Creating With Heart

Before I begin my rant, and there will be a rant, I want to acknowledge that I have touched on the following subject more than once before. (If you’re interested 4/23/13 I Am An Artist, 6/15 What Makes An Artist, and 7/16 We Are All Artists) When you post every single day for a year, and your brain is as full of knowledge as mine (a nice way of saying I’m getting older), there will be times that I may repeat myself. I can’t remember every single thing I’ve written about, but there are things that I am passionate about and things that get under my skin and I just can’t let go. Two days ago on Facebook there was a post about a photographer named Vivian Maier. She was a nanny by profession, but also a gifted photographer. There is a new documentary about her that opens this weekend. Ms. Maier was an unknown talent until a man named John Maloof purchased a box of negatives from a Chicago auction house in 2007. (One more recommendation from me about something to Google!) This morning while reading the NY Times I came across a review of the documentary and some criticism about Ms. Maier. I have in the past touched on the fact that I have no formal art education. My only exposure to an art class was in high school, and well, it was high school art. My teacher thought I was gifted and didn’t give me much in the way of guidance. I had upon showing her my work been allowed to skip Art 1. I now think that may have been a mistake. I don’t know the basics, but at this point I don’t really care. I could always actually take a class or read a book, but I am me, and that means I do everything my way. Some of the criticism leveled at Ms. Maier was that she had no formal training, and that she didn’t print her own photos (which I might add would be difficult because she is deceased), thereby she shouldn’t be called an artist, and also questioning photography as an art form.  Two days ago I wrote a post about the judgements leveled by other people. Why the need to demean this work? Any five-year old can take a photograph, but with an artist’s eye? Last night we watched American Idol (Yes, I am part of that demographic that no one cares about but still watches) Keith Urban made an excellent point. He told one of the contestants that you can sing from your head or sing from inside yourself, you are still singing the same words,but the performance changes. (Not an exact quote but the general gist of what he was saying) I am related by marriage to a very talented and successful artist. I love his work. He has been fortunate enough to have training that I have not. I don’t envy him, I admire him and have told him so. There was a point in my life ( before the blog) when I would use his talent as a weapon against myself, to further the agenda of “not good enough” that resides inside my head. I made myself feel inferior, that and another member of this same family called my work “primitive”. I would say to Dan, “Look how wonderful and talented he is. What could I have done if I had his training and family support?” That is a ridiculous question, it is the question of someone who doesn’t believe in them self. These days my mantra is, “Look what I can do when I’ve never had any training.”  (Thank you Mr. Urban for inspiring the following thought) I could paint with all kinds of skill if I had the right schooling, but my skill comes from my heart, and is God-given. Who gets to decide who gets the title? I see quite a bit of work in museums that I really, really dislike. It’s still art. The creator of that work is still an artist. The terms “outsider”, “primitive”, “amateur”, are words that I find offensive. Vivian Maier was an artist every time she pushed the shutter button, I am an artist every time I pick up a pen, a brush, a pencil, or for that matter a frying pan.

OK, got that out of my system. I managed to finish a few things today. I’m only posting one because there are five photos to go with it. Another box, this one done with scanned images of vintage French postcards that I own, decoupaged on painted wood, trim painted in the wonderful Martha Stewart Pearl Paints (Love them!)

