Dark Skies Ahead

I’ve been away for a few days. Not from my home, which I will unfortunately have to leave soon enough, but from this blog and its accompanying art. It turns out that this has become a bigger life line than I thought. Focusing on the writing and the art has kept my mind occupied and forced my troubles to take a back seat. I gave it up for a couple of days because they were bad days, I couldn’t write, I couldn’t create. On Saturday I spoke of a “funk”, this wasn’t a funk, but rather a full-blown depression. The end of our line is so close I can almost taste it. Dan and I have both been applying for jobs to help us through these tough times. We need something to keep us going while we work towards the business. Trouble is no one wants to hire us. If I hear one more politician speak of those who won’t help themselves I’ll scream. I want to work, Dan wants to work, but in this youth obsessed culture we are dinosaurs. By Monday of this week I couldn’t stop crying, that’s it, crying all day, unable to function with my wonderful husband comforting me and promising to take care of me, the entire time feeling the exact same sense of doom. This isn’t about “stuff”, the house, the cars, the things we own. It’s about mourning the loss of the life we were living, not nearly as well off as some, but grateful to not have as little as others. We are part of the disappearing middle class. People who do the right things, work hard, take care of our family, educate our children, and help those less fortunate with whatever we could, only to have the rug pulled out from under us with no end in sight. I am a self admitted control freak. My life is spinning out of control. I need to be on the other side of this no matter what the outcome. Its definite, our home will have to go, but where do we go? No jobs? No lease. We can’t even rent. I am scared. It is no longer about saving for retirement, the question now is how do we live at all? There are those around us that have lent a helping hand, they will never know the amount of gratitude that we feel because there are no words. I am rambling as I write because my mind is in a whirl. I just need to be settled, somewhere, somehow.  So many questions, so few answers. Dan is my rock. He keeps telling me we will be OK. He reminds me how happy we were years ago when we were young and broke and living in an apartment paycheck to paycheck. We were happy, but we also had hope, and we were young with the future ahead of us. Now we are middle-aged, on the edge of losing everything, and terrified of what the future could bring. We want to work, I cannot say it enough. We want to open our business, and we want to hire people like ourselves, people who will work hard and care about what they do. I don’t want to give up, and I know all of this sounds like I already have, but I’m trying. I struggle every day to accomplish something towards our future, our business, we just need to get it off the ground. If you’ve stayed with me though all of this, thanks for listening. Sometimes it helps to just get it out of my head. Call it therapy, group therapy if you will.

Pen and ink, pencil and a little purple marker. Those little looking glasses that are falling? I’m trying to see the future through the rain.

 

Artist cards.dark skies ahead

 

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Leave My Clock Alone

Spring back, Fall ahead. My head is spinning. I have had insomnia since birth. My parents tried everything to get me to sleep. Crushed sleeping pill and sugar mixed together on a spoon? Check. Shots of Chianti for a nine-year old? Check. They really did try everything, it just didn’t work. When I wanted a day off school all I had to do is pretend to sleep, my Mother thought I was ill. I still struggle nightly. I rarely if ever sleep through the night. I hate DST, you know Daylight Savings Time. I hate it so much that I refuse to reset the clock in my truck. I leave it be, my stubborn silent protest. Not that I don’t enjoy a little extra sunlight, and lovely summer evenings. I just want it to stay that way all of the time. I know it sucks when people have to get up early to go to work and it’s still dark out. I did it for many, many years. I would sit on the edge of the bathtub at five a.m. and bemoan my fate. I would actually moan aloud saying, “Nobody should have to get up this early.” The unfortunate thing for me is that when the sun comes up so do my eyelids, no matter what time I hit the sack. (I believe I may have been a rooster in another life.) This whole DST throws me off my game. It takes me weeks and weeks to adjust. In the mean time I wander through my day struggling to keep my eyes open, not to mention that when I’m tired, I’m hungry, not a good combination for me. That is when “you deserve this, you’re tired” makes an appearance. That is “not good enough’s” roommate in my brain. (Yes, there are voices in my head, most of them are very nice and offer fairly good advice.) I actually Googled DST, long boring explanation followed, I will not share, bore yourself if you must. So here I am after ten in the evening, which was actually nine just days ago. It is almost time for bed, but I’m not tired. I could stay up (I am sort of a grown up), but in the morning when the sun rises at seven a.m. my eyelids will open, and I will inwardly weep for the hour of sleep that is lost.

