Wanted: Juggling Teacher

I’m looking for help and advice. I didn’t start this blog to gain followers. I began the blog as a way to publicly blackmail myself into moving ahead with my art. (Don’t get me wrong, it is nice when you learn that someone cares to read your ramblings. In my case way too personal ramblings, but there’s no looking back, only moving forward) It worked for a year, and then I fell back into old habits and worse yet the land of self-doubt.  So here I sit getting older by the second (I think I can actually feel a wrinkle forming), and still trying to gain the confidence to succeed. Here’s where you come in, the person who has decided to take five minutes to read my thoughts. I’ve been a stay at home mom for a good portion of my life. Now the kids are gone, but I’ve spent twenty plus years living by their schedule. From school to after school activities, vacations, and bowing to (almost) their every need and whim, I think I’ve forgotten how to schedule myself. I need to structure my day, which when you work at home can be difficult. There is always a bathroom to clean, laundry to do, meals to prepare, etc. I make lists of things I want to accomplish artistically in a date book. A date book that I purchased last December that quite frankly has very little written in it. Does anyone out there work at home? How do you manage your time? How do you ignore the dirty socks and paint instead? How do you fit in time for friends, grocery shopping, and doctor’s appointments? Despite my best intentions I can’t seem to walk though my house back to my studio without stopping to clean. It isn’t that there’s a lot to do, and there are only two of us here, (well, five if you count the three cats, needless to say cat hair tumbleweeds abound). With no clock to punch, or school bell to answer I’m at a loss. I’d appreciate any advice.FullSizeRender(13)

 

Now that I’m done with my plea for advice, I’d like a little help. The help is with social media. I’m not so old that I’m computer brain dead. I have of course my blog here on WordPress, but I also have two Facebook accounts, a Twitter account, an Instagram account, a Pinterest account, and an Etsy shop. Everyone tells me that I need social media to move my art business ahead. I am a one woman glitter factory making fairies to sell, I am also a fine artist working on three pieces at the moment, and I just don’t know how to get to all of the posting, descriptive tagging, tweeting, and hash tagging required. I currently have three thousand one hundred and fifty five emails, and that’s in only two of my four email accounts. Clever me, I thought having one for business, one for personal, one for the house, and one Hotmail account (that’s from the dawn of the internet, I can’t seem to shut it down!) was a good idea. It’s not, it’s a nightmare. Facebook sends me “You haven’t posted this week and your followers want to hear from you” emails. Not to mention (but I will) all my friends and loved ones who post on Facebook that I feel obligated to “like”, and then those same people who post the same photos on Instagram. I feel a surge of Catholic guilt wash over me and must “like” again. Daily notifications from Instagram on who is now following me, and the new posts from the people I “follow”. From Etsy Success and Etsy there’s the “Here’s what you need to do in order to succeed in your shop”, or “remember you looked at this” emails, and Twitter notifications. New posts from the people here on WordPress whose work I enjoy reading, but again don’t know where to find the time. (Insert screams here) It’s never ending. I have no staff, or management, it’s me doing everything. I currently have only sixty pieces listed on Etsy. I have more than two hundred and fifty created. Why aren’t they in my shop yet? It’s because I have to write a description for each piece to try to help buyers understand my vision, and I have to tag each fairy or print with the recommended and allotted thirteen tags. I have more than two hundred pieces to list, that’s more than twenty six hundred descriptive words to come up with. Yes, I could use the same tags again and again, but I must vary them so that when potential customers search with certain key words I might be “found”. It has in fact become a dreaded chore, like the homework I once hated. To say I’m feeling overwhelmed is an understatement. HELP! How do you manage all of this? Are you scheduling time for each? I would really love to hear from anyone who can help me in this juggling act. And now the tags for this post….sigh….

