Several years ago a young man named Michael, who worked with Dan, was killed. He was hit by a car while playing Good Samaritan. He had stopped on the side of a highway to help someone who had a flat. It was one of those things in life that make you pause and ask “Why?” There are memories of moments like which bring me to look at things in a different perspective. Let’s face it, we are all self-centered and a little narcissistic in our misery. Some of us need to talk about it just to blow off steam, others wear their misery like a badge of honor, showing themselves to the world as if to say, “Look at me, I can handle this, I’m strong. I don’t let things get me down.” Some of us crawl inside ourselves, we don’t let anyone in, and build walls that say, “Stay out. I don’t need anyone.” I think in my case there is without a doubt some self-pity going on, but can you blame me? Yes, I am putting my misery out there for the world to see, but I think I in many ways am doing something really good here. My life at the moment is pretty much your basic nightmare, loss of job, loss of house, not knowing what’s next, but in all the darkness, in all my public decrees of misery, there is something more, there are the bright spots of friendship and support from family and friends, but in the center of it all there is love. I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating. What is happening to us could tear people apart, but Dan and I continue to get stronger and closer each and every day. Despite what I have lost, and continue to lose, nothing can take that away from me. While packing my life away yesterday, I came across the card from Michael’s funeral. I never met Michael, but I hung on to this card because of what it said on the reverse, “Once in a while you will get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if you look at it right.” I loved it when I read it, and these days I grab the moments of light every chance I get. I mentioned the quote to Dan, who told me it is from the Grateful Dead. A twenty-five year old man died doing the decent thing. I have a wonderful, decent man right here, and he is struggling as much as I am, but every single day he makes me laugh or smile, he tries to take the worry from my shoulders. I am sad, a little depressed, exhausted and worried, but I am loved. To quote another song, “Who could ask for anything more?” Another positive for today. A small step in the right direction, I worked. I played around a little with my pastel chalk, a spray bottle of bleach, and a little starry night thanks to a paint program. I think the piece is pretty self-explanatory.
Last night was the first in a year when I didn’t post. I actually took a day off, and you know what? It was sooo hard. To begin with I started to feel guilty, like I wasn’t doing something that I was supposed to do. (It’s the whole Catholic thing, its ingrained in my brain) I was working on something creative, all day in fact, but it wasn’t something I can share as of yet. It’s a gift for someone, a very involved gift, and its a surprise. Late in the afternoon I began to feel the pull of the blog. Feeling the need to produce a piece of art to put up, and then I realized I didn’t have to. I’m dead serious, I was feeling like a bad person because I hadn’t produced anything. It may be time for an intervention. I’m still in the middle of my very involved gift, so for tonight more of my retrospective of a year’s worth of art. Paintings in oil and acrylic, and one pastel. Tomorrow the last of the retrospective and new art!
Waterlily’s, because every artist needs at least one right?
Another Waterlily in oil.
Old work, oil on canvas with a great story to go with it. (If you are interested, “A Little Tale”, posted 12/11/13)
Acrylic. Palette knife once again.
Oil. La Jolla, California, from a photo I took. My favorite piece from the entire year.
Believe in yourself. That has been my journey in the almost year since I started my blog. I didn’t begin with that as the intent. I actually don’t think I had anything in particular in mind when I began, only inspired to start a 365 day project, I forged ahead. Today I was reading through posts of some of the blogs I follow and throughout I began to see a thread that connects us all. Self doubt, and far too many that mentioned fear of rejection. Are we so programmed from birth to fit in that we fear that what we do, what we create, doesn’t fit? I looked through some art today as well. Some of it I didn’t care for. Does that make it bad art? I used to argue with my son about music taste. There was a time when he was quick to condemn music he didn’t like, he criticized others for liking what he didn’t. I always held to the argument that everyone is entitled to their opinion. Just because I don’t like a song doesn’t make it a bad song. After reading through the posts this morning I looked at some of my own, both art and writing. I realized that I was in many ways rejecting myself. I almost wrote a comment today to someone else, but then I saved it for myself. A little bit of advice that I was about to lay on another struggling artist, that is until I realized that there was some wisdom there for me. “There will be those who love your voice, as much as there are those who won’t.” I need to believe in my work, to stand by what I do, to understand that rejection is nothing more than the opinion of someone else.