Today I had a really great compliment. I happened to run into Mia, whose portrait I have been working on. I also had my sketchbook on hand. I opened to Mia’s portrait and showed it to her, and asked if she knew who it was. “It’s Mia.” My day was made. When a two-year old can recognize them self in your work I think that’s pretty awesome. I worked on Mia’s portrait again tonight. She is just too cute to be shades of gray.3 11 14

Distressed

I’m not really distressed, but my project will be by tomorrow night. The marriage of my two pieces finally took place today, but we aren’t quite at the honeymoon stage yet. The crib panel is too large in proportion to the height if the seat. I have a number of solutions in mind, one of which I may attempt tomorrow. For now the piece is painted, but even that isn’t where it will end up. You may have noticed in the before photo that the color is similar to the color I started with, that is purely coincidental. I am trying to work with what I have on hand. That color was in the garage. The finish will look different tomorrow when I have my way with it. I don’t like new and shiny, never have. I love vintage and time-worn. There is very little in my house that is new, most of what I own is vintage. In my armchair psychologist best I believe it has to do with my longing for family connection. Growing up many of the kids I knew had grandparents, I didn’t. My grandfathers had both passed away when I was very young, and both were living in Ireland, as were my grandmothers. I met my Mother’s mom several times, and we stayed at her house in Ireland for a few weeks when I was thirteen, but we were never with her enough to really get to know her. I knew my other grandmother slightly better. She had tried to live here in the States but only lasted a few months. I was only five or so at the time, the thing I remember most was that she sat in my rocking chair all the time and I wasn’t happy about that. When I grew older I wrote to her, and on my last visit to Ireland in 1983, I spent some time with her at the home she was living at. She died a year later. I think I’ve spent my life searching for that connection to the past. I know there are people who hate antiques. For me I appreciate that the piece has a history, a story, that it was loved enough by someone to still be around. When I finished painting my bench it just looked too new. So, after all my hard work of stripping and sanding, and adding a fresh coat of paint, I grabbed the sandpaper once again and went to work distressing. Tomorrow I will be taking it a step further by adding an antiquing glaze. I love that aged distressed look, kind of like me.10 19

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A little extra project tonight. I was having fun doodling with my fine line markers. Tomorrow another marriage of sorts.10 21

Detailed Appreciation

Before I begin to talk about tonight’s artwork and it’s inspiration, I need to say a very public “Thank You”, to a new member of my family. I sent a text, I am mailing a card in the morning, (sorry it’s slightly late), but I felt the need to say this so she knows just how much her gift meant to me. Jill, my new son in law’s sister, and in my world that means he is my son, and she in a way an extended daughter. That may call for a short explanation. I am divorced. My ex and his wife are my very dear friends. Their two daughters are like my own. My daughter is from that marriage, she has two dads, and two moms. My husband has a daughter. We together have a son. We don’t believe in going halfway in anything we do in our lives. There are no step children, no half brothers and sisters. They are all of our children. When John married Jessica he became one more kid for us, (Yes John, I realize how old you are, but it’s too late now, you married her, now you’re ours!) John has two sisters with husbands and children, and a grandmother. Yep, ours. Now after that long not sure you needed to know explanation…

I did portraits of Jill’s girls. It was a pleasure, they are beautiful. I expected no thanks, and what I got in return meant the world to me. When I started this blog I spoke about not having the family support growing up to help me grow artistically. My parents just didn’t understand. I have also frequently mentioned my love of cooking. I came home one day to find a box waiting for me. Inside were some really cool kitchen gadgets, which if you could see my kitchen, you would understand how hard it is to find something that I don’t already possess. She managed to pull off a miracle. I love the kitchen stuff! Also inside the box was one of the most thoughtful gifts I have ever received, an antique metal child’s palette and an old box of charcoal, and a beautiful note. When I saw the palette it brought me to tears. It represented the kind of gift that a little girl who dreamed of painting would want to own. I was that little girl. As if that thoughtfulness wasn’t enough, there was also the card. The words of support for me and this project were  extraordinary, and yes I did cry. Thanks Jill for understanding who I am and what means something to me. And now I’m crying again…I know, I can’t help it.