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Letters To Timmy

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I’ve produced several pieces of art in the last few weeks, but again none that you would ever see hanging in a museum, or even a local gallery. Despite many promises to myself to return to the oil painting I love so much, I find myself drawn back to creating for those I love in my life, particularly my grandson Timmy. Life throws us all some curve-balls, unexpected losses and gains (though it seems most of the time its losses!), we learn to cope the best we can and to adjust to life as it is. For me it is that careers have taken my daughter, her husband, her son, and her soon to be born daughter to the other side of the country. Life has also moved my son to Los Angeles, roughly 85 miles from me, although if you are familiar with LA traffic you might understand when I say sometimes a flight to NY would be quicker. I am grateful for the modern conveniences of social media. Thanks to cell phones, iPad, and my desktop computer, I am able to talk, text, Face Time, Skype, and email to my heart’s content. Despite all of that I miss the face to face time, the hugs and kisses, and the pleasure of holding my grandson on my lap.

When my kids were growing up I made it a daily habit to include notes in their school lunches, creating characters just for them so that they knew I was always thinking about them. Several months ago I decided to connect with Timmy in much the same way through snail mail. I began to write him short notes, always asking Grandpa to add his own thoughts as well, and then illustrating not just the card but the envelope as well. I decided after my last visit to NY to make Timmy a box to keep his letters in. We visited one of the local antique stores looking for the perfect box, but instead found a little brown suitcase that had seen better days. It couldn’t have been more perfect. I repainted the suitcase a bright and cheery red, searched for images of vintage travel stickers of places that Timmy has been, has family living in, and a couple just for fun. I made one of one of my “Timmy” cards to personalize it. I refurbished the inside as well, using Mod Podge and tissue paper, which looks like lacquer when dry. I also added a little cork board for when he is old enough to safely pin a few things to. Of course me being me I have to go a step further, I bought him a mailbox at the craft store. Personalizing once again to make it special for Timmy (There is also a pink one waiting anxiously for his sister). One of these days I will actually pick up that palette and brush again, but for now I’m happy to send a little love across country.

 

Since I began writing the blog above I have begun the long overdue task of sorting through the boxes of my dad’s papers and photographs. It has been more than two years since he passed, and Saturday was the tenth anniversary of my Mom’s passing. While I am still grateful for what modern technology can do to keep me in touch with family, I found myself moved by looking through the papers and letters that were in dad’s boxes. My grandparents were in Ireland, they didn’t have the connections that I have. They had to wait for a cherished letter or photograph to know how their son, their daughter, and their four granddaughters were doing. Phone calls were possible but expensive. Those words written on paper were the connection of a family that was far apart. Loving words preserved, glimpses of a life since past, gifts for me, my sisters, our children and theirs. The memory of phone calls fade, Face Time is in the moment, and although an email is I guess the modern letter, and I suppose you could save the file, I wouldn’t trade these faded papers with my grandmother’s signature, my dad’s life story written by his own hand, or my mother’s profession of love to our dad in an old anniversary card for anything. I am hoping that someday long after I’m gone that Timmy and his sister will be able to look back and their grandmother’s funny little drawings, to read my words, and know just how much I love them.

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copyright symbolTimmy Mail, and all images created by Jacqueline Zuckerman contained in this post.

 

 

My Prayer To Father Time

And it came to me then,

That every plan,

Is a tiny prayer to father time.

The lyrics to one of my favorite songs, “What Sarah Said”, by Death Cab for Cutie. The last time I posted was January 3rd about my plans for the New Year, and my hopes that I would be creating. Alas the universe said, “Not so fast.” Have I created? Yes, of course I have because for me its like breathing. Unfortunately for me my other great talent in life seems to be finding ways to not be well, or to injure myself. I had spent December 30th in the ER because of unexplained chest pain. Long story short…in my own anxious little way I am well on my way to an ulcer. That discovery came only after many doctor visits and tests. That was January. February brought its own delights. Another Urgent Care trip, and from there to the ER again. I’m fine. Well at least I was until I got bronchitis. Oh, its March, and as I told everyone last week the Urgent Care and ER people were missing me and wondering where I was, so I sprained my ankle. I kid you not.

