I have no masterpiece to post tonight, but maybe then again, I do. I spent my day working on Emily’s House, the paper doll house for my special little friend. I have to admit I got very carried away with this project and I’m only halfway done. I woke at 4:30 this morning, (Thanks neighbor for leaving your lights on in the garden all night! I thought it was daylight and got up too early) then I came downstairs, saw the clock and cursed, tried to go back to sleep on the couch, but it was hopeless. The universe, and two of my cats, had decided that I needed to be more productive. Last night I had left some of the pieces of Emily’s paper doll house sitting out, so I went to work. That’s right, four-thirty in the morning and I’m making a paper doll house. I didn’t mind in the least. With each wall I make I am that much closer to giving it to Emily, and the thought of that brings a smile to my face. I worked on it pretty much all day. At one point this afternoon the thought occurred to me that I should be working on my art, but I realized I already was. I’m going to post a few photos, including my rather impressive fridge that has a door that really opens, but I can’t reveal too much yet, I will post the entire house when its done. To say I’m getting a little crazy is an understatement. My mother commented once when I was a kid that there was something wrong with me, I was always cutting paper. I still cut a lot of paper, I’m still a little different, and I still make enormous messes (I mention that last part because as I write, Dan is picking up tiny scraps of paper off the couch) but I have never lost the love of creating, no matter how big or small the project, it’s the process that brings me joy.
I never quite understand people who,because they have a particular talent believe themselves to be better than others. I have a gift, an artistic one, but so do millions of others. I have often said, “Sure I can draw, paint, cook, do pretty much anything creative, but the laundry list of what I can’t do is ten times longer. There are those who can dance and sing, talents that I would love to have. I am sorely lacking in the coordination department, which essentially cuts out pretty much any athletic prowess. I bring this up for a number of reasons. I have had people suddenly become interested in being my friend because they see what I can do, and trust me, I can spot those ones a mile away. I have had more than my fair share of snide comments from other women who see my abilities as competition. I don’t feel that way about things that other people are good at. I admire what others can achieve. I will admit to having a little “hair envy”, basically mine sucks and always has. These days, much to Dan’s amusement I comment on how nice other women’s knees look. (If you saw mine you’d understand..six surgeries have done some damage) Do I wish I were thinner,richer, or more accomplished? Sure I do, I’m human, but I am more of the mind-set that when someone else looks better, or does something better or different from what I do, I applaud them. I had the conversation that I wrote about earlier in the week, the one that took a swipe at my self-esteem. Then yesterday I saw a neighbor, a woman who I at one time considered a friend. I did a lot for her. I foolishly gave and gave of my artistic self, doing things for her and her kids. She turned into one of the women who made the snide remarks. I’ve been accused of “showing off”, all because I made a beautiful dish to bring to a neighborhood gathering, or gave a hand painted piece of furniture as a gift to a neighborhood child. (Believe me, I was invited to the party for every kid on the street) My point, the reason I write all of this, is that I don’t show off. I never think I am better than anyone else, and I shouldn’t let someone else who has a ridiculous issue about me, (envy) to cloud my thinking, to get in the way of my art. I have given myself a stern talking to, and have had encouragement from a number of people in regards to that post.
Back to the “gift”. The best thing about having the ability to do everything I can do is that I can create something special for people I care about. I have a very dear friend in the midst of a horrible problem. She means the world to me, and other than letting her know that I am here for a shoulder to cry on, there isn’t much I can do to help her situation. We are good friends because we are much the same, nice, decent, thoughtful women. We accept each other, we share our lives, we support each other. We love our husbands and our children. We joke that we get along so well because we are both middle children. She is one of the finest people I have ever known. I can’t fix what is happening in her life, but I can use what I have, my artistic gift, to let her know that she is loved and thought about. So tonight I decided to make my project for her. She will be mad at me, she says I give her too much, but she is wrong. She has given me through her friendship more than I can ever repay. She loves pears. To eat, to wear, (her favorite pear sweater), she has pears all around her house, I think she needs one more. I raved about the wood burning and the pearl paint when I did the table. I’ve been anxious to try something else. I have some scrap wood in the garage, so I drew a quick sketch of some pears, and pear flowers, and grabbed the wood burner. I have barely begun to paint it, but it is late, so I will post part of the started project. I know my friend will read this, she is so very supportive of what I am doing, so I don’t want her to see it all yet.