There is a little story behind this piece. I spent the entire evening working on something in clay that broke as I was painting it. I had no project for today. Dan suggested putting up the broken pieces. I couldn’t. I grabbed a couple of things, not sure what to do. I painted a little on a mirror. Not feeling it. A board. Nope. I began to play with my pearl Martha Stewart paints on a small canvas. Brushing on, wiping off, brushing again, not sure where to go, and then a break though. Break Through will be the name of this piece. I was pulling paint away and began to see something. I was talking to my Dad earlier. Another snowstorm in Chicago. I had been thinking about Spring trying to break through the snow and ice, and here it was in front of me. Ice and snow, and color, that is Chicago in the Spring. Memories of the purple crocus popping through the retreating snow.
Where is my finished project from last night you ask? If you read last night’s post you know that I was to marry together a few old pieces of wood into something amazing. I had promised the photos for tonight. If you must know, the groom got cold feet. That old crib headboard was a tough nut to crack. I stripped and stripped last night, and then today I sanded, and sanded, and sanded, and… it’s not finished yet. That charming little headboard hung on to its vintage paint for dear life, and with all the curves and nooks and crannies, it was quite frankly a pain in my… you know where. I was finally finished sanding to satisfaction when the sun went down. My fingers are worn out. We have a couple of small sanders, and I have a detail sander, but again, those vintage spindle legs don’t allow for such modern conveniences. I am happy to say that it is ready for paint, and to be joined in matrimony to its partner, but the event has been moved to tomorrow. The are also two additions. (Before the wedding! Scandalous!) The piece has a back, and a seat, but had no legs in the front. (You will understand the entire project when it makes its appearance tomorrow.) What to do…of course, the pack rat archives. In the recesses of the garage are the bits and pieces of my life, a.k.a. “I’ll do something with those some day”. I was quite proud to tell Dan that I was using two of the legs from an end table that we threw out about fifteen years ago. I loved the legs on the table and couldn’t bear to part with them, and now they have a new home. It just proves my point. There’s always a reason I save things. It may take a while, but I’ll use it. All that work on the crib left me no time to finish the other project I started last night. It requires a little daylight to finish, so that too will have to wait until tomorrow.
For tonight I decided to push myself a little. I am still struggling with a bad case of the “its supposed to look like” blues. I have done only one abstract since starting the project and decided it was time for another. For years I didn’t “get” abstract art. I would look at it and honestly think, “What the hell?” I am learning that it means to go beyond the obvious. To put emotion and thought on canvas. Both are abstract concepts when you think about it. I piled colors that I love in thick layers of acrylic paint randomly placed on a canvas, and then I grabbed the palette knife and scraped it off. In the remnants I found inspiration. I saw movement. I grabbed the palette knife and dipped into the paint that I had scraped off and swiftly spread it across the canvas. I thought to myself, “How would I illustrate movement?” I grabbed more color and then some metallic gold. I began to enjoy the process and forget about any rules, Movement is abstract. I pushed the paint across the canvas away from me, I felt like the paint was gaining speed, expressing energy. In the end, Velocity.
Working on my lamp shade became a much bigger project than I imagined, and also headed in a direction that I hadn’t planned on. To begin with my matte knife blade began to dull from cutting out the cardboard tiles and I didn’t have a replacement handy. There was also the fact that I was trying to spell out specific words and as always failed to plan ahead. I don’t like to plan too much when I’m working on a upcycling project. I’d rather the process be more organic and evolve as I work. I’ve produced some really terrific work that way. I made the tiles individually, and then attached them to the frame as I finished them before beginning the next one. I was incorporating the name of our upcoming business (which I can’t reveal just yet), and of course began to realize that the tiles should probably be larger going down the frame. Part of the fun in not planning is running into the “mistakes” or problems and coming up with creative ways to deal with them. I like to let the project lead me by what it needs. In this case I liked the oddity of what was beginning to happen. I also realized that I was going to have some empty space to deal with, this is when the lamp shade headed down the Steampunk path. I have so many little pieces in my studio that I have gathered over the years, I went up and began poking through drawers and boxes. I came up with a little bit of rusty chain and a box of vintage keys. I began to drape the chain behind and hang keys throughout. I thought it was finished, but as I photographed it for this post I discovered a lot empty space I want to deal with in the morning.Sometimes it takes stepping away to see what is missing. Even as I write this I think I have the perfect piece in mind to add in the morning. I also need to get the right bulb and lamp base. Dan is going to help me tomorrow by creating a lamp base using some pipe. For tonight the not quite finished shade. It’s well on its way, it just needs the right accessories.