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Pearls Of Wisdom

We often hear about wisdom that comes with age. My personal experience is that its true, at least for me, and at least in terms of how I view myself. I was talking to a friend earlier today, she is a wonderful, warm, loyal, and very loving person. She suffers from a terrible lack of self-esteem. She puts up a fairly decent front, but I know her well. She is several years younger than I, and I feel very protective of her. I was trying today to impart some of my hard-earned wisdom in terms of how I have learned to deal with my own issues. It has taken me a long time to realize that I will never be good enough in the eyes of some people, some who know me well, some who don’t but think they do. I have spent years feeling inferior, and I believe that in many ways most of us do. We live in a judgmental society, bombarded with ads of how we are supposed to look, dress and act. Family expectations based on who our families want us to be, but not who we are. Religious judgment, people who claim to love God, any God, but are quick to condemn their fellow human being. Not smart enough, not pretty/handsome enough, too thin, too fat, wrong color skin, wrong color hair, too old, loving the “wrong” person…I could keep going, but I think everyone gets the idea. Do we do it to make ourselves feel better? Think about what we are doing to each other. Think about times when you feel bad about yourself. Do you really want someone else to feel that way? We can’t make everyone happy, we have to make ourselves happy,  we should cut ourselves and others a break. I want my friend to realize, I want everyone to realize, that the only opinion that matters is the one inside your head. Am I perfect? Absolutely not! I am stubborn, and messy, I procrastinate, have absolutely no coordination, I eat out of stress, worry about everything and anything, continually leave every cabinet door in my kitchen open, I can be controlling, opinionated, have a sometimes foul mouth, have a horrific temper, and still frightened of far too many things in life. I am also very kind, considerate, compassionate, loving, thoughtful, creative, artistic, a terrific cook, inventive, generous to a fault, a good wife and mother and a bleeding heart Liberal. I’m working on a few of my issues, particularly the messy cabinet door opening foul tempered parts of me. The thing is that when you weigh the good against the bad, I’m a pretty decent person. Do parts of me bother others? Yes, but I have learned that it is their problem not mine. I can’t please everyone, neither can my friend, neither can any of you. Be nice to each other, be considerate, help one another, but don’t judge each other no matter how much you disagree with how the other person lives their life, it’s theirs not yours. Believe in yourself, make a list of your best qualities, and those you want to change for yourself, the person who matters most.

To my friend (and she knows who she is), it hurts me to see you in so much pain, as I said this morning, you keep telling me how “Amazing” I am, if you really believe that then you need to remember that my friends are “Amazing” too.

Tonight options. Working on stuff for the show next week. One photo I took in Paris, two identical boxes, two designs, two techniques. two lids, all interchangeable. Haven’t completely finished either, haven’t decided which lid will go with which box. One more fault of mine, sometimes I can’t make up my mind.

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I heard something this morning that really resonated with me. I heard it of course on Sunday Morning (at this point I think CBS should be sending me a check for promoting their show). There was a segment on an artist who makes amazing collages out of dollar bills. His name is Mark Wagner, his work is incredibly intricate. (Google him, amazing work!) During the interview he said, “Art happens in two places. In my brain when I’m making these things, and then in the viewer’s brain when they are looking at them.” I never really thought about art in that way. There is the old “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”,  but I never really thought about the very personal relationship between the viewer and the work of art. I of course have a very personal relationship with my work, and the work itself is the result of my life’s experiences, through my mind’s eye, my talent. In the same way when I look at a piece of art my life’s experiences will affect the way I see, relate, or experience that work. It means a great deal to me when someone likes my work, or finds a deeper meaning in it, but I guess I hadn’t put as much thought into exactly how others are experiencing what I create. I am a very self analytical person, and have a fascination with why other people are who they are. The reality is that no two people will experience art in the same way. Dan and I had a conversation just the other day about just this kind of thing.  We talked about how our likes and dislikes are formed, and the fact that some of them we seem to have been born with. We all know how we inherit the color of our eyes, but why is he so intrigued by history? Why art for me? Why was I so drawn to it from such an early age? My kids have been exposed to art from infancy, but I certainly wasn’t. I have very strong reactions to particular kinds of art as well. I can pick myself apart on a lot of my little idiosyncrasies, but there is much about myself that makes me curious. Why do I love antiques when my sister thinks that they are creepy? Why do I love purple and green, and my daughter red plaid? I know a lot of who we turn out to be is shaped by our parents and our environment, but even that doesn’t account for everything. Do we carry opinions in our DNA? I always wondered if we can inherit body type, why we couldn’t inherit memories and taste as well. Sometimes this kind of thought can lead you down the dog chasing it’s own tail kind of thinking. Sometimes there are no answers, just more questions, but I really do love to ask them.

I didn’t accomplish much today. I’m still short of breath and it makes me tired. I did the unthinkable today, I tried to take a nap. I almost succeeded, that is until my cat Mia decided to do a little mountain climbing up my leg and onto my hip and yodel (well, meow). She left and I tried again, but then the phone rang. No sleep for me. I did manage to finish the front panel on the box, but I am leaning towards upholstering the top. I want it to be a place to sit and read.

