A full plate

I’m very excited. REACH, a Massachusetts organization that helps victims of domestic abuse, has again asked me to design a plate for its “Reach for the Stars” event.

Each year, REACH holds a fundraiser in which plates designed by celebrities (Harry Belafonte, Ellen Degeneres, Jeff Bridges, etc.) and artists are auctioned off to support programs. This is the fourth time I have been invited to create a plate. Each time I am so honored to do it.

Domestic abuse touches and destroys so many lives. And part of the horror is the secrecy. Victims go about their lives pretending that everything is OK because they fear for their lives or those of their children, until the abuse can no longer be hidden or tolerated. Thank God for organizations like REACH that  offer safe havens  for victims to piece their lives back together and reclaim themselves.

As an artist one of my greatest pleasures is being able to share my art in a meaningful way. And this is certainly meaningful. Knowing that something I create can help someone brings me closer to feeling that my talent is fulfilling part of whatever purpose it is meant to fill.

I’ll provide more details about the Nov. 4, 2010 event in the fall and share my design with you. Above is one of my earlier designs, which was used on the brochure promoting the event that year. It is titled “All is Within Reach.”

Silver Linings

Silver Linings

I learned a valuable lesson yesterday: I don’t always have to try to go around a problem. Sometimes I need to go through it.

I have been letting something that has been bothering me brew in my mind and heart. I’ve  embraced it, turned it over and over, awakened each day and cursed it away, only to find it still on my mind. It’s too petty to even go into here (Boy, oh, boy do I sweat the small stuff.)

As I drove home from work yesterday, I tried to push away the negative thoughts by considering what I might create for the Creative Every Day Challenge once I arrived home. But the negatives kept intruding. I purposely began to focus on all the wonderful things in my life, instead of this small-stuff pettiness. It was this mental tug of war all the way home.

Once I got into my studio I began to work on a large blank piece of paper and play with dark, brooding purples. Slowly I was moved to play with gold and silver liquid acrylic paint, dropping dots sporadically over the entire sheet. And, wouldn’t you know it, the lady that I so often paint emerged in silver—like an angel lifting my spirit.

There is something so comforting and peaceful about this figure. It must be the angel like quality she has. I’ve also realized just recently that I may be unconsciously painting the Virgin Mary, which was so prominent in my Catholic upbringing in Alabama, where just about every lawn had her perched above a holly bush on the front lawn. At least, that’s where she is on my Mama’s lawn right now.

By the time I finished this acrylic work on paper, I felt really good. I stopped resisting the negative thoughts and decided instead  to just go with the flow, feel them, let them be what they needed to be for me at that moment.

It has taken me years to realize it, but I know that when something troubling happens in my life, there is a reason for it, a lesson I need to learn, there is something important that I need to see. This is when I need to be the most present.

And the great thing is that there is always something wonderful on the other side of it. Silver linings. My artwork reminded me.

Silver Lining detail

New work

I’ve been sitting with this painting for the past week, trying to decide whether I’m finished with it. It originally was a canvas covered in African masks floating about. I never really liked the painting because it seemed disjointed. However, I had it elaborately (expensively) framed anyway. It was one of the pieces that I found sitting in water last month when my basement flooded. I was going to throw it all away, despite the expense of the frame. Instead, I decided to save the canvas and frame and dry them out.

In the spirit of realizing that sometimes things that are considered lost to you can be “found” again, I have painted over this canvas to give it a new life. It is symbolic of my willingness to let go of things and realize that they are never truly lost. (If you look closely, you can still see the masks floating in the background.) I may do some collage work on the woman’s dress, but I’m still thinking about it. I do like the movement in the piece and the drama of it.

Painting joy

Joy All AroundTwo days ago I sat in my studio intending to paint a piece featuring a woman reclining on a sofa. I began with one of my favorite colors—orange—as a background, then had the idea to add circles. After adding layers and layers of circles in various sizes, I sat looking at the piece as I listened to music, trying to decide the next step.

This was the point in the painting where I should have added the figure. But I waited, watched the canvas, soaked up the music and let myself float into the painting. No rushing. Just waiting. Listening to myself and debating: Was I not adding the figure because I was afraid I might get it wrong and  “mess up” the painting, or was I  not adding her because I was loving the painting as it was in its current state?

I think every work of art reaches this point. That place where I need to say “done” or move forward to take it to another level. It is sometimes hard to figure out which way to go. Often I think I can go too fast and get too far away from when I should have stopped. But I can also stop too soon because of that fear of losing what I currently love about the piece. I guess that is what is exciting about this whole process. Oh, the danger. Will I ruin it, or won’t I? 🙂

In this case, staying still and getting lost in the music  so that I could hear myself think (and the Muse whispering) were definitely key to making what I think was the right decision. I decided to stop. I love this mixed media painting. It makes me feel so happy and joyful as I look at each circle floating up and out to who knows where. I call it “Joy All Around.” Get it? Circles. Around?