Several months ago I had made the decision to not be mad any more. As simple as that. Life is too short, and far too often we allow ourselves to be upset about things that just don’t matter. I for one could care less about the condition of my toothpaste tube, I also don’t care which way the toilet paper hangs (as long as it’s there), and I don’t keep score on who does what around the house. I am choosing to focus on being happy, making sure the people I love know that I love them, and feeling like I make a difference in the world. There is of course my relentless recycling, but beyond that in little ways, with individual people, particularly children, I want to feel like something I did touched their life. Much like my Myra and Emma story, I’d like to be the “lady” that a child remembers from their childhood, I don’t even care if they recall my name. These days however I am trying to be to be the rock for a number of people in my life. It is definitely easier with some than with others. Stress, tension, worry, and exhaustion can cause people to lose sight of what is important, they speak without thinking, fly off the handle at nothing, and what ends up happening is the fracture of otherwise loving relationships. I’ve mentioned that Dan is out of work. I can honestly say that these past few months have only proven how much we care for each other. Some weeks are like a see saw, he’s up, I’m down, and vice versa, we support each other through the bad days, and are currently planning for a future business together. During our troubled times I have also been trying to be as much help as possible to two friends who find themselves in very different, but also very difficult situations. Then there is my family, my Dad was injured and then had a bad reaction to some medication. My sisters are worn thin, and again I am trying to be as much help as possible from thousands of miles away. Tonight when I tried to work I found myself unable to concentrate on anything. I started and stopped several pieces. I thought I had given up. I sat at the table and worked with my watercolors, swirling paint on the paper thinking that I was just playing with color. Something began to happen, my swirls of paint began to speak to me. I began to add intended shapes to the page, and in the midst of all of the chaos a solid core. It’s what I feel like these days. I am trying to be what the people in my life need, someone that they can count on in the middle of all of their problems that they know will listen, offer advice, or just offer some support and understanding. Through it all I am trying to maintain my new philosophy of living happier. Sometimes it’s difficult, but what always makes it easier is having Dan by my side.
OK, so last night I was bemoaning my self-assigned fate, struggling under the weight of my self-imposed sentence, a year of fine art. I have to admit I was really struggling, I felt like I was in an artistic rut. I have definitely posted a few pieces as of late that I wasn’t proud of, material of the “last-minute homework” style of art. Last night I gave myself an out. I wrote myself a blank check of excuses so that if I didn’t feel like doing what I set out to do, I could get away with it. I believe that my inner “not good enough” voice has gotten very clever. I haven’t been hearing it too much lately, so it devised a way to mask itself and get into my head. Well, not so fast. I had a good day today, actually a great day. I finished about 95% of last night’s painting. There are things I want to add and to change in minor ways, but I need to let it dry for a bit first. I had planned on finishing a few other half-done projects but then I had an epiphany in my garden. We have a wood burning pizza oven. The guy who built it didn’t put any doors on it so we added our own. We made them out of wood, and then lined the inside with copper sheeting. It looked totally cool when we finished it, but then we attempted to make pizza and the door started to go on fire. Lesson learned. We haven’t changed the doors out yet. Today when I was watering the garden I opened the oven door. It’s beautiful. The copper has taken on a variety of colors. I saw those colors and knew I had to paint them. Not an exact replica of the door, but a piece inspired by it. I will admit here and now that I am not a fan of most abstract art. There is actually quite a bit that I dislike immensely. I guess I never understood it, even though in many cases the name is implication enough of what it is about. When I saw the door it made me think of the earth’s creation, of chaos in the heavens, of the earth’s elements coming together. I Never, Ever thought that I would paint abstract. It goes against every perfectionist molecule in my body. Not today, I couldn’t wait to get that brush on the canvas. It came pouring out of me and into my painting. I felt exhilarated because I finally feel like I’m free of so much of the weight of my own self-doubt. Like I found the keys to the kingdom. And all before dinner. That’s right, two paintings (well, one and a half, since one was started last night), in one day, and on a day where I gave myself the time to work. I couldn’t be happier.
…and today’s piece, “Chaos”