I had spent the latter end of December cleaning out and reorganizing my studio for the grand plans for 2017. I finally tried to work in there yesterday and now can’t remember where I put anything. Fortunately I also have a wonderful ability to laugh at myself. Go ahead, I know I have it coming. Last summer I went to see a doctor for my thumb which had broken and wasn’t healing well. The doctor gave me a cortisone injection in my right thumb (OUCH), I left his office and drove to pick Dan up from the airport where I closed the door on my left hand and broke a finger. Seriously. My friend Denise says she really isn’t laughing at me but with me. Which is true because it’s about all I can do.

Onward to art! In between doctor visits I actually did work a little. At my daughter’s request I created all the Peanuts characters for my grandson’s first birthday. Creating poster board sized characters for my kids birthday’s was always a tradition. I also wrote and illustrated a children’s book. I gave Timmy my first copy as a birthday gift.  I still need to tweak a few things before I’m ready to move forward with it. I’ve also sorted through piles and piles of paper that I’ve accumulated for inspiration and ideas. As I mentioned above, my studio is cleaned and very organized with the exception of labeling several boxes so I can actually find my supplies!

So here’s to My New Year, commencing today March 6th, with a little prayer to Father Time.

To Whom It May Concern,

April will be here before you know it. I’d like to not see the inside of a doctor’s office, an Urgent Care, or ER. I’m praying you’ll give me a break, and by that I don’t mean any bones.  I promise to look where I’m going, to stop worrying about every single little thing, and to continue to amuse myself at my own expense.

Finally, I include a piece of art from right around the holidays. My daughter Jessica had taken a photo of my son’s beautiful girlfriend, Olivia. From the moment I saw it I knew I had to paint it. I finished it in time for Brian’s Christmas gift, a portrait of Olivia in watercolor.

Stepping Away

It has been two months since I last wrote on these pages. I considered labeling this post as “Running Out Of Words”, but the truth is I haven’t. I think maybe I was too sad to share, or that what I felt was far too personal. As I mentioned in a previous blog this was never intended to be such a personal and revealing account of my life. I began it in a search for self fulfillment, a way of forcing myself to tend to my own needs after a lifetime of being everything for everyone else. It has also had unintended consequences, one of those being that some people who read what I write think they know me. Yes, there have been very deep heartfelt thoughts on these pages, and a very personal glimpse into my life, but there is much more to me than what you might read and assume. I also discovered that there are two people “looking” for me on a website that reveals people who are searching for you. I have no way of knowing if it is as I suspect a sales pitch to get me to purchase “Protection”, or if someone has garnered enough information from the web to decide to look further. Either way it creeps me out. One of the names is of a woman, the other a man. I looked them up. The male exists, has a Facebook page, and I have no idea who he is or why he would look me up. Like I said, creepy. The female lives in Florida, and until recently I knew no one living there. That one is unnerving for me, especially in these days of identity theft.

As for my sadness, four months have passed since my Dad passed. There is still an aching hole that will take some time to heal. I think I realize that it never will, because it’s right next to the one that has been there for eight years, the one created by losing my Mom. That post would be titled, “Running Out Of Words”, because sometimes it hurts too much to be crafted into a coherent sentence.

People say, “Life moves on.” and it does. I’m going to be a grandmother. The immense joy that the news brought to my heart is again difficult to put into words. I will of course unfortunately have to be a grandma from the other side of the country, but these days of social media make that a much easier pill to swallow, and I can guarantee that my daughter and son in law will get to know the postman very personally.

Finally there is this, the much promised return to what this was all meant to be about…art. Our dear friends and former Chicago neighbors are themselves relatively new grandparents. Their new joy lives even further than mine, he resides in New Zealand. Our daughters grew up together, and will now be moms within a year of each other. Life does move on. While looking at Facebook I came across a photo on Nicole’s page that stirred something in me that hasn’t been there in some time. It is a photo of her baby and his father. The baby is beyond adorable, the word (as weird as it is) that comes to my mind is “scrumptious”. He is so damn cute I could eat him up, but it was John, and the look of love and tenderness that really spoke to me. I’ve never met John, but that photo speaks volumes, and it gave me something I needed, a reason to paint. Congratulations to Nicole and to John, and thank you for giving me the inspiration I so desperately needed. (It will FINALLY make its way to you. Promised weeks ago, but I found myself hearing the call of “not good enough” yet again. Having to remind myself that it’s not meant to be a Xerox copy, but a piece of art. I’m sending it today in order to shut off the voice in my head before I ruin it!)

