Something pretty

IMG_3343Because I live in New England and it may never stop snowing, here is something pretty to look at to lift your spirits. It certainly lifted mine. A friend gave me this plant as a bulb for a Christmas gift. This weekend, during a four-day snow storm, it decided to bloom. Perfect timing for offering some winter cheer. Inspiration: bloom, no matter what.

Fashion brooches

I love taking bits and pieces of things–paper, wood, anything–and putting them together in different ways. My late grandmother was an expert at this, whether it was putting together a meal, a quilt or a decorative wall covered in magazine pages.

My collage work stems from my earliest memories of that on some unconscious level. And, these recently created fashion brooches–created from bits and pieces of wood and sometimes mixed with other items–do, too. I’m honored to have some of them selected for sale in the Attleboro Museum of Art’s gift shop.

Finding my way

Map1Each year for Christmas, I like to “surprise” myself with art books as gifts. I order the books way ahead of time, wrap them and put them under the tree. I then forget what I ordered and when I open the gift with my name on it on Christmas morning–surprise!

One of my “surprises” this year was Personal Geographies: Explorations in Mixed-Media Mapmaking. I have always loved maps–the lines, the swirls, the shapes, the open invitation to imagine other places. So I love the idea of using the components of maps to make personal art.

The book has exercises in it to get you going on creating these maps. But when I sat down to work on this big piece of paper, using some squeeze bottle craft paints, I had no intention of making a map. However, the notion must have already seeped into my brain because this sure does look like a map.

I don’t think I’m finished with it, so it might not look anything like this when I’m done. I may even tear it up and use it in collages. I just find it fascinating what the brain takes in and what the Muse does with that information.

Showing up to do the work

T-2Happy New Year! Happy new opportunity to create and to tap into the gifts that we have all been given–be it the gift to create art, to dance, to make someone smile, to love.

Coming to the end of a nice winter break, I finally, finally dragged/pushed myself into the studio to try to get done the work I had promised myself that I would be doing every single day of winter break because I would finally have the “time.”

Well, so funny, this “time” business. I seem to have much more of it than I fool myself into thinking that I don’t have. During break I had plenty of time to watch the “Twilight Zone” marathon; plenty of time to watch back-to-back episodes of “Will & Grace” and “Roseanne” reruns; plenty of time to eat too many portions of the potato salad I will spend the rest of winter working off;  but strangely, the “time” to get into the studio was not made.

Procrastination is a bitch. Luckily, I did make time enough to read a great book that showed me this very clearly: The War of Art. I highly recommend this book to any artist. The main point of the book is that we allow so much resistance (in many forms) to stop us from creating and using the talents that we have been given.

The best way to stop it is to just show up and do the work. So, today, that’s what I did. I just showed up at the crafting table, got out a piece of paper, poured some paint on it, and started swirling the paint around. It took great effort to fight off the resistance, the voice saying, “What the hell is this you are painting? It looks like crap!” But I did it. I just worked. No judgement. Just brushes and fingers, painting to the quiet music of the wind blown snow. The result is what you see here above, “Transcending.”

A new year. A new day of just showing up to do the work and letting what happens happen. And then tomorrow.

Art workshop projects

What a weekend!

It was filled with art-brainstorming and art making. On Saturday, my art buddy and I went into Boston to a salvage store that has great items and inspiration for art projects. I’m blessed to have a friend who gets just as excited as I do imagining what we can do with the most mundane objects. No scrape of cloth, paper or metal is safe from our imaginations.

I spent today in the studio whipping through ideas for art projects. I’ve been given the opportunity to facilitate art workshops–for the first time ever. This is all new to me and came out of the blue, but it feels like I’ve been waiting for exactly this for a long time. I have always wanted the opportunity to do something truly meaningful with art.

I don’t have it all worked out yet, but I’m leaping and trusting that just the right ideas will come to me. I’m trying to design workshops for adults who don’t consider themselves “artist” (of course, we are all artists, aren’t we, in one way or another?). The projects need to be crafty, easy to do but not childish, interesting to both men and women.

These are challenging guidelines, but I feel so alive just thinking about all of this.  I love the rush of trying out these new projects! Can’t wait to share them with others.

I’m open to ideas. Please feel free to share anytime. And I’d be happy to share how I did the projects you see here. Speaking of sharing, a big thank you to a fellow artist who donated her fabric scraps to me. I used them to create the flowers on mat board that you see here.  Thanks, Molly. She’s a very talented fabric artist. Check out her blog.

