.  It's huge!  Better yet, it has great natural light, a lovely view of the front yard and garden, and a SINK!  Oh, happy dance.  The current homeowner sews (this is her work station right now) and clearly has made this space work for her.  There's even a walk in closet at the end of the row of cabinets on the left.   I think this space is going to be terrific for a studio.

So I have had to limit my creativity to decorating and designing the new house.  I've been buying furniture and light fixtures, plotting paint colours and enjoying the freedom to be creative with a much bigger place.  I look forward to finding my ATCs, getting all of my art and reference books set up in the library, and get to creating in whatever little bits of time I can find.  I'm still commuting to/from our old town twice a day so that my son can finish school there, so time for creating art is limited.  In the meantime, how exciting to get to start with a clean slate for decorating and creating.  We'll go nuts decorating for Halloween next year :-)

September 25, 2012

Putting Art on Hold

I finally get the ball rolling, and now I have to grab the ball, wrap it up, put it in a box and move.  I'm not quite sure that reality has completely set in.  We have only one more full day in our house before the moving truck arrives to start boxing up our lives.  Scoping out the rental house again and again, I try to figure out just how much of my art-making goodies I can cram into the house before we break a law or someone breaks their neck dodging it all.  My desk with the sewing machine can squeeze into the dining room, and the printer can sit on the floor next to it.  OK, two printers.  I can put my cabinets with art supplies at the front of the storage garage behind the house so that I can easily access materials.  

The reality is that I will have painfully little time for art from now until my son graduates from school next June.  Having moved so often during my school years, I am willing to make the drive to our soon-to-be old town each day so that he can complete his last year with his classmates and lifetime friends.  This means I will be in a car for about five hours a day, depending on traffic.  Will I even find time to get any exercise or actually clean the house?  Am I back to choosing between mopping and making something?  Again?  Sigh.

Add to the drama of the move a beastly cat that has decided the temporary home is, in its entirety, her personal litterbox and destruction zone.  It's hard to be creative when distracted by destruction.  There's got to be a way.  Tomorrow we visit with a new vet, one that specializes in kitties and in kitty behavioral problems.  Charlotte will be staying with said vet for a few days while we traumatize her further with the addition of all of this furniture and stuff and mess.  She'll surely be plotting her revenge whilst growling her brains out in the carrier on the way to the vet. 

For now, I'll stick with making ATCs and trying to find time to sew and make more of my figurative work.  I can certainly sit in a car and sculpt a head or sketch on a tiny card, right?  There has to be a way to make art while practically living in my car.  We'll see.

September 21, 2012

Hits and Misses

As the chaos of trying to keep the house looking great for the final walk through for our home's buyers, I just couldn't put away the art work.  I figured they know people actually live here, so I continued to work in the studio and I'm glad I did.

Making ATCs is such a foreign form of art for me and I continue to push myself to just do it, just make something and not feel like I have to create a masterpiece.  I must pat myself on the back for a job super well done.  There are no masterpieces in the lot :-)  Some of them came out pretty darned OK, at least for a token give-away for a young child.  I figure the bigger the "miss," the younger the child that should get it.  Bahaha.

I have a small stash of different kinds of blank ATCs - both black and white heavy card stock, white lighter card stock, and linen finish canvas that the package says is for acrylic paint (Fibbers!  It curls like mad the moment it's damp.).  I bought them to use for experimenting since I had absolutely NO idea what I was doing.  Now let me remind everyone, I have confessed right up front that I'm a big cheater and, worried about lacking the skills to produce work that wouldn't cause me to die of shame, I purchased stickers.  These all have stickers.  I painted the background and added a few other touches, but the fish in this batch are all purchased. 

 This one was my favourite of the ones I made today.  I was a little zealous in my application of Judi-Kins Diamond Glaze to produce the "bubbles."  I love this stuff.

 The background for the seahorse card is a small portion of the most amazing quilt that I saw at a major show here in California a year or two ago.  I figured I wasn't breaking any rules if I printed a fraction (about 1/100th) of the image and used it for something I was giving away.  Hope I'm not wrong!

 Now we're getting close to the "miss" zone.  I used a bit of paper from a magazine page and another from a packet of origami paper and, yes, more stickers.  But I did paint the background!  Finger painting is NOT just for little kids.

  In an effort to make an ATC that didn't look too girlie, I just painted this dark background and attached vellum seaweed with gel medium.  Alas, it didn't look as tidy as I'd expected, but I'm going to stick with the story that the gel medium gives it texture because seaweed looks like this.  Yup, that's my story.  I live near enough to to the beach, so that should lend me some sense of authority on the subject, no?

 Now we start getting deep into the "miss" zone.  I stuck on the coral, then couldn't get it off.  So I just stuck on some fish.  I thought it looked too bare, and stuck on that other pink thingy on the bottom left.  See how much thought I put into this?  Good grief.

 I think I actually called this one "Two ugly fish" on the computer file.  Or maybe it's the one above that I called "Three ugly fish."  Again, once these suckers are on, there's no taking them back off.  It looks like they're burping.  I'm trying to figure out what makes one ATC work and the next one not work.  Composition?  Contrast?  Just the plain old ugly factor?  Well, some five year old my love it.  Maybe I should just write in a cartoonish bubble with the word "Burp!" on it to distract them.

I kind of like this one.  It's simple and not too ugly and the fish aren't burping. 

In any case, it's just been fun to experiment.  I've learned to pay attention to the cardboard that I cut to attach these to for extra support (the curly cards do not yet have card stock added for extra support).  One must pay attention to whether one is gluing the ATC to the side of the cardboard advertising the once-contained vegetarian sausage patties, or to the blank side so that the person flipping over the card can read all about vegetarian sausage patties.  Lesson learned and cardboard now discarded.  Time for a do-over on those two.  Note to self: glue ATC to the side with the photo of the sausages.

September 13, 2012

Sticky Fingers

This ATC project of my sisters has turned out to be the best thing ever for me in terms of getting creative juices flowing.  Making a very small piece of art is so much less intimidating than the big high-pressure projects that I had take on in the last couple of years.  Initially, I feared that the single-subject of ocean themed would prove to be difficult because it is a topic I never, ever incorporate into the kind of art that I make.  But is has forced me out of my comfort zone and actually proven to be fun and stress free!

Today I got out some of the blank ATCs that I bought a long time ago, not really knowing how to use them.  One package said they were meant for acrylic paint, so I painted them.  This is such an experiment for me.  I feel like I'm cheating on some of the ATCs because these are for little kids and I remember what my kids liked at that age - sparkles!  I broke down and bought some of those Jolee's boutique stickers that are meant to be used for scrapbook pages, figuring it would help me get started.  I've painted a few backgrounds, collaged a pinch of paper and then used the stickers on them.  I'll work toward weaning myself off of the stickers, but at least I've produced a few ATCs for the project.  That's a step in the right direction.  They're silly, but I had fun with paper, paint, glue and glitter and that counts for something right now while dealing with the stress of selling and (eventually) buying a new house.

Saying no to making a big art commitment to the holiday auction this year was hard at first, but I just couldn't do it.  The stress of trying to balance creative time with keeping a house model perfect for selling would have caused me to burst into flames.  This is a manageable project with limited mess (not quite so limited since the house has now sold), and I can continue to make ATCs even when we move into our temporary little rental house and I'm having to commute with my son to his school here in our "old" home town. 

I'm a much happier mom and feeling more like an artist this week.  I'm making cheesy art, but it's art :-)

September 5, 2012

I Made Something!