In full disclosure I need the art police here to demand that I put down the brush. I’ve retouched this painting six times since I started photographing it…sick, just sick…

So, a return to art, and a return to writing. The first hurdle is behind me. I know it won’t be the only one, but it feels good to begin again. My life moving on.

for nicky

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OK, I admit it. I took the photo of the painting no less than a dozen times. Why? Because I started finding fault with it and “fixing” it. Memo to the voice in my head…SHUT UP! Oh no, I hearing it again….I need to fill in John’s beard a little, fix the baby’s hairline, darken the ear on one side, ….help!

To Be Continued…???

I’m back. Posting just a little tonight. One of the unfortunate side effects of moving west is leaving our sports teams behind. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a big sports fan. Actually if I never watched a sporting event again it would be fine with me. I think it has something to do with my childhood. My Dad played professional soccer when I was a kid. Every weekend my Mom would dress my sisters and I in matching dresses, frilly socks, with bows in our hair, and make us sit on the sidelines watching our Dad play. The other kids would be running around enjoying themselves, not us, we were like little matching dolls all sitting in a row. These days I’m just trying to be a supportive wife. The Blackhawks are in the playoffs, and if we want to see them we have to go out, and of course they went into triple overtime. We thankfully left before they lost. So here I am writing at ten when I should be going to bed.

I did manage to eke out a watercolor this afternoon. Still working on my super secret project that I can’t unveil as of yet.  The lovely Theresa came by today and gave me some beautiful tulips. I managed to paint them right before we walked out the door. Tonight is my last night of posting retrospective work. I’m still not sure now that my year is up how I will proceed with this blog. Lots of changes ahead in my life, most of which I can’t reveal quite yet, but I missed writing when I took the night off. I can’t promise myself that I’ll write every day, but I feel like its been something to hang onto in these troubled days since Dan lost his job. I think we know what we have to do. Making the plan is the easy part, jumping into it is a whole other matter. That may seem a little cryptic, but I will explain in time. Meanwhile, the last of my favorite pieces, and the first to head into the future. As for this blog and project? The title says it all.

4 17 14  Today’s work

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

photo Riley, one of my cats in pencil.

 

 

 

 

IMG_9711  The children’s play area that we built for the children at our daughter’s wedding.

 

 

 

image  The tabletop I painted based on a vintage French powder tin that I own.

 

 

 

 

Ab aeterno (4)  Altered Art. The photo is from a gravestone in Virginia.

 

 

 

 

005  A piece I did fairly early in the project. An ode to my artistic journey.

Marker on Bristol.

 

 

5 13  My faux brick wall, made entirely from cardboard. My most often pinned pin on Pinterest.

 

 

 

image  Pastel desert scene.

 

 

 

 

 

6 3 3 6 3 (1)  The “before” and “after” of a table I bought for $5. Wood burned design painted with pearl paints.

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_0831 Theresa’s old kitchen cabinet door. Canvas cut to size to fill the center. I reproduced the business card of the restaurant where Dan and I had dinner in Paris for our 20th wedding anniversary.

 

 

 

 

12 20 Riley once again in pencil.

 

 

 

IMG_3262 The sign I made for my daughter and son-in-law for Christmas. Cardboard and burnt glue.

 

 

 

 

12 25 Custom designed Christmas fairy.

 

 

 

 

IMG_3427IMG_3430  More of the burnt paper and glue on a cardboard pencil box base.

 

 

 

 

2 7 14 (1) Polymer clay sculpting attached to a small cardboard box.

 

 

 

 

2 23 14 (2) Old window transformed into a memo station with mirror.

 

 

 

3 24 14 Another cabinet door.

 

 

 

 

4 4 14 (1) Antiqued mirror with one of my Paris photos tinted sepia.