For tonight another pen and ink. I’m a detail girl. I love old things, old architecture, corbels, sconces….etc. I love the care and craftsmanship that was the norm of another era. I am lucky enough that my pack-rat partner, otherwise known as my Dad, gave me some old pieces I love. Stuff other people would throw away. A door plate. Yes, a simple door plate, with beautiful detail. It in my eyes is a piece of art. As always perspective began to get the best of me…such is life.

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Blustery Day

There’s an old song with a line that states, “It never rains in Southern California.” For the most part that’s true, but every now and then we have a day like today, a rainy, overcast, windy, and wet day, and I couldn’t be happier. That might sound strange to some, but for someone like me who grew up in Chicago, it’s a little taste of home. I’ve been in California long enough to be considered a Californian, but I’ll always be a Chicagoan at heart. I love the beautiful weather here in Temecula, but I really miss the change of seasons. There is something so magical about the first Spring day when it is warm enough to crack open a window. In Chicago that could be at forty degrees. Trust me, when it has been near freezing for months on end, forty is practically tropical. There is also that first day of Fall when the wind is just crisp enough to call for a sweater, or the quiet pristine beauty of freshly fallen Winter snow. I miss all of it. Yes, it is wonderful to not have to scrape the ice off my windshield, or to dig out a parking space, but there is something about the cycle of the seasons that appeals to me. Maybe because in a way we all live our lives in a cycle of seasons. I love the rebirth of Spring, and the maturity of Fall. There is an anticipation of the seasons that is lacking here. A few years ago when we were back visiting my parents, my kids were enthralled by a good old-fashioned thunder and lightning storm. I have memories from my childhood of standing in the garden during a Summer rain, when the air was warm and the rain water was cool on my skin. When I was a little girl there was a blizzard in Chicago, twenty-three inches of snow fell. I remember the snow over my head, and the games we played. My sisters and I built a house in the snow. We made a couch, a table, and I think even a television. I remember the thrill of running across the fence that had been covered by snow into the neighbor’s yard. Mrs. Hackel wasn’t very nice to us, and we thought we were so daring to run into that garden. Brian, my son, was devastated to discover upon moving to California that he was losing his “Snow Days”, bad weather free days built into the school calendar. Maybe it’s because I’ve been here in California for ten years that I can wax so poetic about those bad weather days. All I know is that when I have a day like today,  a day when you want to cuddle up inside with something warm to drink, and a good book or a movie, I feel nostalgic.

I had company tonight, and a rather busy day. As always looking through photos from something to paint, I came across a photo from my phone of one of my cats. I was trying to photograph Riley, and she became very curious. She put her face right up to the phone. Riley in watercolor and pencil. Riley is a Chicagoan too.IMG_1669

 

My Ruby Slippers

Some good news today, my Dad Is doing a little better.  I had more than one nurse tell me over the phone today how charming he is. It’s the brogue, does it every time. I’m still really worried about him, but he can be quite funny, and knowing he is up to his usual goofy behavior makes me feel better. I’m still praying for him, anyone else who wants to join in is more than welcome.

I spent part of the day working on the logo which is giving me more trouble than I expected. It’s tough to create a piece of art that will reproduce well in a two-inch size.

