Here We Go Again

I started my day with the intention of finishing my table, but I sidelined the project because of an invitation from a very handsome man for a lunch date. (My husband of course!) He asked me to lunch and for a visit to the San Diego Museum of Art to see a new exhibition he knew I wanted to see. The works of Giambattista Piranesi, architect, designer, art dealer, and print maker, among many other things. The work was beautiful, more than 300 original prints from the 18th century. The detail and perspective of each sketch was incredibly precise. As always I left the museum inspired. I contemplated doing a pen and ink sketch, but by the time we came home, both a sore ankle and the wine from lunch had taken their toll.

We sat out in our beautiful garden for a while, where I again looked for inspiration. My thoughts came back once again to the idea of some altered art. At the museum Dan and I had discussed different work that appeals to me, and how none of it is “perfect”. I simply love the pieces for what they are and the feelings they invoke. Later in the car we again discussed my post of the other day where I called myself “uptight”. He said I’m not so much uptight as timid. I decided to attempt a piece of something out of my comfort zone for this evening.

Several years ago I had used two scrap wood pieces to mount some candle wall sconces on. When I did them I didn’t see that they resembled the shape of a house. The sconces hang alone now, and the wood was sitting in my studio. I’m still working on the project as I write this, and until this moment wasn’t sure where I wanted to go with it. I printed a photo of an angel that I took in a cemetery in Richmond, Virginia a few years ago on water slide decal paper. The paper has to sit for at least thirty minutes to dry and then you have to sit it in water for about sixty seconds, the image slides off and can be applied to your surface. The wood had a hole in it, I decided to use my wood burner to create a halo/crown behind her head. Then I got stuck. I played around with small pieces I had in my studio, searching for just the right piece. I eventually realized that because she is a gravestone angel, the image represents the passing of time to me. I searched on the internet and found a quote by William Blake. It states, “To see the world in a grain of sand, and to see heaven in a wild flower, hold infinity in the palm of your hand, and eternity in an hour.” I am waiting for the quote to dry on another piece of the decal paper, but wasn’t sure where to go from there. As I wrote this a thought occurred to me, when my mother died I wrote a verse about it, and used a small box I had to create a small piece of art that sits on my vanity. Part of that verse refers to my no longer having a home, that my dad is still there but that without her it isn’t home anymore. This will all make sense I think once the piece is done, which is obviously not going to happen tonight due to decal drying time. So I will again tonight post an unfinished piece, and a photo of the piece about my mother. Tomorrow I believe I can achieve what is in my head tonight.


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An Idea Come To Life

It has been a long day. The lovely long walk of yesterday came back to bite me in the you know where. I haven’t hiked in quite some time, so my body decided to remind me how old I am, and express its displeasure by hurting in more ways than I care to mention. My post is even later than usual tonight, not because I put my project off as we all know I’ve been doing, but because what I chose to do took several hours.

I’ve been saying for days now that I wanted to attempt some altered art, but again today I changed my mind. Today wasn’t about avoiding what I promised to do, but rather finally working on an idea I have had for a long time. A few years ago we went to Paris. We had hoped to find a really great flea market, but only found one high-end one where the items were far beyond anything we could afford. When we got back from our trip I purchased a few “souvenirs” on eBay and etsy. One of the things I found was a vintage powder tin. I loved the graphics on the lid and always thought I’d like to replicate it as a small table top. As promised when I started this project, I want to use what I already have. I have two of the precut circular pieces of wood that they sell at the home improvement stores, so I painted my tabletop today. I’m not completely finished. By the time I stopped painting it was after ten, so tomorrow will be about touch ups in better light. For the base of the table I’m going to use the bottom of an old bubble gum machine I bought at the Goodwill. I am also considering a little gold leaf on the edges, but again all will be decided in the morning light.