 

 

 

 

There were a few more pieces that I love, but I’m tired. I think the triple overtime did me in.

 

 

 

 

 

Where Do We Go From Here?

My year is up. I am no longer obligated to post or create every day. My self-imposed project is complete, or is it? Did I accomplish everything I had hoped? Not in so many ways. Did I discover parts of myself? Yes. So now what’s next? I am a creature of habit. Something I haven’t revealed about myself (Yes, even after all this time) is that there was a time in my life when I kept a diary almost every day for seven years. When you don’t have friends books, paper and pen, and music become your lifeline. When I started my blog and project I never thought about what would happen when it was finished. I wasn’t even sure I would finish, but here I am a year later. I still have much room to grow artistically. New skills to master, and quite possibly having to let go of the one I love most, oil painting.

I still haven’t finished my portrait of Jessica because it is in oil. My respiratory system is taking a stand. Its been weeks since my cold ended, but I’m still feeling that little catch of breath in the back of my throat. As much as I hate the idea of it, I may have to resort to wearing a mask if I want to continue to paint. I think I may not have a choice. It was my first artistic love and I’m not ready to let go.

As for this blog, as I said last night, I will continue. Although I just might take tomorrow off. We’ll see. It’s become as much a part of my daily routine as brushing my teeth.

 

I’m going to spend the next day or two organizing the work I love most. Pen and in later in the week. Tonight another retrospection, this time some watercolor.

 

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Day 365

Today is day 365. I did it, a year of writing every day, of not giving up on myself, of pushing myself on days that I didn’t want to do anything, and keeping my promise to create every single day. In retrospect there are days when a bad mood, a bad attitude, laziness, or frustration presented itself in the work I produced. I can tell what days those are by looking at the work. I can also say that I am proud of myself for what I’ve accomplished. This blog evolved into a much more personal diary than I had ever intended. I have more to say about all of this, but as I’ve so often mentioned here on these pages, life sometimes takes turns that you never expect.

There was a tragedy in my family today. My beautiful niece was in the beginning of a new relationship. The young man was killed early this morning in a car accident. My heart breaks for her, I love her like she is my own daughter. I have no words to comfort her, and I am too far away to wrap my arms around her. I didn’t know this young man, I only saw photographs that showed two young people happy, and read messages on Facebook that made me aware of just how crazy he was about her. His brother was injured as well and is critical, he is the father of two young children. My heart bleeds for this family. I have asked for prayers before. I’m asking again. This time for some people I don’t really know, and for my niece. Ask God, whatever God is yours to help them through this terrible time, to bring them peace, to help that young father heal. As I told my niece a short time ago, hopefully she can find some solace in knowing that her boyfriend passed away at a point in his life when he was happy because of her. It is a day like today that puts so much in perspective. My life isn’t perfect, far from it, but many miles away from me is a lovely girl with a broken heart living a nightmare, and parents who are mourning the loss of one son, and praying for another to survive. I cannot even imagine their pain.

I’m still working on Maddie’s portrait. I redid entire portions of it, but I won’t be posting it tonight. I decided instead to go through this past years work and choose the pieces I’m most proud of. A retrospective if you will…later… I began to look at my work, and I did more pieces of work that I love than I was aware of. Tonight on a night when I think about life and it’s sometimes very sad turns, I will post portraits and figures, but on this page the three that mean the most. My son, my husband, my daughter. I love you all and thank you for your support and encouragement over the last year. A second post to follow with the rest.

Honestly, nothing seems important right now. I just want to say to my niece, “I love you. I wish it were in my power to make this all better for you. To change the last twenty-four hours. To give you whatever you need to heal. To give those two young men back to their families. I am praying for you all.”

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Our Place

No news tonight, no complaints, just some thoughts on an observation from this morning, and how it relates to the kind of business I want us to have.