It was hard to focus today.  We are at day 13 of a 30 day escrow in selling our house, the first house we've ever sold.  My nerves are shot.  Today is the day that the buyers had to either lift all contingencies off the house, or throw in the towel.  And at the 11th hour, they decided they wanted a camera inspection of the sewer line.  Really?  Since more people would be tromping through the house today, my wonderful husband got up early and, before his dentist appointment, cleaned as fast as he could so that I would save myself from further back injury and I would have time to maybe make something while dudes were scoping out the sewer line.

It was hard to work with men grunting and groaning as they dragged themselves under the house.  It was even harder to concentrate when they came in asking if they could flush the toilet a few times because there was bathroom tissue over the camera lens.  I chuckled in the studio for a long time over that one.

Distractions aside, I decided to try to make some oceanic-themed ATC's for my sister's friend's project (the one where the cards will be given to school kids as an award of some type).  At first, I regressed to old bad habits, Googling ocean themed ATC's.  Then I shut down the computer and dug out my box of blank ATCs.  What a happy surprise to find a few where I'd already applied paint as a starting point.  I finally had to admit that a bunch of elementary school kids across the country just weren't going to bust my chops about my work, and so I was just going to have fun.  I was thinking about when my daughter moved to Australia to study for a portion of her junior year of college, and all of her tales of jellyfish and barracuda and all other manner of scary biting and stinging beasts when she was getting her dive license in the Great Barrier Reef and I was inspired!  I'm an amateur, but an amateur having a good time making art today and not beating myself up because it isn't commercial.  It was just fun.  The only way I'm going to get better at anything is to keep trying.  Heaven knows they can't get any worse, right? 

Being creative in an area that is way, way, way out of my comfort zone is hard.  Sharing the pictures is even harder.  If I don't give it a try, I'll remain a scaredy-cat and I want to stop feeling so tentative and nervous about not being great at art.  What the heck.  I made something today, even though it was a tiny and silly something, and that's more than I've done in quite a while.

August 27, 2012

Selling the Studio

Most of my art supplies are either in storage or hidden away so that the house would look perfect and clean while prospective buyers tromped through.  This isn't my home any longer.  It's my house, but not my home and not really my studio.  It's a room with a desk, a partially filled bookshelf and a cabinet with my art supplies hidden behind polka-dotted wrapping paper in the glass windows.

It was hard to have to remove all signs of art with a single exception (a painting too large and delicate to move or store).  Frustrated by the realtor's and stager's suggestion to "put a mirror or a simple print" over the fireplace and find nothing but junk or items too heavy to hang, I decided to make something.  It was pretty funny, actually, as I flipped through the pages of a book about encaustic work that I acquired with the intention of learning how to do it.  There was a simple piece that inspired me, so I raced off to Michael's and bought a canvas.  Working on the outdoor table, I quickly painted the surface, let it dry, then mixed more acrylic with a heavier body medium for texture and scraped it over the first layer.  Fine line details were added with a paint pen, and remnants of handmade paper proved perfect to whack up and apply with a matte medium.  I think I spent a total of fifteen minutes on this cheesy quick piece to fill a space on the wall.  The best part is that my funny husband wants to frame and keep it.

How fun to make something like a kid, not worrying about what anyone would think and just getting messy for a while!  I am inspired.

So the house hunting begins.  It will take 30 days from today for the house to transfer title to the new owners and we hand over the keys.  I love that fact that every house we look at to consider buying, the first thing my husband asks is which room would be best for a studio.

This is going to be a wild month.

August 17, 2012

Contractor's Silent Motto

Spray now, say "Oops" later and spend less time on the job.  I think that's it.

These last two weeks have been spent entirely in looney mode.  The only art I've produced is what a former co-worker called, "painting the sky blue."  This is code for cursing like a sailor.  My sky is a beautiful, deep shade of very, very blue.

The process of getting our house ready to sell is whackier than anything I could have imagined, not because of the mundane work of packing or tossing out junk (why do I have keys to cars I no longer own?), but because I have had a string of unbelievably poor quality workmanship on the part of the contractors.  Every day we take a couple of steps forward, then I discover a disaster and we take a huge step backward, the next day spent trying to repair or undo the damage. 

There were several days when we, along with all of our worldly goods, had to be out of the house so that the carpet could be removed and the hardwood floors, covered for decades, could be refinished.  All rooms of the house with hardwood floors were to be painted before the refinishing since it was not possible to tape down tarps to newly finished wood.  Alas, the floor guy did not take the same care on his end, leaving hand prints of stain on every single brushed nickel doorknob, some freshly painted walls and freshly painted doors.  Then there's the painter that painted windows shut (all of them), painted all of the hinges on the kitchen cabinets (46 of them) after we had several explicit conversations about not painting them, and the gentleman who repaired our deck, leaving old steel pipes sticking up out of the deck.  He was kind enough to paint them to match, but seriously?!?  Having the contractors fix their mistakes is necessary, but the time consumed with taking three steps forward, one step back, two steps forward, etc. is making me lose my mind and my patience. 

Is it just me?  I think like an artist and I look at these jobs as I would art.  The fact that these people are OK with sloppy work shocks me.  I can't imagine framing a piece of art crooked and ignoring that fact, or sewing a piece and having seams not quite closed and some stuffing popping out with dangling threads, or working on a collage piece and have a bit of trash stuck to it to be left behind and ignored as if no one would notice.  I would notice.  I would fix it.  I would be ashamed to do an incomplete or sloppy job and charge someone for the slop.

While we were away from the house and it was like a construction zone, we boarded my poor studio kitty Tabitha at the veterinarian.  The heat and humidity have been brutal recently, so we gave her a couple of extra days there while we tried to make the house inhabitable.  Look who is enjoying some sofa time indoors!  Poor Tabitha has been terrified of all of the new voices and the activity, retreating to her old "hidey hole" down by the pool, tucked away in the garden.  She's happy when everyone goes home and I can convince her to come indoors.  There is some good in the day after all :-)

Lastly, I have begun to rebuild my indoor studio.  The amount of furniture must be limited for the sake of showing the house, but I've got my desk, my cabinet of paints and glues and other goodies, plus my bookshelf.  I kept my dresser full of art bits and bobbles in the garage and hope to tackle at least a few ATCs this week, for sanity's sake of no other.

As a reward for neither committing homicide nor just flat out losing our minds with each other these last few weeks, my husband and I are going to enjoy seeing Tommy Chong at the local comedy club.  We could use a few laughs!

July 30, 2012

Who Dropped This Bomb?

Good grief, my house looks like a bomb has blown up.  Today was the first day with the movers, taking everything from both attics, the garage and the kitchen to a storage facility.  We'll stay a few days in a hotel, a week or two in the rental house, but most of our time in this house (after the repairs/remodeling is finished in a couple of weeks) until it is sold.  My daughter is in the rental with the cats, thus reducing mess by quite a bit.  Trying to figure out how to manage all of this is causing me to lose a lot of sleep.  I think I'm exhausted enough for this insomniac to be able to sleep leaning against a wall in a train station. 

In the hope of retaining SOME semblance of sanity, I agreed to participate in an art project that my sister is coordinating with a friend.  The project involves making inspirational ATC's with an ocean theme that will be given to school children as a reward of some sort.  That is something I can manage, even with limited studio supplies.  With my daughter moved into the rental house, the middle bedroom can, once again, become a studio.  It will have to be super neat, clean and tidy (I'm worried about that), but at least I'll be able to do something.  I've made the difficult decision to pack away all of my darned magazines and reference books into storage which, frankly, will force me to just make art and not get lost in other's works.  We'll see how that works :-)

July 18, 2012

Why Is My Mind Blank?