In addition to tonight’s post is a quick pen sketch. I had a lovely day in the vineyards with Dan. As we sat on the terrace of one of the wineries I drew the scene in front of me. I have photos of this same location and think it just might need to become the inspiration for a painting.
I never did get to putting the pages of my box/book together. Not surprising, I know, but other pressing matters, such as my overgrown garden took precedence. I realize that it is just another obstacle I created for myself. All I can say is I’m working on it. Some of you may be saying, “Where’s Jessica?” I know, I haven’t gotten back to my full figure portrait. It isn’t really that I’m avoiding it, I just haven’t been sleeping well, and when I don’t sleep well I tend to screw things up. I also get frustrated more easily, and I really want the portrait to turn out well.
I worked so hard today that I have a couple of blisters on my right hand.That would be of course that I, who rarely stops to think and just jumps into the creative pool head first, always work without gloves. The garden looks beautiful, my fingers hurt, and I’m very tired. So what seems to have become the norm happened again. I cooked dinner and then set off in search of a project. I thought about a small painting, my usual, a watercolor, but then when I looked at the shelf where I keep paper, actually it’s shelves, many shelves. I have over the years purchased a great deal of paper, and received quite a few pads of a paper as gifts. Many, many of them are regular inexpensive drawing paper, and following through on my promise to use up my supplies, I decided to practice my drawing skills. I had intended to do a few quick sketches, but that didn’t happen. I only did one drawing, as I was leaving the studio I noticed a new package of charcoal that was sitting on my table. (I am ashamed to admit that there are a lot of new, unopened art supplies, some that moved there with me ten years ago!) I decided to use the charcoal. It turns out that the charcoal is actually “black chalk lead”. What? Do I know how to use this stuff? No. Did I read anything before I tried to use it? Of course not. It’s me, the artist who flies by the seat of her pants. Let the frustration commence! It doesn’t erase! My drawing was going along very nicely until I got to the hand. Attempt number one was a mess, way out of proportion. I tried to erase and it didn’t work very well. I tried again with no success. I finally got smart and grabbed a regular pencil, sketched it in, and then ran it past my in-house critic, Dan. Satisfied that it would work out I went back and finished with the lead chalk. I’ll play with the lead chalk again, but I think I’ll save it for a little free form sketching. I am glad I got at least one finished piece from my efforts, and it is one I like. Not too bad.
I had intended today to return to the full figure painting of my daughter, but as usual I got side tracked. Nothing horrible, but something I had intended to follow through on years ago. Six years ago on July 22, my Mother died. In the horrific three weeks that she spent in ICU, I passed the time by painting and drawing. I did a series of small, 5×7 paintings that I hung around her hospital bed. All of them painted with her in mind, two of them depicted the area in Southern California where I live, both inviting her to visit when she recovered, which of course she never did. There were two others, a get well card signed by all of us, my Dad, my three sisters, all of our husbands and her eight grandchildren. The other was a vase of sunflowers. I wanted something pretty for her to see when she woke. She did wake, but had sustained a brain injury, so our Mother, as we knew her, was gone. When she passed away and we were taking her things from the hospital, my Aunt Rita asked me if she could have the painting of the sunflowers. I said I would send it to her, I never did. I had intended to mail it as soon as I got home to California from Chicago, but I couldn’t send it. It was one of the last things I did for Mom, and I hoped that on some level she knew about it. I was recently messaging with my cousin Lorna. She has been wonderfully supportive of this artistic and self-searching journey I am on, she is also Rita’s daughter. It reminded me of that painting and I told Lorna I would send it to her Mother. Two of the other paintings are hanging in my studio, the get well card is framed at my Dad’s house. I have looked for the last several days for the sunflowers and I can’t find it. I know it was there, it has been for six years. Dan said that maybe I’m not supposed to give it away. So today instead of working on Jessica’s portrait I worked on something to send my Aunt Rita. Something pretty, something I hope she will like.
