The Clock Is Ticking

I’m sure anyone who read last night’s post knows that I wasn’t in a great frame of mind. I was trying to focus on renewing our business plan in order to lift our spirits. That plan is still in place, but this morning I woke from a horrible dream where our house was emptied of everything, including one of my cats.  There’s no need to decipher that nightmare, but I decided not to let it ruin my day. I joined Dan for a long walk on a beautiful California morning. We were relatively quiet while we walked, both lost in thought, each of us worrying in our own way. I began to think about the beginning of the year when I promised a new start for us. I was reminded of my “to do” list by news I read here on WordPress. One of the blogs I follow (Beautiful Hello Blog) is of a young woman much like the young woman who I once was. She is a wife, a mother, and she is an artist. The glaring exception is that she is actually doing something with her talent. She recently posted that she will be working with West Elm. I sent her a “Congrats!” reply, and I mean it more than she could possibly realize.

I ended last year and began this year with the determination of getting my work out there. Of selling my art. Have I done it? No. I put maybe three art pieces on etsy (aside from the fairies I make), I sold one, and that sale made me feel great at first. Then I got a note from the person who purchased it. She said she loved it, but that it wasn’t what she thought it would be, that it was much more lightweight but that it would serve its purpose, and added a “Good job…” (She added the …) I was completely accurate in my description of the piece, a lightweight box that I had created using the burnt brown paper/cardboard technique. Even though she said she loved it, I sensed some disappointment, and let me tell you it is extremely easy to let the air out of my balloon. It made me feel bad, although I’m sure she hadn’t intended that. The truth is that I was so insecure when I prepared it for mailing that I must have asked Dan ten times if the price was too high, then I asked Jessica, who told me I was crazy that it wasn’t high enough. As I wrapped it I began to feel the “not good enough” voice in my head screaming in my mind. I added a thank you note, and a vintage handkerchief, explaining she was my first “art” sale on etsy. I wrapped the box beautifully, added ribbon and a silk flower, packed it was carefully so that it wouldn’t get crushed, and in the end it cost me three dollars more to ship it than I had charged. Obviously despite my recent proclamations to the contrary, my self-esteem, my artistic confidence, my self belief are sorely lacking. I had grand plans for this new year, and here it is days until April and I have yet to make the move to promote myself. My friend Theresa emails me with every opportunity that she can find. She believes in me, as do my husband, my children, my family, and my friends. Why can’t I do it for myself? Fear of rejection? Failure? I won’t know until I try, but I can’t seem to make myself take the first step. As I said last night, time is running out, money is running out, I have the ability to change that. My back is against the wall, and I have to get past myself. I’ve talked about it more times than I care to admit, and have written about it repeatedly here on the blog. Maybe another night or two of nightmares might do the trick. Nothing like a good scare to make you do the things you need to do right?

One more box for the show, and another (not shown) well on its way. Vintage postcards yet again, but done in a different way.

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Looking For A Silver Lining

I’ve spent the last few days feeling like we have a dark cloud over us. Dan had a couple of successful interviews for a job, but we’ve heard nothing as of yet, and quite frankly hope and enthusiasm are hard to come by these days. I don’t want to give up, but every time there seems to be a flicker of hope it is quickly extinguished by bad news. I continue to pray, to ask for help, but time is running out. We realize now that we will probably need to leave our home. That’s a tough one. It’s not about the house, home is where we are together, but nevertheless we worked hard and turned it into a beautiful home. I’m trying to grab onto anything positive these days, so I’m trying to put it in perspective. We needed to downsize anyway, the kids are out on their own, and with my bad knees the stairs become more difficult each day. It’s also been quite a while since I wrote about our business, the one we hoped to open. I think the situation we are in and a little depression began to push the dream away. We decided to grab onto the dream again. As my very wise sister said today, “God helps those who help themselves.”  So a new journey begins. We start Monday to figure it all out, and how to finance the dream. As we looked around our home today we realized how many things we have here that will transition well into the atmosphere we hope to create in our shop. So we build our lives again. I’ve been through some hardships in my life, some difficult and painful situations, but this is something I never dreamed we’d face. We are nice people, good people, all you can do is ask “Why?” Sometimes there are no answers.

I’m still working towards the show next Saturday. I’m producing as much as I can with Dan’s help. I hope to have a successful show. Did you notice? There’s that word again, “hope”. Maybe I’m not a completely lost cause.

A very old mirror I bought a lifetime ago. I’ve been carrying it around for years. The two smaller panels on the side had mirror in them in originally, but they disappeared years ago. I decided to again to use photos from Paris. I turned them sepia, cropped them into squares, and then had them printed to fit. The mirror had been a cream color. I had intended to just repainted but it was a mess, too many layers of paint. I stripped the piece down, primed, and then painted it in the Martha Stewart metallic bronze, with dry brushed highlights of a green-gold M.S. Pearl paint. It works very nicely with the sepia prints. The photos aren’t permanently attached yet, I have just a little work to do to finish the piece tomorrow.

 

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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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Overdue Apology?