Today was a day with no excuses.  With increasing problems with back pain, ending up on medication and a heating pad every time I try scrubbing or tasks like vacuuming, I finally gave up and hired help.  So I've got two ladies cleaning away while I hide out in the studio, the perfect opportunity to make art and struggle with the guilt.  But my mind is blank.  I'm wrestling with the vast array of books and magazines at my fingertips and am trying not to pick them up and start flipping pages.  Flipping pages leads to more flipping of pages and not getting anything done.  Yikes!  OK, time to close the computer, pick up a tool or material and do something with it.  Get ready, get set, slam shut!

July 12, 2012

Moving On

Though I have moved frequently in my life (if I only count places where I lived six months or more, that's 19 by the time I was 29 years old), the logistics of the move were managed by my parents or, later in life, by my husband and I calling on all of our friends to help us load up the rental truck while we moved ourselves from one rented house or apartment to another in exchange for pizza and beer.  This time is going to be different and is quite likely to bring on an anxiety attack before the month is over.  We have never sold a home before or had real estate agents peeking into every nook and cranny of our house.  One doesn't realize how much crap one has accumulated until one has to open and expose the contents of closets, cabinets and drawers just prior to one having a coronary brought on by unbearable humiliation and embarrassment. Why did I feel the need to have what looks like 70 rolls of gift wrap?  Or save all of my holiday-themed magazine because there was a recipe or decorating idea somewhere in there that I might remember I had and wanted to use?  Good grief.  There's an entire forest worth of paper in my house.

So the drama begins.  I'm going to hire a housekeeper which makes me feel unbearably guilty, but my raggedy and worn out back won't let me do it all and keep up.  I'll take advantage of that time to go sweat in the studio so I am not underfoot while a total stranger tries to make my home look like a fabulous hotel.  I feel the coronary coming on now.  I finally have an excuse to replace the mailbox that has taken a few too many whacks from a baseball bat in the hands of teenagers with a car and too much time on their hands.  The new one will be installed out of teen arm reach.  There is so much to do, little of which includes making art.  I am going to make the effort to fit art time in, just so I don't totally lose my mind from the stress of it all.

July 3, 2012


Yeah!  Pressure truly does work for me.  How sick is that?!?  Simply buying a commercial gift for my sister-in-law as she marks this milestone birthday was out of the question.  On the one hand I fret that this will seem too "crafty" for her, but on the other hand I know how much time and effort (and failed trials of possible methods of making it) went into the creation.  I'm just going to be done and enjoy the results and hope she likes it too.

My husband's father was a Methodist minister.  While the family didn't have a lot of money, they did manage to cover the country on summer vacations, packing four kids into their big car and dragging a trailer along for camping adventures.  They loved the beach, so I selected what I thought was the cutest photo of my sister-in-law from the 1950's on one of these holidays.

In putting this together, the biggest challenge for me was the depth and texture of the finished project.  The image is printed on heavy (compared to paper) canvas to which I stitched small beads and some bits of embroidery.  Putting this in a regular frame just wasn't going to work.  The frame is one of those deep ones designed for putting 3D objects on display.  I needed to give the work enough depth so that it wouldn't look too flat and just wrong for this type of frame.  Weight was another worry.  If the layers were too heavy, I worried that parts would fall off and plunk to the bottom of the frame next week.

The frame is a 12" square.  I found a page of commercial scrapbook paper that had images of torn maps on it, and painted over that to tone it down, adding the big "bubbles" to continue the shape of the beach ball.  The canvas is an 8 inch square.  To raise the canvas off of the backing paper, I cut a 7.5 inch piece of foam board, covered it with a piece of blue textured (image, not feel) heavy scrapbooking paper so that the sides were clean and finished, then topped it with a piece of bright white paper so that no blue showed through the canvas.  I adhered super fine white (and a pinch of pale teal) glitter on the side of this 7.5" square so that, if by any chance it was taken out of the frame, this support would have a nice finished appearance on the sides and look like sand.  I used a monster strength spray adhesive to attached the backing paper to the back of the frame, as well as for attaching the foam board to the center of that backing paper. I found super-strength adhesive dots and dashes in my supplies and ran a solid like of the dashes around the top edge of the foam board square, fitting the photo canvas on top of it and weighting it down for a while.  The fun final bit was finding real and very tiny sand dollars at the craft store to include also.

Once again, I'm a rotten photographer and can't seem to manage the issue of glare, but it's still finished and I'm glad!  Woohoo!

June 29, 2012

Another Re-Do

I feel like I'm always have to re-do work.  On the mom front, there is the re-do of dishes or vacuuming or whatever other chore my charming son insists he did well.  This is what the kitchen looked like after he said he did the dishes.  You can only see a peek of the very tall cups in the sink.  How does one overlook that (among other things)?

On the artist front, a complete re-do was in order for the current project.  So many details made me unhappy with it.  I think I over-did the beadwork, the size and scale was wrong, the posterization of the photo created a muddy-coloured image with skin too dark and ugly rusty brown.  My latest printer acquisition has proven to be quite the bear for me to manage.  It drinks ink like nothing I've ever witnessed in my life.  I think I can count on fingers and not have to move to toes the number of images I've printed since making the purchase, yet it required three new and separate coloured ink cartridges to keep working.  Then I had to spend an hour with Google trying to find someone, anyone, other than the goobers at Epson that could help with a printer selection issue.  After I got it to understand I wanted to print on a single canvas (by telling it I was printing on a roll of velvet art paper, go figure), it ate a canvas.  The beast sucked it in, sounded like it was printing, then mooshed it back and forth inside and stopped.  The entire canvas was inside the printer with no escape hatch.  A few choice words and whack later, I retrieved the almost usable canvas.  Almost.  I only had to print three to get what I wanted.

Again, I am not a good photographer and have a mediocre camera (I'd like to blame the camera more than the photographer, but I think I'd be lying), but here it is so far.  This is not assembled, just resting loosely together in the sun for the photo op.  I should note that I was inspired to stitch on the photo after seeing the work of artist Hagar Van Heummen (not sure I've spelled that correctly) whom I discovered on Pinterest.  Neat stuff.


Tomorrow I get a break from the heat and the studio, joining my charming husband for a day of art in Laguna Beach.  It's that time of year!  I hope to revisit some of my favourite local artists and maybe pick up a new little something for the house, along with some inspiration and motivation.

June 28, 2012

It's a Winnie the Pooh Kind of Day

I keep saying to myself, "Think! Think! Think!" while trying to come up with a method of concluding my current art project.  The problem with having such a scrambled day-to-day life - running errands, driving kids, trying to be creative, running to the dry cleaners - is that I don't have enough time at one sitting to think things through.  I think I've made a half-muck (if there is such a thing) of this current project.  What was I thinking when I created the image to print out 8-1/2 x 11 inches?  It's canvas, not copier paper!  But it's been stitched, painted and beaded and I'm running out of time, while my mind has half-baked ideas flipping around like a deck of cards being shuffled. 

I spent three hours on the road yesterday driving my son back and forth for his first meeting as an intern for a university professor.  Today I'll spend an least an hour and a half with him at the eye doctor (he's a minor still, so I can't ditch him) with a sketch book in my hands.  I am desperate for some good juju, a muse, anything to work through this dilemma.  Think, think, think some more.