The best thing about this piece is that it was created on a large wood panel that my talented friend Susan made for me. So each time I look at it I will think of her.

What do you think? How do you make that decision about when to stop when you are working on a piece? What questions do you ask yourself? I would love to know.

Sensual sushi

Sushi by Sandy

This month’s Creative Every Day theme is “the five senses.” Today I got to employ all of them at work during a sushi making workshop. (What a great job!)

I love sushi. So it was such a treat to learn to make it. Who knew it was so simple? Of course, there was no raw fish involved. But it was delicious.

1. The smell of the sesame oil and rice vinegar blended into the sushi rice was wonderful.

2. The sight of all of the colorful ingredients from which to choose was so inviting.

3. To get to touch food and shape it from beginning to end was a delightful change from the spoons and forks. What a great sense of play!

4. The sound of laughter as everyone attempted to create the perfect roll created a very nice communal experience.

5. Best of all it was great to finally taste of all those varied textures in the sushi—the crunchy cucumber, yellow radish and carrots; the soft rice sprinkled with sesame seeds; the slight sponginess of imitation crab sticks; the fluffiness of eggs.

Now, that was a work of art. Feast your eyes.

Random drawings

Tonight I took my 10-year-old son to the faculty-student basketball game at his middle school. I’m sure it was a very exciting game. He loved it. I did what I usually do at such sporting events–I retreated to my sketch book. There the yelling of cheering fans and the bouncing ball of zealous players all fade into white noise and all there is in the gym is me, my sketchbook and a pencil or pen. Heaven.

After a loved one (who shall remain nameless) asked me once again why I keep painting the same figure of the lady in the flowing gown and I couldn’t really give him a reason other than “I’m drawn to do it,” I decided to try NOT to draw her this evening. Above and below are the results in the order in which they appear in my little 5 x 7 sketchbook.

You will see that I tried, but I couldn’t escape her. She haunts my imagination. Is she inspiring me or holding me back, as my loved one wonders? The loved one thinks I have a bigger range of talent and imagery that I should be exploring.

At first, I did the sensitive artist thing and took offense (translation: I’m not talented. I’m a one-trick pony. I should put down my brushes.) But I’m planning to continue to think about this lady. If I keep painting her, I should be able to explain why, right? There has to be more than “she just keeps showing up.” Some artists have started to help me think about what she may represent by responding to my blog. Feel free to add your voice as you see this imagery appear in my work. Your thoughts would be much appreciated.

Rebirth

Rebirth

On Saturday a trash hauler came and took all the soggy items out of my basement that was flooded in the New England rain storm, including canvases that I’ll miss.

I’ve been spending these past couple of days hauling things out into the sun that is finally shining and donning rubber gloves to wipe things down. I’m finding the cleaning therapeutic. There is something soothing about being able to simply wipe away the grime of a past trauma (the flood, in this case). Wouldn’t it be nice if the grime of life’s traumas could be so easily dissolved and forgotten?

I was thinking about this as I cleaned and watched my son play peacefully in the breezy back yard, without a care in the world. How lucky I am. I lost a lot in the basement flood, and yet, I possess everything that is important to me—my joyful 10-year-old, my smart and passionate husband, wonderful friends (we spent Easter with them), a great job, health, love, laughter, peace, safety…the list goes on.

There is so much cleaning and reorganizing to be done to put things back in order. But this evening after work, I took a break to reconnect to my creativity. I had almost been avoiding the canvas, sort of the way you would a love who has hurt you. I so love the things that I created and lost. Can I risk love and loss again? I have no choice.  I gotta breathe, I gotta create.

This is the first offering since the storm. I call it “Rebirth.” I see it as my Muse emerging from the murkiness, back into the light, wrapped in my favorite colors (24 x 24, mixed media). Note the water imagery.

Blessings

The record-setting rain storm has ended, finally. I’ve continued to visit my flooded out basement this week and mourn the loss of some of the artwork that I spent years creating. Each time I turn over a soggy canvas, fresh waves of disbelief and sadness wash over me.

I can only spend little bits of time there before depressing myself so much that I must surface back up to my studio with its all-glass walls and ceiling pouring in the light and hope that I’ll make more soon—and that it will all be even better than the things I lost.

To cheer myself up today, I’ve decided to dwell on the things I didn’t lose. Thankfully, I had a photo shoot of many of my best paintings this summer and had stored them upstairs in a bedroom closet. And I’ve been working so much each day with the Creative Every Day Challenge that I have only had time to store complete works around my living and dining room. So they are all safe.

Above and below are a couple of the safe-from-the-flood works to be thankful for. Blessings.

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