Parents often speak of the joys of parenthood, and there are many, but there is one that most don’t speak of. That is the joy of annoying your teenager. Some may think me cruel, but despite the many people who see me as not having a sense of humor, I can actually be quite funny. My sister Marion once told me that for her I’m sort of a female Bob Newhart, dry wit that comes out of nowhere. I can be very quiet, and still at times painfully shy, but when I am comfortable with the people I’m with I open up a bit. I’ll never be the type who can dance on a table top, but who would want to see uncoordinated me do that anyway? (I’d compare myself to a blossoming flower, but at my age I think the only thing I could be compared to is something that blooms in the fall…like cabbage) I digress…My children are no longer teenagers, but full-fledged adults. It is very difficult to annoy Jessica. She is such a sunny pleasant person that it is hard to find an angle, and as a teenager she studied voluntarily. (Where did I go wrong?) I remember once finding her studying the Periodic Table of Elements. I asked if she was having a test. Her response? “No, I just thought I should know these.” Supportive and proud mother that I am, I called her a weirdo. (Just kidding Honey, love you!) Brian is now twenty-three. He is intelligent beyond words, which is really interesting since he hated, and I mean HATED school. It is my firm belief that he charmed his way through school. He is very charming. Well that and he once asked me to bake a cake for a teacher. He didn’t tell me his grade was bad and that he was buttering the man up, only that his teacher like strawberries. We fought about school from about the sixth grade when he announced that he would no longer do homework. Schoolwork was the teacher’s job, and if they couldn’t do the job in six hours it wasn’t his problem. I’m sure you know I had a lot to say about that. We butted heads through most of his teenage years, arguing about just about everything. He was so stubborn. (Gee, I wonder who he gets that from?) I fought back the only way I could, sarcasm and humor. I knew he didn’t think I was funny, but I thought I was funny, and better yet I knew it annoyed the crap out of him. (Forgive me Brian, but it was my best defense!) My favorite story, and I hope he thinks it’s funny now, is when he was into existentialism. What? I know, when he told me he was an existentialist I said, “I don’t even know what that is.” He explained that we might not really be here, that the bed we were sitting on might not really be here, that we had no way of knowing what was real. (This is where the fun starts.) “I know we are here. I know you are here. I know that because I gave birth to you and pushed out all eight pounds and nine ounces of you. Trust me I know you’re here.” He was very upset with me. “You have no respect for my feelings!” Conversation over. I thought I was hilarious. He of course did not. I knew he was searching for his identity, and maybe I could have been a little more understanding, but he wouldn’t do homework or clean his room. A mother has to have satisfaction somewhere, right? I really am sorry Brian for not taking it a little more seriously.

Today’s work is for my Brian. I love him dearly and am very proud of the kind and compassionate man he is. He recently moved out and I offered art for his new place. He is a different kind of guy, so I thought he needed a different kind of art. I knew from the onset that I was going abstract, a style which I am very new to. It pulls me way, way out of my comfort zone, because I reside in the land of “supposed to look like”, this isn’t in my territory. Abstract forces me to let go of control to a certain extent, and lack of control is a very scary place. I wasn’t exactly sure until today what existentialism was (I just looked it up), but I thought about the universe and nothingness, and what might be happening out there in the cosmos. In my vision it is darkness, bursts and flashes of light, and more stars than you can possibly imagine. This is my Universe.

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Growing Confidence

It’s been some time since I visited my orphans. For those of you who may be unfamiliar, they are the pieces of work that I have left undone. Many months ago when I first relayed the tail of my “orphans” I had offered the explanation that it was because I was suffering from such a lack of artistic self-esteem that I was in effect, afraid to finish in fear of being judged. This project that I have been working on for the last year has done tremendous things for me. I no longer sit in fear of judgement by anyone, particularly myself. (And I do that better than anyone) Last week I was sick and did a really crappy piece of art, and you know what? It happens, it isn’t the end of the world. I was hung up on perfectionism in a world that is far from perfect. I’m still not happy when something doesn’t work out, but I no longer use it as a means to tear myself apart. That is some real progress.

Several months ago I began using my friend Theresa’s old kitchen cabinet doors to create new things from what essentially would have been material for a landfill. Recycling maniac that I am, that just wouldn’t do. Theresa had been kind enough to offer the doors to me knowing that I would do something. At this point I’ve used only five or six of them with plans for the rest. I had used one of them to create a mirror. When I posted the photo not all  the pieces were fully attached. I had painted the piece out in a silvery blue, but in the end I wasn’t happy with it. The pieces languished in my studio for months. The other day as I began to look through my things for pieces for my upcoming show I came across it. I decided to revisit the piece. I took a section away, and added another, and then changed the paint color. The blue was flat, boring, and did nothing to highlight what I liked most about the piece, the raised curved lines, the crevices, and the intricacies of the added floral wreath. Using a combination of metallic paint colors, silvers, antique bronze, and a champagne, changed everything. The colors really made the mirror come to life. It no longer looks like a kitchen cabinet door, but what I wanted it to be, something that looks like it’s been around for a while. Something beautiful and elegant. It left me anxious to get to the next one, and gave me a little more confidence, so much so that I may be adopting more of my orphans in the near future. First a reminder of the mirror with the blue paint finish, and then the new metallic finish.

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Questions

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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Compromises

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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Following The Thread

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.3 1 14