June 24, 2012

Paint, Poke and Bandage

That's what I did today.  I painted, poked myself repeatedly, and applied one Mickey Mouse bandage, followed by a Sponge Bob Square Pants bandage.  Better yet, I got something done.

I can't believe that I actually made progress and like the project so far.  There is always that moment when I'm about to poke a needle through the canvas and make a hole I can't un-poke, or apply paint that dries so fast I can't wipe it off, but I move ahead and think I can always just print another canvas.  Not that THAT was easy to accomplish.  But having survived the printer challenges, I decided to ditch the family today so that they could go to the movies (one of those horrible science fiction movies that keeps you on the verge of a coronary arrest - no thank you!) so that I could work in the studio, not knowing how long this would take.  I managed to do all of tiny stitching and only poke myself about seven times (the needle was super sharp and tiny, so I didn't bleed or curse too much under my breath).  Digging through my art supplies, I found the perfect glass beads to stitch onto the sandy beach to reflect light like little bits of shells.  One of my favorite things in the studio is my Daler Rowney water colours that can be painted on absolutely anything - metal, leather, etc. - and is permanent.  The ones I love most are the pearlescent paints which I used in the surf, a bit of the sky and a few flecks on the sand.  To give the sunglasses a little more texture, I coated the lenses with a glue that dries clear and with a high gloss so they aren't so flat and actually look like glass.  It's not bad!  Now I just have to figure out how to frame or mount it.

Clearly, I also have to get my act together and figure out to take better photographs of my artwork.  I have a lot to learn from my friends who do such a great job.  I did, at least, take this one in natural outdoor light and manage that one baby step.

Today I was reminded how gratifying it is to spend time being creative.  Being inspired by one artist's work helps me with starter ideas, but I can move ahead on my own with one idea leading to another.  Before I know it, I may be doing more art than just talking about doing it.  Better yet, today I did it without apologizing for wanting to work on art instead of go to a movie I didn't want to see.  So there!

June 22, 2012

Finally, On a Roll! Sort Of.

It's been a hard week to make any progress in the studio.  Now that the weather is warmer, I have the back walk-through door to the garage open, and the front roll up door open about halfway, with a fan blasting cooler outside air into the too-warm garage space.  Alas, having a studio kitty and open doors means having studio bugs, the most annoying of which are the stupid flies.  Insects in a house are fairly rare here, something I've jokingly chalked up to the smog killing them.  Last night there was a June bug zooming around.  I consider June bugs to be flying kitty croutons.  If one sneaks into the house, I can toss a cat in the general direction of said flying crouton shrieking, "Get it!  Get the kitty courton!" and eventually it is consumed.  Shudder.  Alas, that doesn't work with a blind studio cat.

The flies (this is disgusting, so avert your eyes if you have a queesy tummy) must be in the midst of a frantic breeding season.  They light on Tabitha's "squishy food" (the canned nastiness) and start laying eggs like a caboose with a machine gun.  Disgusting!  So I curse, smack at them, and fan the bowl while Tabitha gets her fill.  I feel a bit like a cabana boy, missing only the large palm frond for waving.  My sister suggested one of those fly traps that comes in the form of a plastic bag and bait to which you add warm water and, supposedly, wait for the creepy crawlers to slip in and meet their maker.  Alas, the stupid flies continue zooming in figure eights, mocking me and dive bombing for cat food.  Worse, that stupid bait thing smelled like a freaking cadaver.  UGH!  It's now hanging from my steel easel in the back yard and the stench is finally gone from the studio.  I hesitate to put it in the trash container because our neighbor's bedroom is on the side of her house facing our trash bins.  I think that would go badly for all involved.  We'll wait for trash pick up day on Monday morning.

On to the project!  After several failed attempts at versions of an art project using a photo of my sister-in-law, I settled on something I thought I could pull off in this limited time I have until her party.  I tweaked a photo taken of her at the beach when she was young so that it's posterized, then attempted to print it on gessoed (sp?) canvas for further tweaking with thread and maybe some other embellishments.  If only the person who wrote the manual for the printer 1) spoke English as at least a third or fourth language and 2) had someone try to follow the lame directions and steps to make sure they worked.  They didn't.  They were wrong.  Steps were missing, settings were missing, screen shots in the user's guide were NOTHING like the actual screens that appeared.  After many choice words, a few whacks to the printer and a glass of wine, I finally managed to make progress and have printed the photo.  Of course, the borderless photo has borders on two sides, but where there are scissors, there is a way!  Wine first, scissors tomorrow.  A girl has to have some rules!

Here is step one.

June 21, 2012

Amazing video of painting in progress

I absolutely love the site with the many types of artwork that I'd otherwise never have known existed.  This stuff is amazing!  Today I stumbled on this time-lapse video of a self-taught Italian painter Silvia Pelissero creating the most wonderful watercolour.  Love it!

June 20, 2012

Not Much to Show

I've been working, but don't have much to show for it.  With my sister-in-law's milestone birthday celebration looming, I have precious little time to make something for her and I'm determined to make something for her.  Deadlines and a little pressure always get me rolling.  This time around, I was inspired by a few pieces of art I found on Pinterest.  I love the work of Abigail Reynolds, who creates sculptural collages from photographs, one laying atop the other, with cuts and folds in the topmost image revealing the one below.  What a great idea!  Hagar van Heummen uses needle, thread and ink to make what appears to be a photo printed on canvas with the background removed, and stitches added to the canvas as embellishment, providing another great inspiration for play time in the studio.  

So for now, I'm trying to learn how to do some things in Photoshop Elements I should have learned a long time ago.  There's not much to show but a lot of versions of a photo in various stages of change.  Boring to look at, but it's fun to play.  Maybe this weekend I'll have something finished to post.

May 26, 2012

Doing Art vs. Making Art

Yesterday I re-read the aforementioned article by Julie Fei-Fan Balzer and decided it was time to take action beyond reading the article.  Thinking about the advice to "do" art as opposed to "make" art, I picked up a small blank canvas and just started painting it.  With the tub of paint tubes within easy reach, I just started squeezing blobs of paint on the canvas, squeezing on a blending medium, and moved it all around.  The idea of creating a collage on this first canvas occurred to me, and I thought about the fact that my sister-in-law is celebrating a milestone birthday this summer and it would be fun to make something for her.  While that canvas dried, I grabbed another and just started putting bright colours on it.  My intent was not to create a masterpiece.  My intent was to smear paint and have a good time doing it.  How fun to ignore chores and make a painty mess without the pressure of a deadline or having to have a finished project.  This is my happy mess, phase 1.

On the mom front, I've got two kids at home now which means bigger messes and more chores.  I say kids, but they are 17 and 27.  I find studio time easier now that it's out of the house, something I thought was going to be a major inconvenience.  It is inconvenient at times, but at other times proves to provide a necessary separation of home and creative time.  This summer we will be college shopping for Kevin, which means a lot of time away from home.  Finding time to work in the studio is going to take planning.  It is time for me to start being more serious about it and make it as routine as when I went to an office every day.  Being creative definitely makes me a happier person, so I'm going to tell myself that I'm doing it for my family just as much as I'm doing it for myself.  Does that sound like a big fat fib?  ;-)  It's my story and I'm stickin' to it.

May 22, 2012

Throwing in the Towel

There comes a time when there is no choice but to accept that a piece of art is, in fact, an epic failure and that it is time to throw in the towel.  This piece is just NOT going to happen.  I will never be satisfied, I will always be annoyed with the fact that no matter how much I paint it, attach wires, or change the mount, I just hate it.  This piece has been torturing me for almost two years.  I made a mistake in the form the day I made it, then tried to make the form work.  It doesn't work.  It started off beige and grim.  I tried incorporating fiber and wire and, as I observed back then, the result was a terrorist in a fluffy skirt.  It was horrible.