All of the above got me thinking about how often in my life I have taken refuge in my art. As I have pointed out in my earlier writing, in all the years I neglected myself I always did something creative. It has always been my lifeline. As a painfully shy child it was my companion. When my Dad has had surgery, and there have been a few open heart surgeries, I am at the hospital with my pad of paper, pencils and watercolors. I take those same items with me whenever I travel. I don’t sleep well away from home, and I will sit on the floor of a hotel bathroom, drawing in the middle of the night. When I had my last five knee surgeries (I know…you don’t have to say anything), I prepared for them by organizing my “art cart”. A three drawer plastic cart on wheels, each drawer filled with pencils, markers, paper, paints, and whatever else I can think of, all to fill my recovery time. Propped up on the couch, painkillers and ice close at hand, I ask my family to wheel over my supplies. I am never bored when I have something to create with, and I can create with just about anything. When my Mother died I came back to California and made a small piece of art dedicated to her. For me art is so much more than what you see on the paper, on the canvas, in the photo, or the sculpture. It is my lifesaver, my friend, my rock, my comfort. I am only sorry that it has taken me so long to appreciate the gift I have been given. And sorry too that it has taken me six years to fulfill a promise.
It’s late, nine here in California, and I again find myself putting my project off until the end of my day. Today it had nothing to do with avoiding the project at hand, but because it was a hard day for us here. Issues beyond our control came to a head. It was a long emotional day, one that I will be glad to have over.
I grabbed my sketchbook tonight, as always not sure what my subject might be. I started a drawing of some flowers, but I chose the wrong paper for the pencils that I was using and couldn’t achieve the correct amount of blending. Therein lies the biggest issue I have with not having had lessons. Materials are foreign to me. I still have a painting that I completed in my early twenties. It is large and a little abstract. I gave it to a boyfriend. His friend who also painted was curious as to why the background of my painting, which was entirely black, was painted using both matte and glossy paint. Matte? Glossy? I had no idea that paint for art came in different finishes. I was of course familiar with the terms, my dad was a house painter, but for art? I thought black was black. I know of course I could read books, and believe me I have more than a few, or I could take a class. Classes don’t work for me either, too judgmental. I did take a stab at art in college. My first fine art class was a drawing class. Within days I felt out-of-place. Remember I started drawing around the age of five. There I was at eighteen with thirteen years of bad habits that I had obtained, at least as far as the teacher was concerned. But I liked how I did things, and as I pointed out to her after she told me I had to use the oval with the lines to draw portraits, my portraits were better than hers. Mine actually looked like the people they were meant to look like. I dropped the class. (Long story to make a small point. I seem to do that a lot.) By seven-thirty or so I was gaining that familiar feeling of frustration. I decided to look on my computer to see what I had photos of to inspire me. I came across my file of photos of our cats. Spouncer (who sadly passed away, but was named after an art tool), Riley, Mia and Sophie. I decided on a photo of Riley. I used a combination of the photo and real life model, who unfortunately was more interested in swatting my pencil away. So here is Riley. I don’t do much in the way of drawing animals, but I’m happy with these results.
OK, so I know this is getting long-winded, but it reminded me of a painting I did as a teenager. A very nice man I worked with asked me to paint a portrait of his poodle as a gift for his wife. I didn’t really want to do it but it was a job. I had just finished the painting, it was oil, when I knocked it off the easel onto the floor. My bedroom floor that was covered in carpet. There were fibers stuck to the paint everywhere. I could have cried, but just blended it into the paint. He loved the painting. In particular the “texture” I had given to his beloved dog. He paid me more than I asked.
My mother was not so happy, how could she possibly fail to see the value of sacrificing the carpet for my art?