So, no promises about what I will do tomorrow. Like today I will see where my mood takes me. Sometimes the things I like best are the ones I didn’t plan.image

A Change Of Plans

I know I said I would do something different today, I also said that I would be working on some altered art, but I changed my mind. Why? (As if anyone but me cares.) We decided to go for a walk today, actually it was a hike. We live near what is called the Santa Rosa Plateau in Southern California. It is a spectacular nature preserve with incredible vistas. If you can ever make it there it should be much earlier than the end of April. Although it was beautiful today, if you can manage to be there in early March that is definitely the time to go. Vernal pools arise out of nowhere, and the wild flowers are everywhere. It is a very hilly area with a few rough spots, but so well worth it. The temperature was a bit warm, in the mid 80’s, and we wore the wrong shoes, and both were rewarded with sunburn, but I took more than 250 photos today. Almost all were of flowers, and that is what led to today’s post. I was so inspired by what I saw today that I decided to draw some of the Lupines that grow in abundance here in the spring. It is a pencil sketch, using both color pencil and lead pencil, and a white Conte’ crayon. It isn’t exact, which is actually a good thing because it means I’m learning to let go a little. The altered art can wait until tomorrow. I’m tired, burned, and done in by the hike. So I will make this short, post my drawing, and treat you all to a few photos from today.

By the way, as always there is food. We had a lovely afternoon in our garden after the hike with a chilled bottle of Chardonnay and a meat and cheese platter.

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Sunday Morning Ramblings

No artwork to attach as of yet for the day, but rather some early morning (at least here in California) food for thought. We watch CBS Sunday Morning every week. Today’s episode was about the future. Interesting stories about past World Fair exhibits, what was predicted and envisioned , and what actually came into being. Jules Verne and how he inspired scientists as children, an amazing story about 3-D printing, where not only are plastics formed to make objects, but human tissue recreation. What struck me the most however, and then led to an entirely 6 degrees of separation train of thought, was how we as humans and our DNA have evolved. In particular how technology and its evolution doesn’t require us to use our brains as much.  In a small way I see this in my own life. I know the phone number of each and every friend I have, as well as those of my family. The idea of that seems to be beyond the comprehension of my twenty-two year old son. (“Get to the point”, my inner “Don’t be the long-winded old lady type”, is screaming.)  So here it is…. As we get further and further into technology what do we lose? My son had barely, if any attention paid to penmanship in school. He has a horrible signature (sorry Brian), and rarely puts anything on paper. Notes are typed into his phone, I am sure the thought of writing a hand written letter would seem absurd to him, and many of his “friendships” are over a game console during an internet session of what ever the latest video craze is. Don’t get me wrong, I love the idea of connecting with people from around the world. That in part is why I started this blog, to put myself out there, but what I fear losing, or even worse, what this younger spoon-fed on the internet generation won’t even know to miss, is a little old-fashioned sentimental humanity. This blog is about my life and art. In my struggles top find my artistic identity, and to get past the a fore mentioned “not good enough” voice that resides in my head, I have used particular tools on the computer to help myself. I have taken photographs that I would like to paint and put a filter on them. Not to use for any other purpose than to blur the lines, to help me get over my artistic perfection chip, but often when I look at these printed copies I realize that with say a paint filter, how easy it is to manipulate something and call it art, virtually no skill required.

This is where my six degrees comes in. As I was cooking breakfast I looked at a block of wood that sits in my kitchen on top of the microwave. It is a scrap off a two x four piece of wood that has a nail driven through it, with the words “RAY FISH SKINNER” written on it. It was my mother’s. She made this odd tool after she severely cut her hand trying to make fish for my dad. I rarely make fish, and certainly don’t ever envision myself skinning a Ray or any other fish, but it’s the words written on it in my mother’s handwriting that make it so valuable to me. This is where I worry about the loss of human connection. I have hand written hundreds of notes and love letters to my husband in the last twenty-seven years. They are not typed, they are written in my hand writing, and I hope some day that will mean something to my children. As for art, I have seen countless books and photos of art, I have quite a collection of art books, and have always loved looking through them. Then I went to Paris, I went to the Louvre, I went to Musee d’Orsay, and visited both Versailles and Giverny. Here in the U.S., I have been to the Art Institute of Chicago, the Getty in L.A., the Museum of Art in Milwaukee, the list could go on and on. What struck me at all of them is that until you see the paintings of the waterlilies, and Van Gogh’s Iris, and the countless other spectacular works of art in person, until you see the brushstrokes and see the three-dimensional thickness of the paint, and the real life color, you haven’t really experienced the paintings. My children could have photos of my art, but when I am gone and they can touch my brush strokes and know that their mother created that piece of art with her hands it will hopefully bring some part of me back to them. There isn’t a computer screen that can replicate that. There is no technology that can replace my mother’s handwriting. The show visited the Library of Congress this morning, and the reporter held a book in her hands that belonged to Thomas Jefferson. Could she have read that book on her Kindle? Sure, but to hold in her hand something that had once been in the hands of Thomas Jefferson made all the difference. As all of us rely more and more on iphones, lap tops, ipads, lets not forget to leave behind a piece of ourselves. Something not contained in a screen, but something that can hold a value that can never have a price on it. Get your kids to go outside and actually interact within the community, unlike internet connections, human connection can’t afford to be lost.