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There are times as an artist when you feel the need to bend just a bit on artistic integrity. By that I mean working for the almighty dollar instead of for the love of the art. That is where I will be for the next two weeks. I have a show in two weeks at a charter school. I have some pieces ready to go, but not nearly as much as I’d like to have, and these days I need the cash. I have so many small wood boxes and pieces sitting around that I’ve been meaning to get to. Now is the time. I’d like to head in to the show with at least fifty painted wood pieces. It would mean a lot for me to contribute to our dwindling finances. I’m sure many people who know me and some who don’t wonder why at this point I haven’t gotten a job. Three reasons. The first is that Dan hasn’t wanted me to. The second is that I never finished college. I was married, working full-time, and attending night classes when I discovered I was pregnant with Jessica. I was roughly a year from graduating and made the decision to leave school. I had never really figured out exactly what I wanted to do anyway, but I did know that I wanted to be a mother. Now I find myself in the position of not being qualified for anything other than standing on my feet, and when you’ve had six knee surgeries that’s a problem. Finally, I quit my last “time clock” job twenty years ago, again it was about being a mother. Brian was three, Jessica was nine, and I felt the need to be home with them. I’ve made money here and there since then with my art, but the truth is that I’m completely intimidated. Years ago my Mom said that the longer you stay out of work the harder it is to go back. She was right. I know that I’ve mentioned our business that we hope to open, but that will be a work of joy. A dream come true, and of course Dan will be at my side, and that makes me feel invincible. So this is the work I can do, and when I say I’m doing it for the money it in no way means it won’t be my best work. I always do my best.

The piece I’m working on tonight is for a child’s room. A small toy box dedicated to reading. I think instilling the love of books is one of the greatest gifts a child can receive. Each panel of this box will feature a beloved character from a book. I am usually so respectful and careful not to copy the work of others, but this is a one of a kind, one time use, and done in great admiration for the people who created these characters. Only the two end panels are started. The piece had to be sanded and primed first. I’ll post the finished box tomorrow.

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Watching The Clock

Still a little breathless, but I feel like maybe things are getting better. Of course me being me I rushed things. (Explanation to follow) I am usually a very patient person. In fact my Dad always says that I remind him of my grandmother. The roof could cave in around her, and she’d look at it and say, “I’ll get to that tomorrow.”  I am that way about quite a lot of things, but when it comes to art I can’t seem to wait. It is really one of my biggest issues with oil painting. I have ruined quite a few great beginnings by turning them into mud because I couldn’t give things a day or two to dry enough for the next step.

…Before I continue I’ll explain the process. A wooden box coated in a light color paint, for this one I used a very pale gray. A reverse image photocopy from my home computer. I used a photo I took in France that I changed to sepia. One coat of decoupage medium. Place the copy print side down, top with another coat of decoupage medium. Here’s the hard part, for me at least. Wait twenty-four hours. (That’s like asking me not to breathe for a day) At the end of the wait period simply dampen the paper, wet but not soaking wet. Then rub the paper with your fingers. The paper will rub off and leave the image behind. Amazing!

I said last night the fumes prevented me from finishing my project from Tuesday. I went back to it today, knowing there were no fumes for the next step. Here’s where I went wrong, I was so happy with the results that I began another. (I’m an idiot, feeling the fumes just a touch. I am now publicly vowing to behave!) I’ll finish that one tomorrow. I’m not finished with the first piece as of yet, I’ll be adding some hardware, possibly some kind of feet to the bottom, and a small mirror piece in the interior. As for the second piece, no photos yet, but I did all four sides of the next box. All I have to do is wait twenty-four hours….