For tonight a little trompe l’oeil. It’s been years since I’ve done it, but tonight I came across a small wooden art box in my studio that I’ve been meaning to do something with and decided to play with that. I painted a pencil on the lid tonight. but want to add a few other items to the top. I had really intended to do a lot more today. I’m about a third of the way through this project. Seventeen weeks in to be exact. I had planned to celebrate with some fabulous piece of art, it just didn’t come to me. I think part of what is getting between me and the logo project, and the work from tonight and from last night, is worry. Things still don’t seem to be going our way around here, and then with my Dad getting sick on top of it…let’s just say that sometimes its tough to stay positive. I am worried for my Dad, for Dan, for myself, and our family. There’s a Death Cab For Cutie song called, “What Sarah Said”, it is a song that has a great deal of meaning to it. It’s as though someone was watching in the ICU when my Mom got sick. There’s one line, “And it came to me then that every plan is a tiny prayer to father time”, I’m not even sure I can explain how that line resonates with me. I have wasted so much time in my life focusing on the wrong things, or being angry about things that really don’t matter, and especially not taking care of myself. I think about my Dad, soon to be eighty-one, and I know he has his own little prayer for more time. This entire project where I am discovering myself as an artist, might not have been necessary if I had stopped worrying about the crap, and focused years ago on the one thing that could really make me happy, my work. I did a little altered art card, not a good one, a very early attempt at Photo shop, but you will understand it when you see it. I made it a year or two ago, and the message was right there, I wrote it, but I still didn’t get it. It’s a little sad to discover, like Dorothy’s ruby-red slippers clicking together to bring her home, that I had what I needed all along. So here I am, with my prayer to father time, trying to discover who I am, and what I am capable of, in the Fall of my life. Grandma Moses jokes aside, it is more than time to be who I was meant to be. Small work tonight, but its about all I can manage at the moment.8 9

 

 

Artist Jackie

For Mom

It’s early evening here in Temecula and I haven’t attempted anything new for the day. Busy work in the garage, and to be honest a little stressed about stuff I can’t seem to let go of. There is also this, I know I mentioned it earlier in the month, but today is the sixth anniversary of my Mom’s passing. Never an easy day. I inherited “not good enough” from her. She never realized how fantastic she was. I am hoping that this project will eventually free me from myself, and maybe in some way she will gain something through me. I also realize that my daughter has a hint of the “not good enough” and I want to vanish it from her life too.

Speaking of “not good enough”, I mentioned it last night, and boy was it back this morning. I worked on Kelsey this morning because I wasn’t happy about it last night. The other issue is that I wait so long in the day to work that by the time I’m finishing up its dark outside, and I’m tired, and I don’t work with enough light…excuses, excuses, but all true. The stuff I can’t let go of? Perfectionism. I wrote last night of how Kelsey’s portrait didn’t give me any trouble. That was then, this is now. I worked that little baby’s portrait over and over, I almost ruined it by dropping a big blob of water on her poor little face. I finally put it down. I spoke to my daughter Jessica about it later in the morning. She said, “Mom, if they just wanted a picture they’d take one.” She’s right. I need to get it through my stubborn Irish skull that I’m not a Xerox machine (if you are too young to know what that is, google it!) I am an artist, I am evoking a feeling, or an essence, not a Sear’s portrait. I took on the garage stuff today because I needed to shake this off. I was doing so well, progressing and feeling confident. I’m not sure what happened that set me back…ding! Light bulb just went off. Most of the art I have been producing these last few months wasn’t for anyone. There were one or two pieces for Dan and Theresa, but they are like my other halves. It is because it is for someone else. My new family. Do I think they are going to get the portraits and put a big red check in the middle, or publish a bad review in the local paper, of course not. But I’m me, and I want them to love the portraits of their children. I’m sure they will, because this isn’t about them, it’s about me and my issues. I’m sure I’m slightly insane, and that all will be well. I just have to remember that “not good enough” is very sneaky, and will find the crack in the door if I leave it open even the slightest bit.