Next came more paint, removal of fiber, addition of wire, then more wire, and little metal bits.  I tried too hard to save a piece not worth saving.  Tossing this piece won't mean total failure for me.  I've learned what doesn't work, to trust my first instincts, but to also just keep handling a variety of materials in an effort at getting better with those materials.  I can throw in the towel and not feel as if I've completely wasted my time.  Well, I can try to talk myself into believing that if I say it enough times in my head.  In any event, I'll never feel free to do something else until I can just give up on this disaster. 

This last month I have tried harder to find that balance between mom and artist.  It's hard.  I still feel like a fraud when I call myself an artist.  I make stuff, but not even enough stuff to justify the title of artist.  Maybe I'm just a slow crafter.  But I'm spending more time than ever in my garage studio, hoping for continued moderate weather so that I can work in here in peace and mentally begging for creative juices to flow more freely.  Now all I have to do is make a sign for the back of my chair so that solicitors don't feel that an open studio door is an open invitation to interrupt with their efforts to sell me meat from a truck (seriously, it's disgusting) or their fumigation services or their religion.  Time to sport a holster loaded with an air horn.  It works on teenage boys...

Time to move on.

May 6, 2012

I Thought I Was Swedish (at least a little)

Do I ever take my own advice?  Just get into the studio and make something instead of doing housework or run errands?  Today I did.  It was time to do what I know I should and just go to the studio to play with no plan.  It's amazing how just picking up a piece of wood, cutting it (and thankfully not terrifying Tabitha the Studio Cat into a fuzzy frenzy) and picking up the gesso.  I figured one of two things were going to happen.  I'd either come up with an idea as I worked blind, or just get messy and enjoy the process.  It worked.  The messing around resulted an epiphany about the figurative piece I've been working on for months, following my cyber mentor Debbie's advice to just let it happen and let the ideas flow.  I'm sketching, jotting downs ideas and actually having a hard time watching paint dry so I can move to the next step.  But step one and the ideas for step two have caused a flow of other new ideas that, thank goodness, are coming from my long-dormant brain and not one of my magazines or reference books.

Last week my husband took me to a museum in Los Angeles that featured an exhibit of women Surrealists of Mexico and the United States, knowing that I am a huge fan of one of the featured artists, Frida Kahlo.  The autobiographical nature of her work always impressed me, particularly her almost unkind but honest portrayal of herself.  It dawned on me that the piece I've been struggling with has been slow in the making while I was constantly distracted by a recent revelation about my own family, now an inspiration as I plot the completion of the work.

I grew up with one side of my family having been in America since the late 1700's at which time they immigrated from Ireland.  But on the other side of the family, I am a first generation American.  My grandparents immigrated from Finland and Sweden to Canada, and when my father was young, they immigrated to the United States.  I always felt very connected to my Scandinavian family.  The frequent visits by aunts, uncles and cousins from Sweden were fun and I loved listening to the elders struggle with English while they taught me a little Swedish (about one phrase of which I remember!).  I adopted many of the Swedish traditions in my holiday cooking and decorating, trying to teach my children about that part of the family, many of them long gone.  I was proud to insist on retaining my maiden name when I married, compromising by hyphenating it with my husband's very English (and sounding like someone with allergies) last name of Hewitt.  What a strange thing to be 51 years old and find out that the man that I loved (and still do) as my grandfather and whose name I carry is no relation to me whatsoever.  Maybe there was never a time for them to feel they should or needed to tell the truth about the family?  Absolutely never?  I discovered that my father came to the U.S. two years later than we thought (no big deal, I know) and that his younger brother was also born in Canada, not New York.  What else do I think I know that is wrong?  My last name doesn't quite feel the same to me and, frankly, I think I would like to have known that a long time ago and maybe even had the chance to choose.  Some things will never change, like the fact that I loved my grandparents to death and miss them every day.  But I'm not Swedish.  I didn't have an answer to, "Where did you grow up?" because I was an Air Force brat, but I always had an answer about my family heritage.  They didn't exactly lie, but I feel like that was a pretty big piece of information to keep under cover for a lifetime.  If it weren't for the internet, I'd never have known.  I resent it just a little bit.  However, I will think of my glass as half full and, inspired by Frida Kahlo and genealogical research results, I'm ready to work.

I'm not Swedish.  Not even a little bit.  That's a bummer, but fodder for thought while I work at expressing how I feel about it in wire, wood and clay.  If I'd carried on my father's real last name, I'd have been spelling it and correcting pronunciation for my entire life.  At least everyone knows how to pronounce Carlson.  There, the silver lining.

April 26, 2012

Finding New Inspiration

My hair stylist is an artist.  I mean the kind that really generates art work, displays it and even sells it.  Every time I come in for what I know will be a lengthy appointment, I bring my own reading materials.  Inevitably, I nab a book or magazine from my studio shelf and we gab about the contents.  Today I was bemoaning, as usual, that my mind is drawing a blank when it comes to making art.  The article that appeared in this month's issue of Cloth Paper Scissors by Julie Fei-Fan Balzer spoke of daily practice to keep creativity flowing.  Haven't I fussed about this a few times?  So yesterday I got out a sketch pad and pencil and just sat there with the tip of the pencil on the paper as if it were a Ouiji board and the pencil would start magically making art on its own.  My mind was whispering, "OK, now what?  This is stupid.  Draw something!"  But I don't draw.  Round and round we go.  Again.

As I was describing my interminable blank mind to the stylist, she picked up the magazine and ATC book that I brought in and suggested that if my creative juices have gone on hiatus, maybe I should stop looking for motivation and inspiration so close to home.  She suggested giving the "craft" books a rest and look elsewhere, anywhere, for inspiration - fashion or decorating magazines, photographs, anything that could get me started at least on looking at pleasing color combinations.  She recently picked up a book filled with nothing but photographs of butterflies and was inspired to work on a painting with a new colour palette.

I picked up my camera and started looking at the photos I took recently at the San Diego Zoo, Sea World and of my freshly planted garden (while the plants are still alive and my fingers are crossed).  One of the photos I took was of what I thought was THE coolest dressed father at Sea World, thinking the amazing graphics could serve as inspiration.  There was also a great exhibit of very bright poison dart frogs that reminded me of an Aboriginal painting I have at home.  These slimy but brilliantly coloured critters could serve as inspiration too.  We'll see what happens next.

Being creative seemed to come more easily when I wasn't trying so hard and over-thinking every step I take.

March 19, 2012

Finish Something Already!!!

Studio time continues to elude me.  On the mom front, I am scrambling to get my son ready for a Spring Break trip to Germany.  As the mother of a teenager, I should be immune to his disinterested, uncooperative efforts to pull things together, particularly when his brain is focused on *#*%&@ video/computer games.  We have created a monster.  He thinks "old people" are nuts for wanting to spend money on things like travel when they have nothing to show for it, as opposed to spending money on a new hand-held game system that will be obsolete three hours after production when a newer, shinier, faster model comes out.  Not that I'm feeling a bit sarcastic or unappreciated.  Oh, no.  But I feel better after 1) having found the plug adapter he needs for his charging devices in EXACTLY the spot I told him to look yesterday (he said he did and it wasn't there) and 2) tossing the enormous pile of clothes from the floor of his closet to the middle of the bedroom floor (I should have been wearing a gas mask) while the monster load he did manage to get into the laundry room (two days after laundry was finished) is being washed.  Grrrrrrrr.  I think the next trip will be reserved for the parents who appreciate it!!!  The little savage....