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Let The Sunshine In

My personal forecast is looking a little gloomy. I need a little sunshine in my life. Yes, I live in Southern California. I’m sure those who live on the East Coast are crying their eyes out for me right about now, but its true. I’m still wheezing, and honestly afraid to go to the doctor. I’m afraid that it just might be pneumonia once again. Meanwhile I am not only hitting the one year mark of this project, but we are closing in on a year of Dan not having a job. On the positive side, the reason it is only gloomy and not a Snoopy-esque “Dark and stormy night”, is that this might just be forcing us into a plan for what we have wanted all along. A business where we can work together. I’ve mentioned our business here, but we had kind of let go of the dream in the last few months. I think worry and stress began to get the best of us. Money as always is the biggest issue, the economy is still not fantastic, and of course the fear of taking the plunge. The one thing I know for sure is that we can do it as long as we are together, because again, it has been a year, and not an argument in sight. I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I should rule the world, and while that is still true, I am perfectly happy to let Dan be the boss in our business. We will as always be partners in every way, but I know my strengths as well as my weaknesses (Yes, I do have a few…just a few), I know his as well. There is also an old saying that my Mom often used, “Too many chiefs and not enough Indians”. (Sorry Native Americans, no offense intended)  I want to make sure that the people who work with us know that there is an order to things. A business can’t survive without that. So there’s a plan, kind of, but enough to reassure me that things can change, and a bad situation might just be the ticket to making our dream come true. (Dan, this one was for you.) We need to make our own sunshine…so I did just that.

I love watching Sunday Morning on CBS. In particular I like all the creative ways that they end each segment with a sun done is some creative manner. This is mine, a paper mache sun, painted in acrylic. As for last night’s project, I did some work on it earlier, but fumes began to upset me. There’s always tomorrow.

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Motherly Advice

I am a woman, I am a wife, a daughter, a friend, and an artist. I am also a mother. I think a fairly decent one. So often on this blog I joke around and poke fun, almost always at myself, but tonight I am giving maternal advice to all those young artists out there. It is simple. WEAR A MASK! I have touched on this subject a little bit in the past, but tonight I am very serious. I never wore a mask. I sprayed dangerous chemicals indoors. I painted with semi gloss paint with improper ventilation. I have worked in garages, in basements, even in my studio without doing things the right way. I had an infection in my mouth many, many years ago from holding one paintbrush in my mouth while using another in my hand. I have wiped excess paint into my clothing, essentially wearing chemicals, all because I was too involved in the process to think about the consequences. My Dad yelled at me. He was a house painter who had gone through hazmat training. He told me if he ever came in my house again and it smelled of spray paint that he would be really upset with me. Dan has repeatedly warned me for years. Did I listen? No, stupidity and stubbornness rule the day. I didn’t want to stop what I was doing in order to take the correct precautions, now I pay the price. Last night I did a not so great piece of art. Why? Because I felt awful, because I spent the day wheezing. Last night Dan made me laugh as we went to bed and ended up running for the inhaler. I am an extremely intelligent woman who has made some really stupid choices. I have spent the last week with a simple head cold, but for me any illness goes straight to my respiratory system, which by the way wasn’t so great to begin with. I was the victim of cold and damp Chicago winters for many years. I’ve had bronchitis more times than I care to say. I had pneumonia last June. I can no longer be in the same room with a flower that has a strong fragrance. The detergent aisle at the grocery store is an issue. If it seems like I am belaboring my point, I am doing so intentionally, I don’t want anyone else to make my mistakes. I have a passion for art, but I also enjoy breathing (I just can’t go without making at least one semi serious joke). I woke breathless this morning, and struggled on and off through the day. No piece of art ever produced will be worth your health. Learn from me, just consider me your “artistic mom”.

As I said, today was a struggle. I began work on a piece, but as I have often done before I won’t be finishing it until tomorrow. Not enough oxygen slows me down.