I close this rambling with what someday might be called a piece of folk art, by a little known but much beloved artist named Mary Ann Power Archbold. She was my mother, and she left this world without ever realizing how much talent she had.


Letting Life Get In The Way

It does seem that I am getting to my writing later and later. This trying to put myself first stuff is difficult for me. This morning I was full of energy and full of ideas about what I wanted to accomplish today, but as always life got in the way. Actually I think I put it in the way. I am awfully good at avoiding my fears. This project is meant to help me overcome that, lets hope it works. So around an hour ago sitting in the garden with my husband, daughter, freshly minted son-in-law, and a small glass of wine I drew my wine glass, and then my hand.

I had plans to finish the altered art piece I started last night, but I quite frankly ran out of steam. I honestly felt the night before homework dread creeping in. So I guess you call these desperation drawings. I refuse to let myself down on this project, but it had been a long day that included a sore throat. And to be completely truthful I received  a new magazine in the mail with some terrific recipes, and cooking truly is another passion for me.

So the drawing of the wine glass…not perfect, but I think not bad. It was fairly dark outside and I chose not to add any additional light. I really do want to start to do more simple drawings. I need to hone those skills and there is no better way than to practice, practice, practice. I think the drawing of my hand came out quite nice. Yes, my fingers really are that crooked and have been since birth. Actually, our creepy babysitter (who was actually a very sweet woman who had unfortunately suffered the effects of polio as a child), (OK, I know that sounds awful, but when you are six and your babysitter drags her leg and tells Jack In The Beanstalk in the most horrifying fashion ever, its creepy. And, I had not yet learned empathy, So all of you judgmental types…relax.) Hazel, told me that I would have arthritis in my hands when I grew up. Who says that to a six-year-old? Creepy. (You wouldn’t want to see my right hand which is even more crooked thanks to a couple of broken fingers last year.) Anyway, drawing my hand is just another practice drill. Having never learned the fundamentals I am going to try to learn them now. I am going to attempt to teach myself since going to class is still not a comfortable thing for me.

I also wanted to address last night’s entry. I wrote that I am uptight. My husband told me this morning that he disagrees. He said that the only place that I am uptight is in my art. I though it was an interesting observation. I have mentioned that I started drawing as a child at a very early age. What I didn’t mention was that as a kid I would re-outline the pictures in my sister’s coloring books. Seriously, when they colored outside the lines I would take the black crayon and redo the lines of their pictures. I told Dan about it this morning and it has been on my mind ever since. I can’t figure out why even then I was so concerned with the perfection of art. It’s something I will be thinking about.

Finally this evening I am again going to include food photos. Why? Because for me the imagination, creativity and care that I give when I cook a meal is art. Plating is as important to me as how the food tastes.

In case you are wondering…peppers stuffed with goat cheese and chorizo, shrimp with re-fried black beans, guacamole and a chipolte mayo sauce, chicken and black bean tostada, and finally, smoky olive poppers. There were also going to be beef empanadas, and I did make them, but we were too stuffed to eat anymore!

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So for tomorrow, I promise myself to cut loose and do something completely different, and this time actually do it!4 27 (14)

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I Need To Alter My Brain!

It’s late again, after ten, but I just didn’t have the time to sit down and type. I spent my entire day looking through the maze of photo files that I have. I was hoping to get started today selling cards with my photography on them, but clever girl that I am, I buried files in files in files. I would remember that one photo that had to be included and would then spend twenty minutes trying to find it. On a good note I did come across quite a few photos to use for projects.