I was getting dressed this morning and knowing it was going to be 90 degrees today, I looked in the back recesses of my closet. I pulled out a shirt I haven’t worn in years. It happens to be a shirt that Dan bought me in Paris. We actually didn’t spend a lot of money there. We aren’t souvenir type people. If anything we had hoped to come home with something from a Parisian flea market. We unfortunately went to the wrong one, unless of course we were millionaires. The furniture was incredibly beautiful, and incredibly expensive. On our next trip (Don’t know how, don’t know when, but it will happen!), we will do our research and make sure we know where we are going. What we did end up buying was a sweater because I am always cold, and in the same shop the shirt I am wearing. We also purchased a shadow puppet for Jessica at the Musee d’Orsay. We had seen the collection of Theatre du Chat Noir (forgive me if I’ve gotten that wrong), incredibly intricate shadow puppets. Jessica is a graphic artist and loves strong imagery. I knew she would appreciate the design. Imagine my surprise when we got back to our apartment and discovered the sticker on the back that said, “Made in Chicago, Illinois”. I kid you not. It struck me as so funny. I flew all the way to Paris to buy my daughter something from her hometown. On the next to last day I mentioned to Dan that I had been admiring a second shirt in the window of a clothing store near where we were staying.  We went to the shop and purchased the shirt. That night as I packed my suitcase I noticed the tag inside of my new shirt, “American Rag”, the same brand as my jeans from Macy’s.

The world is becoming so interconnected thanks to our unbelievable ability to communicate, but at the same time I feel like something is being lost. I traveled with Dan on and off on business trips through the Midwest. I loved all the little towns, the shops, the local flavor. I think it many ways it is being lost. Now no matter where you go there is a Target, a Walmart, a Home Depot, etc…even in Paris I ended up with items I probably could have gotten back home. Maybe that’s one of the reasons I love antique stores and flea markets so much. Pretty much everything is one of a kind.  I want our place to be the shop that everyone will think of as “their place”. I hope to make every person that walks through the door as welcome as they feel in my home. I want it to be a place, like my home, where people want to stay awhile and put their feet up, enjoy some really delicious food, a good cup of coffee, a good book, and some interesting conversation. (Now all I need is some money!)

 

As has happened before my art tonight is inspired by a photo I saw in the newspaper. I didn’t copy exactly what I saw, but definitely the feel of it with my own little twist. Something simple, I’m feeling nostalgic tonight.

 

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A Change In Attitude

A change in the atmosphere? I’m not sure what it is, but today was the first day in quite a while when I spent the day feeling hopeful. Still no news on the one job that may still be in the works, but we are pursuing some financial options for our business that look very promising. There is also another plan in the works. Dan and a friend have an idea for another business, something that could prove to be very successful if they can get it up and running. There are two things about it that I love, one is that it should bring money in quickly, the other is that it would allow Dan to continue to work with me on our business. It’s literally down to the wire around here. Something has to work!

I’m also surprised that I feel as good as I do because I’m exhausted. I was up early on Monday, didn’t make it to bed until 12:30 Tuesday morning, up at 6:15 a.m. yesterday. I should have slept well last night but I didn’t. I went to bed at around 10:30, slept for maybe twenty minutes and then…wide awake. I laid there for at least a half hour before giving up. I came downstairs and used the time to do research for our business. My mind is racing with ideas and possibility.

I actually have two projects tonight despite the fact that I’m falling off my feet. In a flash of brilliance (if I do say so myself) I came up with a quick project to turn two vintage plinths into book ends for our upcoming shop. We ran over to the office supply store and grabbed a couple of metal bookends, added some glue, and there they were. There is a little bit of the new metal showing underneath which I plan to address. I’ve been pricing out bookends and they are really expensive. I’m going to need a lot of bookends. This project inspired me to see what else I have that can serve the same purpose.

I’m craving oils once again, but unfortunately my respiratory system is still not up to par. I am only days away from the end of my year. It may just end up in watercolor. I did a small one tonight of one of my Giverny photos. Dan and I are both longing terribly to go back. We went to Paris for our twentieth wedding anniversary. We are a little over ten weeks away from our twenty-fifth. We had hoped this would be the year, but things change. It will certainly be a different anniversary this time around.

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