On the art side, it's Monday.  This is the regular day that I bring home from school my young friend and Kevin's classmate Jasmine, a mature and artistic young lady who inspires me to get to work.  We decided last week that we need to craft while we yap or we'll get nothing but yapping (OK, and a little snacking) done for the afternoon.  Jasmine stays through dinner until her mother is finished with graduate school classes, so it's one day a week where I'm guaranteed getting a little something accomplished.  I'm quite tardy, having made incredibly little progress on the project for the Susan Sorrell online course.  Today's the day!  Tomorrow is a post of the photo!

Alas, having a studio cat has been a little bit of a problem when that cat frequently an upset stomach.  I will spare the details other than to say that I am the happy owner of a carpet cleaner and my rug isn't all that big.  Another ugh.

March 4, 2012

Lessons Learned the Hard Way

I have been advised in every way, shape and form of the importance of sketching and brainstorming on paper, but never really got it.  Today I got it.  I have spent two weeks bonking my head against a virtual wall trying to complete step 2 of the online class I'm taking.  It shouldn't be this hard!  I think I've said this a few times before.  The task was to come up with a quote or lyrics from a song or something and create a simple image for it on a 7 inch square of assembled fabric layers.  I looked at books, magazines, clip art, junk mail, and web sites, all the while having a blank brain.  Argh!  I have had to remind myself over and over again that the point of this exercise is to learn a technique and NOT to expect to produce a family heirloom.  There is seriously no chance of that happening!  This is where I am so far:

Initially, the inner "filling" was too firm and impossible to stitch through with a full six strands of embroidery floss.  I took it apart, replaced the filling, and settled on a theme.  We'll see what it looks like after tomorrow.

March 3, 2012

I Have a Studio Cat!

About a week and a half ago, I saw a scroungy black cat skulking on the back deck and shooed it away.  I noticed the cat stagger a bit, lean on a bucket, and thought that it looked quite ill.  It slunk under the deck to hide.  The next evening I saw it again, and this time I noticed that it was more than just sick.  It appeared to be starving and, worse, blind.  I started putting food out for the kitty and on closer look, saw that the poor thing was also de-clawed.  This is clearly a lost pet.  With no success combing adverts for lost kitties and posting my own "Found Cat" notices on the internet, I knew I had to either take her in or find her a suitable home or she would likely die and soon.  Days of torrential weather and neighborhood gardeners scaring her to death with lawnmowers and leaf blowers delayed our trip to the vet.  We finally made it yesterday.  We were informed that "Tabitha" is 14-15 years old and is, in fact, blind due to detached retinas as the result of hyperthyroidism and related hypertension and cardiac issues.  She is free of all of the bad and communicable kitty cooties, and has now been vaccinated for anything and everything.  If we were to treat her hyperthyroid condition, she'll go faster into kidney failure.  The vet suggested that no matter what, she'll eventually just poop out.  Giving her love, attention and plenty of food will make her last days happy.  We're hoping for a lot of days.  Because we have two indoor kitties, one of which is a bit of a bully that delights in the whooping of weaker kitties, Tabitha is in the garage studio.  She actually seems to love her spot.  She's assumed ownership of my work chair and immediately discovered the makeshift litter box (an overpriced service tray from Target with the handle holes taped shut as a regular litter box has sides that are too high for a blind kitty).  She's eating like there's no tomorrow, adding a tiny bit of weight so that she now weighs 6.5 lbs.  Only 6.5 lbs.  I hope that she is just a lost kitty and that she is not here because some horrible pet parent decided to just open the door and be rid of a kitty with medical issues (which the vet reported they see a lot).  I can't imagine how terrified she must have been in the dark, lost and starving, not even able to hunt (we saw lizards run past her unnoticed, then saw a gross possum eating her food one night just a few feet away from her, to which she was oblivious) and then terrorized by the sounds of packs of yipping coyotes at night.

I'm happy to have another kitty to love until and unless someone else wants to give her a quiet little indoor home.  Studio cats are a good thing.

OK, I know she's not in the studio in the photo, but all the noise in there today scared her.  I HAD to make a cover for my Bernina, so she zoomed outside to enjoy the super hot day (following sleet just six days ago?!?) until I got her settled in for the evening.  All is well.

February 24, 2012


This week I was to start the online class I've been excitedly anticipating for months offered by Susan Sorrell.  The supplies list was provided via email, and I was off to the shops!  How frustrating that so many of the items that one would expect to be readily available are nowhere to be found in my area!  I've gone to the fabric store (only one within 12 miles) and Michael's looking for a size 2 or 3 embroidery needle and specific brands (two suggested) of beading thread.  It's SO frustrating to have such limited merchandise available in actual brick and mortar stores.  I'm the first to admit that I love shopping on the internet for a lot of things, but I don't want to spend a fortune to ship a $3 item.  Argh!!!

I wish I'd had access to the photos in the tutorial prior to shopping.  The items I bought for embellishment, the fabrics I selected and the batting would all have been very different.

Once I got the lessons and photos downloaded, I looked at the images of the fabric Susan uses and was happy to see that she incorporates a lot of batiks as the base fabric.  Yeah!  I have a lot.  However, the big fat needle with the big fat (full six strands) of embroidery floss have to easily pass through two layers of fabric and a layer of batting in between.  Ugh.  The batiks were all too tightly woven or had too heavy a coating of who-knows-what that made me look like I was wrestling an anaconda trying to pull it through.  That and I must admit to a little cursing while I wrestled.  It's not like I'm a novice at embroidery or sewing.  I've been doing this stuff since I was ten years old.  But double argh with the walls I'm hitting.

So I've cut different fabrics, different batting and am on a mission today to try to find the elusive embroidery needles in the proper size.  If nothing else, I'll sell a kidney and pay for a needle to be shipped.  Sheesh.

February 21, 2012

Noise, Noise, Noise

Having promised myself more studio time, I ran around cleaning like a mad woman this morning, working to the point that I would not die of embarrassment if someone came to the door unannounced (and closing the bedroom door because that room would NOT pass the test).  I raced off to the nearest fabric store to find the last few items I need for an online class that starts tomorrow, then prepared to get to work.  That's when the lumberjacks down the street set up their line of orange cones in the road and starting taking down what I think is an oak tree (city slickers are never sure of much more than that it's a tree) that is twice as high and as wide as the house in front of which it sits.  We have the most marvelous sunny and warm weather today, and I can't work out there without ear plugs.  Argh!!! 

Maybe it's time to whip out the iPod and just do what I can.  I only have an hour and a half before I have to step into the mom shoes and zip off to school.  There isn't enough time in a day.

February 13, 2012

More "Self Taught" Mess

On the art front:  Today I was reading an article about one of my favourite artists, Chris Roberts Antieau, appreciating that in addition to being self-taught, she collects the art of primarily self-taught artists herself.  Something tells me that my work will never make it to her house.  There is nothing more frustrating than just flat out not knowing what I'm doing, sure that somebody, somewhere, knows exactly how to do what I'm trying to do, just not me.