I am really interested in altered art. There is only one problem…me. Here’s the thing, remember me, the girl with no training? One would think that I would be the perfect candidate for something that really doesn’t have rules, where the more inventive you are the better the project looks. But I have serious “it needs to look like it is supposed to” issues. I think that applies to me in more ways than art. I can be very uptight. I don’t mean to be, or necessarily want to be, it’s just who I am. (It is also quite possible that my twelve plus years of Catholic school brainwashing have had some effect.) I have a very hard time letting loose, but I’m shy so I guess that’s part of it. The issue is that I am shy in my art too. I’m so afraid that it isn’t going to look like what ever it is, or that no one will get it, that I get all hung up on what I’m doing. I tried collage and agonized over every piece of paper I laid down.Years ago a boyfriend told me to stop being such a “church lady”. He couldn’t have been more wrong. I like to have fun, I enjoy other people having fun. That’s why I love looking at other artists altered work. No rules, just creativity and enjoyment. Can someone please tell me how to get past the “someone is looking over my shoulder” feeling?  When I was younger and would finish a painting I would bring it downstairs to show my parents. There was always the same two responses,”Who is that for?”, and “Why isn’t it of Ireland?” (If anyone remembers the Mike Myer’s movie, “So I Married An Ax Murderer”, his father was Scottish and anything that wasn’t Scottish was crap. That’s my dad, only he is the Irish version.) I need lessons in how not to care what other people think of my work, to let loose and have fun with art. Towards the end of the day I took two of the photos that I came across in my search today. One is my mom’s passport photo from when she left Ireland, the other is my Nana, my dad’s mom as a teenager. I used a photo program to colorize and photo shop both, I printed them on some labels and sandwiched them between some microscope slides, added copper tape around the outside, and tomorrow when Dan reads the book on how to teach me to solder them (if you were paying attention you know I don’t do instruction books), (and by the way, I really can read), I plan to attempt some form of altered art. So here is the started project, no finished art project today unless you count the sixty plus photos I cropped and got ready for sale. It’s been a long, long day, I’m tired and have no energy to work anymore today. Off to bed, and we will see what I come up with for these photos tomorrow!


My Anonymous Legacy

imageI did a simple pencil drawing tonight. It addresses several issues that I need to work on, one of which is perspective. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve had bad eyesight forever, or my complete and total lack of any mathematical ability. I also need to work on the basics of drawing. But the real truth is that my project was at the bottom of my list of things to do today. I started my day helping to care for a couple of kids who unfortunately have lost their mother. At home we are still dealing with the effects of job issues for my husband. Then my inner Julia Child was feeling neglected so I had to make a focaccia bread pizza with potato, roasted garlic, fresh sage, truffle cheese and crispy pancetta for lunch.   Finally there was the play space for my very dear friend’s niece that still needed a little work. In the midst of all of that I had started a watercolor, but I really wasn’t into it.

I gave thought to not producing a work of “fine” art today, but then I realized that my finest work is exactly some of what I did today. I mentioned doing craft shows, I’ve done more than my share, but I don’t make crocheted covers for the extra roll of toilet paper, or planes out of old soda cans. A lot of what I do has to do with children. Painted boxes and stools, fairy ornaments and little signs. Everything I do, everything I make has my heart and soul in it.  I have been fortunate enough to have created items that will be keepsakes. I painted a toy box for a dying grandmother as a gift for her granddaughter’s first birthday. She didn’t live to see the second birthday, but when I painted the box I wrote a poem inside the lid and left a place for the grandmother’s signature. That little girl will never know her grandmother, but she will have that box. I signed it, but only my first name. I have made countless gifts for friends children, and sold more pieces than I can remember that were for a child I didn’t know, and the truth is most of them never met me, or were too young to remember me. I know, and that means more to me than anything. A few years ago a therapist spoke to me about getting published in an art magazine, but I think she realized after a few minutes that it didn’t matter to me, and it doesn’t. I have been known to say that someone else can have my fifteen minutes of fame, I don’t want it. Do I want to do what I consider museum quality art? Sure I do, but my finest art is and always will be the box that holds cherished memories for  little child who grew up.

