A Fresh Start

First day of the year, a fresh start in so many ways. I’ve made as lot of promises to myself, ones I will do my hardest to keep. I am keeping one promise right away, I am posting early. I want to stop leaving Dan to fall asleep on the couch as I rush to write before bed.

We started the year the right way, we hiked for six and a half miles. It took us close to three hours. We live very near the Santa Rosa Plateau. It is a beautiful place with hills, and wildlife. In the Spring there are vernal pools, water that rises up out of the ground for a very short time span, and fields of wildflowers. We plan on making the hikes a regular thing this year. It’s great exercise, but more than that it is a place that brings serenity. There were moments today when the only sounds we heard were the wind blowing through the trees, the cry of the hawks circling overhead, woodpeckers at work, and the songs of the birds. There is a peace that comes when you take yourself away from the world.  As we walked all I could think about was the beauty around me and what I wanted to paint. Did I paint when I got home? No, the truth is sometimes I forget how old I am, or that I’ve had six knee surgeries. By the time we neared the end of the path on our way back to the car, I was telling Dan that I longed to see civilization, a glimpse of the parking lot, or maybe roadside assistance to pick me up on the path. I was so tired, hot, and in need of a foot bath. Struggling uphill with my bad knees, hoping we were near the end. We stopped at grocery store on the way back and had to laugh as we struggled to get out of the car. When we got home I simply passed out. Happy New Year to me.  So, no painting today, instead a pen and ink of another of my favorite things. It’s an old letter opener. A simple tool with amazing detail work. Things simply are not made like they used to be, and I am definitely not as young as I used to be!

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I wish everyone could start the year in peace, so I’ll share some photos of our day. IMG_9778

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Can You Spell W-I-M-P?

I finally took some time tonight to really sit and think about art for a minute, not craft (sorry fairies, you are art in your own special way, but….) I just haven’ t have the time. I’m still working towards Saturday’s show, and of course etsy sales, but I am craving the smell of oils, and even the frustration of the quick dry time of acrylic. I do however still have my watercolors. To be honest I am couch bound, old medical crap rearing its ugly head, so I am forced away from my workshop (formerly known as my dining room). It gave me the luxury of really thinking about what I wanted to paint tonight. Before I talk about the work and it’s inspiration I need to poke a little fun at myself. Regular readers know by now that I grew up in Chicago, the “Windy City”, and although that name actually came about not from the wind, but rather some boastful politicians and a World’s Fair, it really is windy there. When I was in college I found myself battling the wind as it caught the edge of my very large portfolio and spun me around. As I write this we are watching Monday Night Football, Chicago Bears vs the Dallas Cowboys. (The Bears annihilated the Cowboys in case you were wondering) I just checked the temperature, it’s eight,that’s eight degrees, and that doesn’t include the wind chill. Earlier today I was talking to my sister in Chicago and she said it was cold there. I said, “I know, it’s cold here too.” A light bulb went on, that’s when I said to her, “You’re probably about forty degrees cooler there aren’t you?” It was 50 here, yes 50, it was 10 there. It’s really, truly official, I am a “Wus” (is that a real word?), anyway…I was so cold earlier today that I was actually shivering, and it’s 50. I remember when I moved to California and made fun of all the “locals” who wore sweaters when it was 60. We had to run out for a doctor appointment earlier, when I felt the cold and the wind I announced to Dan that I can never live in Chicago again. I love Chicago, and I would of course have to amend the “never living there again” statement were I ever to be able to afford that downtown loft I’ve always longed for. Even then I would live in my loft for spring and summer only. I am so acclimated to the warmth of Southern California that I can no longer handle the cold. Yes, Wimp, that’s me.

It was very windy here today. (Really, not just because I’m a wimp)  When I thought about what I wanted to do tonight I remembered a photo that Dan had on his iPad. It was a man, a lone figure struggling in the wind. it became my project for tonight. It seemed appropriate considering how cold I am. I’m wrapped in my giant terry cloth robe, and sitting with the heating pad, and drinking hot chocolate… Hey, it’s 43!12 9

 

An Invite

So much to do, and running out of time. I continue to work on my fairies, my game board, and a couple of small wooden mirrors. The mirrors were unfinished wood. I painted one, and am thinking of adding a little decoupage tomorrow. The other I decoupaged with photos of vintage book covers. I’ve been photographing them at antique stores for art projects. They are really quite beautiful. I am now in countdown mode for my December 7th show. If anyone lives in the Temecula/Murrieta area in Southern California and cares to come by, I’ll be at the River Springs Charter School Holiday Show, Saturday, December 7th. It’s at 41866 Kalmia, Murrieta. I’ll be the one with the glitter trail. On Saturday, December 14th, I’ll be at Old Town Antique Fair at their outdoor Holiday Fair, 28601 Old Town Front Street in Temecula. If fairies aren’t your thing, I will have other items, and possibly some prints. There are so many artistic things I enjoy I never know what I will end up doing. This is my Christmas shopping money so I’m hoping to do as well as possible. Dan and I were both having a difficult day today, it seems these days that one of us is up while the other one is down. Today was the exception. Heading into the holiday’s worrying about our future isn’t the best feeling in the world. I thought about all the times that he was kidding and said that I should be supporting him because of how talented I am. The thing is he is right. I just never had the confidence, but there’s nothing like worry to motivate me.  I also believe, and again and again I say it, as long as we are together we are good.