The ever-evolving figurative piece is currently the bane of my existence.  Art isn't supposed to be this frustrating.  Either I sit here with a blank brain, or I just start doing "stuff" to it to try to make it better, often just making it chaotic.  Arghhhhh!  The artists who say, "Just do something!" are putting me in a bit of a slapping mood.  So I've tied wire, cut the wire off, removed the working stand, tried incorporating paper (it looks cool, but too much like a dress on a masculine-faced piece), took off the paper, tore the paper, stitched the paper, shoved it up the caboose of the piece again (it was good for a chuckle, but not a good look), and finally started cutting heavy wire to create a modern base.  This paragraph makes about as much sense as the pile of debris on my desks looks like art.  Not much.

On the Mom front: I woke up in the middle of the night, stressing that I've missed not one boat, but an entire fleet in getting my #2 child prepared to go to college in less than two years.  Child #1 was the most self-directed academic-minded child I ever knew.  She was obsessive about doing well in school, thinking about college when her age was still in the single-digit range.  Child #2 says to me when he got a D on his report card a couple of years ago, "Hey, at least it wasn't an F!" as if I should be thrilled with that little bit of information.  Because, hey, I should have known a "D" wasn't all that bad, right?  I feel wicked wondering if I invest in one of those pricey classes to help prepare him for the SAT exam if he'll even study or care.  When I ask, I get a hint of the right answer, but no sense of commitment.  Right now, I'm obsessed with pointing out sad jobs (like the poor blokes that do nothing but throw suitcases on airplanes, and often the wrong plane at that) and tell Kevin that THEY didn't go to COLLEGE.  He chuckles, I keep looking for more examples and hope it will inspire him to care one tenth as much as I do.

February 9, 2012

Moving on to Plan C

Today I made up for dodging housework yesterday, though I had an ulterior motive.  The mom in me is hosting yet another party here tomorrow, providing an opportunity for all the kids going to Europe with the German teacher during spring break (five each from two different schools) to get to know each other prior to meeting up at the airport for departure.  I was determined to find my lost (incomplete) art journal while I cleaned. 

I found more than I bargained for - old chocolate.  Thinking the journal may have been tucked under a cushion of one of the sofas (having been last spotted in the living room), I lifted the cushions, knowing I'd be sure to find something scary along with the usual treasure of coins and maybe a pen or pencil.  What I found were two full-sized candy bars in one sofa, along with a few other remnants of Halloween.   Now I'm trying to figure out how someone unwittingly managed to get TWO big, fat candy bars under a couch cushion without realizing it, or what goober thought this would be a nifty hiding place and just forgot to retrieve their loot.  When I picked up my son from high school today and told him about the gruesome discovery, he lit up like a Christmas tree and asked with great excitement in his voice, if I had brought them with me.  Seriously?  Did I bring the butt-imprinted, likely months-old candy bars in the car on a hot day to offer as a snack?  What's more gross?  Finding logs of candy in the furniture, or having someone eagerly anticipate the snack?  As predicted, my son made a beeline for the candy when we got home and (gag) ate one of the bars.  Now I'm just curious.  Will my 26 year old daughter, the world's #1 chocolate addict, lunge for the other candy bar?  Now it's just a freakish experiment in bizarre human behavior and addiction.

Anyway, I looked absolutely everywhere for the journal for hours.  The house is ridiculously clean, but there was no journal.   As I was about to throw in the towel (followed by a fit of frustration), I found it!  One last look inside the books that had recently been moved to the studio revealed the journal tucked in for safekeeping, I assume.  Whew!  Now I can get to work and finish the pages before I ship it off to my sister for the final step in our swap.

The figurative project I'm working on continues to make me think harder than I want to think.  After working on it for a while and then setting it aside, I really took a long and hard look to see if I could figure out what was making me most nuts about it.  Primarily, it looked too much like a shepherd with the ever-so-wrong fiber mixed in with the wire.  After plucking out all of the fiber, I knew I had a lot more wire to add to fill the empty space.  I have no finished look in mind.  I just know I don't like what I see and start changing it.  Several hours, a few coats of paint, several feet of copper wire and some faux-gold leaf later, I was a bit more satisfied.  I worked without thinking much, just letting it happen.  My husband was happy to hear that I'd spent such a good chunk of time in the studio and I was eager to show him the product of the hours committed to trying to improve the piece. 

This was Plan A in progress.  The stand and dowel are simply "holders" while I work, not intended to be part of the finished project.

The first words out of his mouth were, "Oooh!  Mardi Gras!"  Sigh.  This was not what I expected.  As I look at it, I understand his comment.  Now what?  It's NOT supposed to look like anything mardi gras.  Here's the before and after.  It's time to move to Plan C.
This is the current state of affairs for this piece.  The photo is messy, taken on the studio desk in frustration and without the proper and tidy backdrop.  I'll have to work on that.  Again, the dowel and stand are just to support it while I work.

While I allow myself to get frustrated at times and critique more than create, it really felt good to just make something.  Rereading the quote I posted recently, I am reminded that I'm not at this to create a masterpiece.  I'm creating for the joy of creating, learning as I go (things like don't have the big garage door open while working with leafing foil, especially if it's windy) and trying new techniques.  I won't get any better if I don't try and try again.  Regardless of the finished product, getting my hands dirty and playing again matter more than whether or not I need to move on to Plan C or D or even W.  I have succeeded just a bit in quieting my inner critic.  She's whispering as opposed to yelling.  I'll take what I can get.

February 8, 2012

Trial and Error

Yesterday I managed to dodge afternoon housework, pretending I didn't see the woolly mammoths begging to be vacuumed, and got into the garage for a little studio time.  It's still hard for me to call it a studio as it still feels so foreign.  My efforts at organizing when the studio was in the house have all been undone with supplies now wherever they'll fit as opposed to their proper place.  I've tried replicating the storage as it was indoors, but have had limited success.  Every day feels like a scavenger hunt, but I resist spending time trying to bring more order to a chaotic and temporary work space, knowing I'd end up doing more organizing than creating.

The figurative piece I'm currently working on is making me a little nuts.  I am taking one step forward, then two steps back every time I sit down to work on it.  My friend Debbie's cyber voice is whispering in my mind, reminding me to just let go and see what happens.  When I start working on a piece, I don't have any preconceived notion of the final outcome - no sketches, no mental picture of the finished piece - and so I wing it as I go.  This piece sat for a long time, and one afternoon I just picked it up and started adding to it.  Now, it looks like it.  I add wire, remove baubles, add paint, rub off paint...I can't put my finger on it, but it just doesn't feel right.  When I look through art magazines or books, I find myself mentally criticizing assemblage work in particular that appears to have just been created by throwing stuff together until the artist figured it was time to stop.  That's what I'm afraid this is beginning to look like.  Sigh.

This is when the business of being self-taught bites me in the caboose as I realize how much I haven't learned.  I work on this piece and worry about how it will be finished, how it should be displayed when complete.  What kind of stand should I build?  How can I hide the inside/under the skirt?  Is it supposed to be a skirt?  I hadn't intended it to look like a skirt or dress.  The face appears masculine, but the garb suggests feminine.  Arghhhhhh!

On the mom front, I am finding my two worlds colliding these days.  I brought the art journal I'm working on into the house to show the family what I'm working on when I'm squirreled away for hours.  Where is it now?  Who knows.  Someone has moved it and no one takes credit nor remembers having seen it recently.  Really?  I need GPS tracking on everything that is mine.  More sighs. 

So today I'll take another whack at the figurative piece and try to shut down my over-thinking brain.  Maybe something miraculous will happen and it will look less like a craft project and more like art.