So here a few of photos of my “work” for today. Hopefully I will have many more days when I can make a difference in the life of a child.


Sometimes You Need To Read The Instructions

Yes, it is after dark, but today wasn’t about putting myself last. I spent the morning getting supplies to make greeting cards, and sorting through my computer photo files. I barely made a dent. I mentioned the over two thousand photos I took in Paris, there are also the hundreds and hundreds of photos that I take every where I go. They are somewhat organized, but choosing what to use took time.

About today’s work…I looked around the studio again, this time I spied a watercolor canvas that I bought to try. Unlike watercolor paper it’s a wrapped canvas. I had printed out a few photos this morning that I wanted to paint. I sketched it out on the canvas and began to paint. Disaster ensued. The paint just sat on the surface going nowhere. I wiped it off and tried again.  No luck. It then occurred to me ( genius that I am), that maybe I should have read the little pamphlet that was attached to the canvas. It seems that the canvas has to be wet heavily and let sit for ten minutes before you paint. I had of course, as always, jumped in head first. I’m the kind of girl who doesn’t measure things, I am a “create by the seat of my pants” kind off girl. I have the ability to look at a piece of furniture and see it in five different colors in my head,  When I buy something at the flea market I know from the moment I buy it what it will look like when I’m done.  However, I can read the same instruction booklet twenty times and still not know how to do things. I’ve owned a kiln for more than two years and I’ve yet to use it. Why? Because I am waiting for Dan to read the instruction book and show me how. Yesterday he figured out my very expensive printer that has been gathering dust upstairs for…you guessed it…two years. Logic and I are strangers. I quit interior design school because I was too intimidated by drafting class. And as anyone has read this blog knows, I have never had art lessons, I do however own an instructional book on just about every form of art imaginable. Here’s a novel idea, maybe I could actually start reading them, and then I will have less days like today.

I tried for a third time and then I gave up on the canvas and switched to paper.

I may have mentioned that I have a thing for doors and windows. ( Some deep-seated need to escape?)  This painting is a watercolor of a door I came across in Monterey, California.

I’m not sure what I’ll do tomorrow, most likely something with no instruction needed!


I Am An Artist

The sun is still out. Although it’s after seven, I am so happy with myself for taking some time today to really work. I finished a piece of art today because I wanted to, and not because bedtime was looming and I still hadn’t produced for my blog project. It is a pastel and pencil drawing.Image


As always I had no idea what I wanted to do when I started. I looked around my studio and at some photos that I had either taken myself, or at some time in the past clipped from a magazine for the “to do” pile. There are a lot of pictures in that pile, I’m ashamed to say how many. I took more than two thousand photos in Paris in 2009, that makes up most of the pile. I reassured myself continually that I would some day “work”. Setting aside ideas made the illusion seem that much more real. As long as I had projects for the future it meant I wasn’t giving up on myself, when in fact I had given up a long time ago. That again is another source of pain for me. When I think of the countless hours I spent organizing my photos, my supplies, and rearranging my studio, I could cry. All it was was a way to avoid the reality of not being good enough. Money spent, not wasted so to speak because the supplies are all still there waiting to be used, but I honestly have enough “stuff” to fill three lifetimes. I was playing at being an artist. Doing a project here and there so I could lay claim to the title because it was the only part of me that I hadn’t given to my family. I stopped working a time-clock job in 1994, I did a few murals in Chicago, did more than my share of craft shows, and even entered a painting that was accepted into a museum show here in town. The reality is I gave all of me to my husband and children. Do I have regrets? Yes, but none having to do with time I gave them, but for the hours lost when Dan was at work and the kids were in school when I could have given myself permission to be more than “mom” or “wife”. Instead I felt guilty of every moment I gave myself. Days were spent cleaning, rearranging, making things as special as I could for them. They all have nightmare memories of craft shows, when the night before they were frantically helping me to finish things because I hadn’t given myself the time. I’m sure more than a few people wondered how many strip clubs my husband went to, he was covered in glitter for days. And at the shows I found myself being approached by people asking me why I was there, telling me my work was too good. I didn’t have enough faith in myself to believe it.

I have written here before and will write it again and again until I believe it. I am an artist.