Two hours later…

I talked to Dan about how I was feeling, and of course his words pretty much echoed Jessica’s. I was in fear of being judged, thus the “revisiting”. Finally I just began to cry. It’s a hard enough day, and I make it harder on myself. In the midst of all of it another light bulb moment. There is always a root for every problem, and sometimes the person who planted it doesn’t even realize they are doing it. When I was a little girl, and had already begun to show talent, my dad handed me a photo of John Kennedy and asked me to draw it for him. In my recollection I was around five, but at the very least I was seven, because I still remember where I was sitting when he asked. He walked away and I cried because I didn’t know how to draw that picture and I didn’t want to let him down. Who knows what he was thinking. It’s a sad memory, but Dan said at least now I know where my lack of confidence started. Maybe I should rename the blog “365 Days to Psycho Analyze Yourself”, lots of stuff going on in my head these days. I want to say right now to my two children, if I have ever said something that made you think you weren’t good enough, I’m sorry. You have both always been amazing and the joy of my life.

Tonight, something for my mother. When she died her coffin was covered in yellow roses ordered by my dad. I don’t remember yellow roses being her favorite flower, they are his. I know that because my mom told me so. I remember lilacs, and that she smelled like Heaven Scent when I was young. I had some small pieces of wood, left overs from something, they aren’t even cut straight. Lilacs in acrylic on wood. Love you Mom.

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We Are All Artists

OK, I know last night I said I would be entertaining all of you (and me) with my writing, and had intended on telling you all the reason behind the “Natalie” nickname, (which really is worth the wait…stay tuned until tomorrow) but then I received a comment from someone who reads this blog. ( This is where I’ll be getting all philosophical again) The person who sent me a comment (and I publicly thank you again) said that they wished they were talented like me. What he failed to realize, and I told him so in my reply, is that he is an artist. I read his blog, a place where spirituality is the subject. Beautiful words, beautifully written, as I said in reply, he paints pictures with his words and prayers. In my family we all have our assigned roles. My older sister is the smart, educated one, I am next, the weirdo, the artist, the quiet one, then there is the funny one, and finally the baby. We all have so much more to offer than those labels would imply. (To respect their privacy I will only use initials) M is the oldest, and yes, very smart and the most educated, but she is also very gifted with her hands, just in a different way than me. Sewing, knitting, needlework, beautiful, beautiful work. I am next, obviously artistic, but also very smart, and on occasion quite funny. C is next. Funniest woman I know. I can’t spend an evening with her without crying from laughter. G, “The Baby”, is anything but a baby. Strong, smart, and I think the most athletic of us (we know it’s not me). Unfortunately, despite how much our parents love us, sometimes they just don’t think. M’s creativity is overlooked, it isn’t her place, it’s mine. C was complaining once to my dad (not sure about what), his response? “Look at Jackie, sure she can paint but she has no personality”.  (And one wonders why I have issues) C is a very intelligent woman, who can multi task with no match, and an artist in the garden. (Note to the powers that be at Wrigley Field, this woman will give you a playing field to die for, and she’s a fan) She has no appreciation of how smart she is. She had two concussions as a child within weeks of each other. The story of how smart she was before “the accident” is family legend. The implication might make you think she was brain-damaged, not so much, very smart lady, and no one can be that quick-witted and dumb.  Finally G, as I said nobody’s baby. She ends up in management where ever she works. Also a beautiful baker, makes gorgeous pastries, creative right? The mere fact that anyone is writing a blog is creative. Putting a beautiful meal on the table is creative. Composing a speech, writing a song, raising a child, each is creative. We all have it within us to be an artist. My point is that we all have something to offer, it doesn’t have to be with a brush or a pencil, those are just my tools of choice.

And by the way, I have been told that I actually do have a personality.

For tonight, my handsome son Brian. I saw a photo in the LA Times many years ago that I loved. This afternoon Brian was kind enough to sit for a portrait for me, posed in a similar way to the photo as I remembered it. Watercolor on paper.IMG_0341

A Day To Remember

No complaints tonight, we won’t even begin to mention my nemesis.