One Man’s Trash

Some time ago on this blog I wrote about my Dad and myself and how we “saved” things. I referred to us by the name my Mom gave us which was Sanford and Daughter. This morning I was watching CBS Sunday Morning, the news and human interest story program. On one of the segments there was a piece about hoarders, it is now a diagnosed mental disorder. I didn’t even have to turn my head, I knew Dan was smiling behind the newspaper, particularly when it came to the woman who saves the metal holder off the top of Chinese takeout containers because, “You’ll never know what you can use them for.” Famous last words. Words I have spoken so much, much more than you can imagine. My “Artistic Fridge” that I am in the process of cleaning out is filled with lots and lots of  “I can use this for something” fragments. In my defense I actually do use some of these pieces from time to time, but I will admit there are probably more pieces than I will ever get to. People with this disorder have anxiety when separating from their things. It apparently runs in families. Funny since I referred to my daughter as “Sanford and Granddaughter”only yesterday . It made me sad to see how difficult it was for some of the people on the show, but also made me realize that maybe I really need to look at all the stuff, the fragments, the pieces of things I have kept. I certainly think I may have just a touch of this disorder, or harkening back to another post about Myra and Emma (the ladies who rewarded us neighborhood children with candy for picking up trash), it may just be that I can’t stand to see waste, or see something perfectly usable end up in a landfill. Could it possibly be The Boxcar Children? The books by Gertrude Chandler Warner that so enthralled me as a child? All that said, I’m ninety percent finished with the first of my window projects. An old window, scrap plywood, left over fabric, and vintage hooks. In other words, garbage. Bits and pieces given new life in something quite useful and pretty.

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My Valentine

There are some moments in life that you will hold on to forever. Meeting my soul mate, the love of my life was one of  them.

I will hold on to him and love him eternally.

He is my Valentine every day of the year, every minute of my life.

A day spent with the love of my life…my couch. Only kidding of course. I am so not enjoying the euphoria of impending flu, you know the “I feel like I was just hit by a truck” kind of feeling? I’ll be quick once again this evening because my Valentine is waiting for me on the couch to watch our favorite love story, “Midnight In Paris”.  As Dan said, it isn’t your typical romance movie, its more about falling in love with Paris. It is a feeling we are both familiar with because it happened to us.

For tonight a Valentine for my husband. The lyrics of our song, “What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life”, printed on a piece of vellum which I had already printed one of my dried flower photos on. It is sandwiched between two pieces of plexiglass with copper tape. I hope at some point to figure out soldering and add an attachment for hanging. I also posted a close up of a bit of the lyrics. It is a lovely song, one that suits us well.

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Alone Again, Naturally

I’m a little out of sorts this evening. Jessica and her husband, John came for dinner tonight. I wanted to have a nice “moving out” celebration for Brian. It’s a big move for him, and as excited as he is, it is equally hard for me. When you have your babies you don’t really think about the day they will leave, and they will, it’s the way it is, as it should be. When he came over tonight he was really tired, he and his roommates had their first gathering last night, so I’m pretty sure he didn’t sleep. Dan told me that Brian was going to spend the night here, that he was too tired to go to his new place. I didn’t say anything, but I was thrilled. In the end he went back to his place taking just a little piece of my heart with him. I’ll adjust, it will take time as it did when Jessica moved out. Your kids are your everything. It comes to a point when you don’t remember life without them, and then suddenly they are grown and moving out. Now begins the true rediscovery of self, still a mother, always a worrier, but now mothering and worrying from afar, and figuring out my place in the world once again. I think thanks to this blog/project I have a good head start.

I have a not quite finished project for tonight. I started working on old piece I had, a long narrow vanity mirror. I bought it several years ago at an antique store. It was painted red when I bought it, a dull flat paint, but I loved the floral detail at the ends. I’ve been meaning to do something with it for years. I painted it cream earlier today, and then I went back with a little distressing. Tomorrow I want to add a little antique glaze and silver leaf. As for the mirror, I discovered a process a few years ago in distressing mirror. Through a happy accident I ended up removing all of the mirror in one section. I added a photo from France behind it and loved how it looked. I wanted to do something similar here. I removed the mirrored surface in the center of this long rectangular mirror in an oval shape. It isn’t perfect, it wasn’t meant to be. I started out with another French photo but wasn’t achieving the look I wanted. I had some new photos that I took of the dried bridesmaid bouquets from Jessica’s wedding. Just what I needed. I printed the photo on vellum, I love the translucent quality of it. I wrapped the piece of cardboard under it in a piece of white paper. When you print on vellum and use white beneath the colors really pop. The flowers look like live flowers beneath the glass. A few finishing touches in the morning and it will be ready for etsy. I love it, but I can’t keep everything. (At least that’s what I keep telling myself!)2 9 14