Here are a few photos of projects in the works for my shows. Feel free to introduce yourself if you stop by.IMG_2659

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Once Again, Only Me

One of the pleasures of living in Southern California are the November days. Today was a beautiful day. The kind of day that can lift a mood, just the kind of day I needed. Dan and I walked for about forty-five minutes this morning, and it was…painful. OK, I don’t mean to ruin the lovely picture I just painted, but I’m getting old. If you are older you will understand, if you are younger, beware! Every single injury I ever incurred in my life is coming back to haunt me. If you know me then you know that there are quite a few injuries to feel. I won’t bore you to death with the list, but it does bring to mind an “only Me” story. Ten and a half years ago we were preparing our home in Illinois to sell in order to move here. I was painting in the powder room, Dan repairing something in the living room. He was hammering, I don’t recall what, but the vibration was bad enough to knock the mirror off the bathroom wall. It landed on my ankle, my Achilles Tendon to be exact. There are no words to describe the pain. I have given birth to two children, naturally, no drugs, nothing, this pain was right up there with pushing a human being out. It instantly swelled and turned black. Fortunately my tendon didn’t snap. About a year ago my doc looked at it and said I have atrophy of my tendon. Atrophy. A lovely word, right up there with decrepit. Words that begin to appear as you age, like my all time most hated “ma’am. The ankle pain comes and goes when it chooses, and today it chose to visit. I try not to let these things get to me. I own a hospital supply closet (it also happens to be where we keep our clothes), I have every imaginable wrap, brace, elastic bandage, and splint. I also own three canes and three sets of crutches. One was mine, the other two were left on my doorstep by not so funny neighbors when they moved. I grab the corresponding brace or bandage, for the corresponding ailing body part and off I go. I refuse to give in. For the last few days we have seen an elderly woman pushing a walker, the kind with a seat attached, near our house. The kind I keep pointing out to Dan that I will need some day. She was even out there in the rain. I want to be her. I want to be that old and still walking and giving it my all.IMG_2551

Inspired by the lovely sounds and sights of our morning walk, a photo taken on the walking path in our subdivision, and a watercolor dedicated to the lovely sounds we heard.IMG_2582

A little creativity in the kitchen tonight as well. A Devil’s Food cupcake with a Dulce de Leche butter-cream, drizzled with dark chocolate ganache, and topped with a caramel and chocolate dipped pretzel. Just one of the many treats we hope to have in our cafe.IMG_2579

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

 

Heading Into Midterms

At the birth of this project the object was to use up the supplies I have on hand in my studio. The project evolved into much more than that, but the original purpose is still a challenge to be met. It’s been a while since I’ve written about my artistic self-doubt, and feelings of inadequacy due to my lack of artistic schooling. I bring it up again because I am nearing the halfway point in the promise of a year of art. I am roughly two weeks away, and decided to step back a little and check my progress. I have produced a tremendous amount of art since April when this all began. Not all have been pieces that I love or even like. There are some that I am immensely proud of. It is without question the most productive I have ever been artistically. The state of my studio? It pretty much looks the same. I have gone through quite a bit of watercolor paper, several canvases, some drawing paper, but for the most part it looks the same. Which is strange considering that a great deal of my materials have made their way down to our dining room, our family room, our guest room, the kitchen and even the garden. In terms of cleaning out my artistic refrigerator, I am a total failure. I might also mention here that I tend to be a bit untidy as an artist (OK, in other areas as well, particularly when creating in the kitchen), I’m working on it. However, the clutter in my brain is beginning to straighten itself out. Not that I don’t still have total meltdowns and think my work is crap. Years of self-doubt aren’t that easy to shake off. It is just that I am feeling more fearless in my art. I don’t give up when I begin to feel “not good enough” trying to sneak back into my brain. I do have to admit that there are a few recently orphaned canvases that need to be addressed. Oil is still my big hangup. Patience is really in need of attention.I have of course recently professed my new-found love of pen and ink. My watercolor skills are much better than I realized. So as I near that halfway mark I think I’m doing OK. I give myself high marks for growth in artistic confidence, but I am failing in making myself and art a priority. I am still cranking this work out after dinner. That’s right, ninety percent of the work that I have produced and posted on this blog have taken place between the hours of seven and ten at night, including writing. I guess I have to stop and ask myself what the problem is. What is the roadblock in my way? I don’t know. I do know that I can see what I am capable of in three hours, imagine what I could do if I actually gave myself time.