Today is a day to remember people who I love. Six years ago my Mother went in for a surgery that she never came home from. No, today isn’t the anniversary of her death, but rather the anniversary of the last day that I saw my Mom before three weeks of pain and heartbreak began. I will always be grateful that I made it to the hospital in Illinois in time to say, “I love you”, just before she went into surgery. I miss her terribly, and talk to her daily. I always saw her as somewhat of a wounded soul, someone I wanted to take care of. I think she was a fountain of untapped talent, there was a little Martha Stewart there long before Martha ever wrote a book or cooked a meal. I think part of what drives me now is that I don’t think she ever realized how special and talented she was. I am her daughter, and I owe it to her to stop wasting the talent she gave me.

Today is also the 5th anniversary of my father in-laws passing. Sadly, a year after I lost my Mother, my husband lost his Father. A Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Air Force. A fine decent man, a true hero in a day where that word is often overused. A man who didn’t speak unless it meant something, and with little time for nonsense. My kids still remember when Poppy called it “UN-American” when Jessica didn’t like whipped cream, or Brian didn’t like cheese. Don, we all miss you.

For tonight I really felt like painting with oils, but I’m still wheezing just a little, so no oils for me just yet. Instead I played with pastels. Another in the long list of things that I just do without really knowing what I’m doing. But you know what? I’m starting to be ok with that. I started drawing, didn’t like where it was going, but kept going. I was using pastel paper, and to be honest don’t care for the texture of it. Eventually I grabbed some colored pencils and worked the two mediums together. I do want to experiment with pastels a little more, but I think I may use Bristol next time. The rough surface of the pastel paper makes blending a little difficult.

I also spent a little time on my doll house project, which is coming along nicely. I have gotten very ambitious with it so it may take a week to complete!7 3 (2)

The “P” Word, Yet Again!

 

Perspective. Just the sound of the word makes me freeze in horror. No, I am not admitting defeat. If you read last night’s post (and twenty other posts about it) you know that my evil nemesis had thwarted my plans to do a painting with perspective. Yesterday I had this grand plan to do a complete series of gates, windows, and doors. Then last night happened. I’m truly not giving up, just giving myself a break from the aggravation and frustration that I experienced last night. What you might find at the very least mildly amusing, is that I actually spent a good part of my afternoon beginning the panels for a paper doll house for a very special little friend of mine. Several weeks ago I did a pastel chalk of Emily. I turned that portrait into a paper doll, complete with wardrobe. Emily the paper doll needs a home, a friend, maybe some pets, probably some furniture for her paper house…..getting carried away here. There is no better thing in this world than the smile on a child’s face, I wish I could do it for every kid. I said I needed to do some catch up on my project, Emily’s house will be part of that. It might not be “fine art”, but quite frankly it’s so much fun I can’t wait to get back to it. I love design. As a child I didn’t really enjoy playing with Barbie dolls, I did however really enjoy designing their house. I have three sisters, and we never really had one of those factory made Barbie houses. We had random furniture, some Barbie, some generic doll stuff. My doll’s house was fabulous! I used a checker board for my flooring, (still love a checked floor) my mother’s jewelry box as an armoire, and her good Waterford crystal bowl as my pool, complete with color tinted water, that was accomplished by taking apart markers and dragging the inside material (not even sure what it is. Felt?) across the water to dye it to my color of choice. When my daughter was young and I worked at a grocery store I brought home empty cardboard cartons, which I then turned into individual Barbie rooms. Wrapping paper wallpaper, carpet sample flooring, artwork cut from magazines, and real fabric curtains. Eventually two stories high along a wall in her playroom. Barbie had quite the pad! I did stop playing long enough this afternoon to do something else for the project, a pen and ink drawing of a Day-lily. The ink sketch is what I will be posting a photo of tonight. Emily’s house is still under construction and will have its own special reveal, hopefully some day later this week. As I said, mildly amusing, the girl who can’t do math, and hates perspective, is creating an architectural doll abode. I guess even when you really don’t enjoy the process, (at least the perspective part) in the end it’s who and what the project is all about that makes all the difference. I guess you might say it puts things in “perspective” ( I know, insert cringe here).7 2