February 5, 2012

Success Short Lived

I chuckled when I looked at the date of my last post.  My success was short lived, not having been back in the studio since.  It really is hard getting out there because it IS a garage, after all.  It's a nice space, but every time I'm out there I think about something I need in the house.  When I'm in the house, I think of stuff I need that's in the garage.  A bathroom, a sink and a mini fridge would be great in the garage (and is not going to happen).  My bookshelf with all of my artsy reference books is still in the indoor studio/now daughter's room, but I suppose that's good.  Too often I peruse the books for inspiration (note to self: remember the quote from the artist that says we need to just get out there and do it and stop waiting for the inspiration bolt of lightening).

The other issue I have to deal with is a tricky one - how do I manage solicitors?  Some guy actually came to the house trying to sell me meat, MEAT, from a fancifully decorated refrigerated truck.   It didn't take me long to get rid of him, assuring him that I'm not a vegetarian, but I would never, ever, ever buy meat from a truck and nothing he could say would change my mind.  But what a pain in the patootie to have to deal with this stuff.  I need a sign on an easel that reads, "I'm at work here.  No soliciting!  Chatterboxes interested in art are welcome."  Well, something along that line, but more clever.  Clearly I need to work on the concept.

Today is the big, stupid football game that most of America is slobbering over, so uninterrupted art time shouldn't be a problem.  While I will be doing some cooking and turning the kitchen into a meatball factory, I intend to work on my art journal and have some tunes cranking and will NOT fold any laundry or clean any floors today.  Before I get started, I'm going to glance at a couple of the blogs I follow for my daily dose of inspiration (Mary, I'm thinking of you!) and previous notes of encouragement and advice from my best artsy friend Deb. 

Let's get messy!

January 25, 2012

Success at Last!!!

I am patting myself pretty hard on the back tonight, having worked in the studio from 10:30 a.m. until 6:30 p.m., taking a brief break for lunch and to pick up weasels from school and distribute them to their respective homes.  At long last, I made real progress on the project that has been nagging at me since before the holidays.

The project is an art journal, inspired by the most awesome Teesha Moore and her YouTube videos on the subject.  I ordered the watercolor papers and other supplies last summer (not that I procrastinate or anything) and started talking about working on the project after my sister returned to Minnesota after a summer visit.  She finished hers right away.  I kept trying to find fantastic papers, more creative inspiration, and the perfect paints.  Needless to say, that was just dumb.  After moaning this week about not getting anything done, I did as I promised myself and just went out there.  I moved my scanner and my fancy newish printer out there and got to work, scanning fabric and printing those images to use the paper for the edge of the journal pages.  Using the papers I made in a monoprinting class a couple of years ago, I scanned those pups as well and then tweaked the colors, creating multiple versions so I don't have to whack up the original.

While I still have to create the collage images in the middle of the pages, here are a few pictures of the journal with it's pages completely lined with borders.  Woohoo!

I know, I really do need a better camera, photography lessons and cleaner carpet.

January 24, 2012

Inspiration Eludes Me

I've landed, once again, with both feet firmly planted in the Land of Doing Nothing.  I don't like it here.  This week I happily signed on to a fun project, committing to making and delivering a handcrafted something to five people in 2012.  Creativity continues to elude me as my brain swims with half ideas, partial ideas, or the sound track from an annoying television commercial I can't get out of my head.  Searching for inspiration, I cruised through some of my studio books, I looked through my old sketch books, fumbled through a pile of fabric, and even stooped to Googling for art/creativity prompts.

In my fruitless search for a miraculous prod to my imagination, I found a blog quote that proved to offer yet another smack of reality and good food for thought.  The comment was attributed by the blogger to painter Chuck Close.  The message was that artists shouldn't sit around waiting for inspiration, but just get going.  "Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work.  If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightning to strike you in the brain, you are not going to make an awful lot of work.  All the best ideas come out of the process; they come out of the work itself.  Things occur to you.  If you’re sitting around trying to dream up a great art idea, you can sit there a long time before anything happens.  But if you just get to work, something will occur to you and something else will occur to you and something else that you reject will push you in another direction.  Inspiration is absolutely unnecessary and somehow deceptive. You feel like you need this great idea before you can get down to work, and I find that’s almost never the case."

Will I ever make progress?  Do prolific artists just get in there, get their hands dirty and make art?  Clearly I am failing at the most basic level.  I still find myself mopping and vacuuming instead of sewing or painting.  I promise myself I'm going to schedule studio time, then I don't do it.  I just sit with brain freeze, something I've fussed about too many times.  I've grown weary of my own complaints.

Tonight, I paused while writing to put studio time on the calendar, blocking noon to 3 p.m. on every week day.  I have to be flexible when school lets out early and disrupts the schedule, but I'm going to give it a try.  If I don't start taking serious steps to make art a priority, it will never, ever be a priority and I'll spend the rest of my life voicing the same complaints.  I should make myself the ugliest hat on the planet and force myself to wear it in public every time I fuss about not making art.  Ouch.  OK, never mind.  Maybe I'll start with wearing mismatched socks ;-)

January 6, 2012

Sleep, A Waste of Time

I've struggled with insomnia for years.  For a long time, I freaked out about the lack of sleep, sure I'd be seeing pink dalmatians or some other circus oddity at some point in time when everyone else should be waking up and going to work.  After a number of years of lack of sleep, I really started to think about what it cost me.  Anything substantial?  I figured time spent sleeping is time wasted.   The hours that I spend awake (at least the hours that span the period of time one would normally snooze) can include stuff that "normal" people miss.   Some nights I find myself listening to the most amazing cacophony of coyotes in the gulley behind our house.  Of course I can't resist hollering at them and competing.  The neighbors are surely convinced I'm bonkers ;-)  Sometimes I read (always the most ridiculous pulp fiction), and sometimes I watch the most silly television programming.  Some nights I go outside to our big deck and marvel at the stars and planets.  It is awesome and I can't believe how many people ignore this stuff.  While we can't see much with the light pollution (living TOO close to Los Angeles), I can catch the occasional meteor and feel like I just won some big prize.  I'm such a cheap date.

Life could be worse.  Not being able to fall asleep easily or stay asleep isn't a terrible thing.  Insomniacs such as myself see so much of life that everyone else sleeps through - the owls hooting, the old movie, the kitty that wants to's all better than the alternative, no???

January 5, 2012

One Sad Kitty

A long time ago I swore I wouldn't be one of those people that blogged about their cats.  Once or twice I have, because heaven knows I have one or two totally whacky cats that do provide for some amusing tales.  But tonight I just feel really sad for Charlotte and feel the need to share.  OK, I've had a little wine, both white AND red, but I can't help it.  This poor kitty has been a wreck from the get-go.  We adopted her when she was eight weeks old.  She was one of a litter (have I shared this before?) that a bunch of young adolescent boys found, plotting a game where they'd each place a kitten in the street and the "owner" of the surviving kitten won.  Seriously?!?  Savages!  Someone saw them, rescued the kittens, and thus we have Charlotte.  In addition to the trauma of her early days, she suffers from some whacky allergy, it seems, to grains in cat food.  That's what the vet thinks.  So every couple of months  the lining of her mouth inflames as if someone had taken sandpaper to it, at which point I take her in for shots to reduce the inflammation and pain.  There's not much warning other than sudden seclusion and reduction in visits to the food bowl.  It makes me so sad.  Tonight is the first time since we adopted her some three or four years ago that she has appeared on the sofa.  I'm happy she wants  to be close, but sad that I can't help her tonight.  I'd say a visit to the vet is in order for tomorrow.  Time to whip out the catnip, poor kitty.