I decided to head up to the studio and dig out something different. Pastels. Which I will now admit I am discovering are not my favorite medium. The point is to use up the supplies. I’m trying! This piece is based on a photo from La Jolla Cove here in Southern California.9 24

Heavenly Inspiration

Heavenly Inspiration, And A Reason To Celebrate, was what I was going to name this post, but decided it was much too long. I’ll start with the first part.

 

Long after I’m gone I think one of the things my children will remember most about me is my never-ending, “Look at the sky.”  “Did you see those clouds?” “Isn’t it beautiful?” I love a beautiful sky, a sunrise, a sunset, and in particular a cloudy day. Not too cloudy, just the days when the clouds look thick and rich like you could scoop up a spoonful, or bounce on them like a trampoline. They are also my favorite thing to paint. Clouds are actually what inspired me to paint in the first place. I’ve mentioned before that I have been drawing since about the age of five, but painting came later. I think around thirteen or fourteen. My Dad signed my sister and I up for a Chicago Park District painting class. He made her go because I was shy, which was unfortunately for her a price she paid more than once. We were the only young people in the class. I actually don’t remember too much about it. (I have a very convenient mental block for some of my more regrettable childhood moments) but I do remember what I painted, I may even still have it somewhere, it was a bowl with fruit and flowers. The woman teaching the class wasn’t a professional, she was a college med student making extra money. We went once a week for I think about six weeks, and I really don’t think we learned anything, but it was enough to whet my appetite. Our house was a bungalow with open attic space on both the front and back of a dormer that had been bumped out on the second floor. I claimed one as my “studio”, and would sit contentedly painting clouds, and non-distinctive landscapes. The best part about it was that I didn’t know enough to know that I didn’t know what I was doing. (Did you get that? Tongue twister anyone?) All I know was that it was a place to lose myself, and hide away from everyone, and create my own world right there on canvas. I have mentioned that I was a shy kid, but I was also the kid everyone made fun of, art and reading were my security blankets and only friends. When the teacher would leave the classroom for a moment and chaos would erupt, I would be sitting quietly at my desk, my new Nancy Drew Mystery in my hand, always anxious to get back to the next page. Art was the only class in school where I could feel happy and safe. I forgot about everything else when I was creating. When I began to paint it gave me such a sense of freedom, watching the oils swirl together magically under my brush, creating the days I wanted to have, and places I wanted to be.

 

Today was a particularly cloudy day here in Temecula. There was a storm front passing through, unusual for this time of year here in Southern California, but what a spectacular sky it gave us. Dan and I were out running errands and all I did was snap photos of the clouds. Thus my “Heavenly” inspiration. Initially I had planned to paint from one of the photos I took, but I decided to revisit my fourteen year old self and paint what I wanted to see.

As for my “Cause For Celebration”, I hit a milestone today with my blog. I have one hundred and one followers. I never thought about “followers” when I started this blog and project. It was a way to blackmail myself into doing the work I should have been doing all along. I know who I am. I am the woman who cleans the hotel room before the housekeeper comes in, just in case she might think I’m a slob. It doesn’t matter that she could probably care less, doesn’t know me, never will, but I’m that neurotic. I knew that if I made my promise to do more art a public vow, I would do it. You know, in case the WordPress police show up at my door.  I know some of you that read this blog do know me (probably a lot more now, maybe more than you bargained for), some of you are family and friends, but I don’t know one hundred people, so I want to thank all of you. The ones I know, the ones I don’t know, (and the ones that maybe no longer want to know me now that they’ve gotten to know me better!) thanks for the support, for being interested in the struggles of a woman who has put herself on the bottom of the “to do” list for most of her life. Thanks for looking at my art, reading my words, and for those of you who have reached out by commenting here, via email, or on Facebook. This has turned into a gift for myself, I never had friends as a kid, and have been a fairly solitary adult, but I feel like I’m part of something. Thanks.

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IMG_0918And just because I need to share the beauty from above, a few photos from my iPhone of the clouds over Temecula today.IMG_0945

 

 

 

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Taking It Easy

I struggled through the project tonight. No artistic issues this evening, well, maybe a few, but I’m definitely coming down with something, which is amazing considering I just finished ten days of drugs. That’s why tonight I decided to take it a little easy on myself. Anyway, I chose watercolor for this evening, again because of how I’m feeling. Anyone who works in oils knows that sometimes the fumes aren’t friendly, I may need to avoid them for a few days. For subject matter I looked through some of my photographs. I have more than a few mission photos. It may be from growing up Catholic, but I think more likely that I love old things, worn things, antiques, architecture, and history, for all those reasons, I love missions. I am fortunate enough to live in Southern California, not far from both Mission San Luis Rey, and San Juan Capistrano. I have visited several others specifically to take photographs. I came across one shot of just the top of a bell tower, and to be honest (again because of how I’m feeling) it was the quickest project I saw. It was also the first in a while where I tried to draw the perspective without measuring out every inch. I didn’t do too bad. I sometimes like the effect of watercolor, pencil and pen combined, and I think that is where I want to go with this. I will have to let it dry and revisit it tomorrow. For now I think I need to call it a night.

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