New greeting cards

It’s amazing how a little encouragement can get the artistic juices flowing. I recently made a birthday card for someone. She loved it so much that she wanted to see other cards, so I made her more of the same one and many others that I thought she might like. She told others about the cards and they love them, too. And so I’ve been a busy little studio bee creating cards this week. Here are just a few. I make each card one by one, but some of them are available to order as a reproduction on my RedBubble site.

Living, drawing, honoring

Weekends slip by so quickly. And this one was no different. I saw “The Amazing Spiderman” with my 13-year-old son–13, still hard to say that. I like going to the movies with him. It’s the only time he allows me within his protective-bubble-personal space for long periods of time, now that he’s a teenager (of which he reminds me often).

I worked on some projects that I’ve long procrastinated over—finally created the necklaces that my friend has been waiting for. Hope she likes them. And I shortened a necklace for a client. It’s so nice to cross promised projects off my list.

I found time to do a quick pencil sketch (above). I may totally change this with some collage work. I haven’t decided yet. Well, I know the hands–my weakness–still need work. So I’ll have to revisit this one again.

I also made another necklace (below). The necklace is in honor of an in-law who died far too soon–although I think that could be said of any age when someone dies. I only spent time with her on two occasions because she lived in Africa. She only spoke the native language and French, and I only speak English, but each time she communicated well–though she was very shy–in smiles and laughter.

As I created this necklace, which is made from beads (stones) sent as a gift to me from her mother  directly from Africa, I thought of her and tried to reflect my vision of her as I designed—her earthiness, the beauty of her nature, the lasting impression she made with a will as strong as stone and a personality imbued with soft shades of loveliness that always managed to radiate the brightest joy.  The last two beads at the end of the necklace are two black beads–a reminder that everything comes to an end, fades to black. The toggle that closes the necklace is a flower–a reminder that more beauty awaits us in the afterlife. Rest, Dear One.

“Entry”

I recently did more work on this 8 x10 mixed media collage on canvas. It’s called “Entry.” Originally, I created it while contemplating entering it in a juried show at an art venue that has rejected every single entry I’ve offered for shows over several years. I don’t have the stomach to send in another entry to receive yet another form rejection letter from that particular venue.

I know that rejection is part of the risk we take as artists, but I can only stomach it in small doses over long periods of time. So I just used the theme of the show to inspire this piece—just for me, just for the sake of creating.

Isn’t it interesting that no matter how many times we are accepted, which has been the case for me this year with three show, it’s the rejections that stay with us? Each one seems to join forces with that little critic that always whispers over the shoulder things like, “Why are you using that color?” “Do you really think this subject matter is interesting?” “Do you even know what the hell you’re doing?”

I’d love to hear how you deal with rejection. Does it freeze you in your tracks? Does it piss you off and fire you up? Let me know.

Spark 13: “Escalation”

Escalation: phenomenon of something getting more intense step by step.

I’m participating in Spark: art from writing, writing from art. It’s an event in which artists and writers respond to each other’s works over a 10-day period. This one is from September 21 through September 31. Participants sign up and the organizer e-mails the inspiration piece for the works that will be created. Each person gets a different piece. Artists get words, writers get art for inspiration. This time, we had the choice of honoring a young writer who has participated in Spark in the past. She recently died suddenly. I didn’t know her, but her work definitely sparks emotions. In fact, when this poem was offered as one of the choices for inspiration I asked for more choices. The honest nakedness of it touched such a tender place in me that I wanted to turn away. But I realized that this is exactly what good writing is supposed to do. Good art should shake you, should linger in your heart and head, even disturb you. I hope I’ve done justice to her poem (which she wrote in response to a photo of a staircase) with this black and white pencil drawing that I call “Escalation.”

Farewell, stairwell
By Charisse Cecil

I’m ready.

I’m standing in these slotted
shadows, leaning against this
cinderblock wall that is coated in countless layers
of paint vainly attempting to cover generations
of ubiquitous crew tags and psychedelic
profanity.

Under this metal staircase, where I used to huddle
with my girls, harmonize to hip hop soul
pop rhythm & blues slow jams and practice
lyrical freestyles in an impermeable cipher
that the boys could not enter unprepared
for verbal battle.

The light shone through the slats and created
stripes across my loose-leaf paper,
shining on my algebra homework
brightly enough for T. to copy my answers
while I crushed on him so hard
that I didn’t mind doing all the work.

Tucked  inside that acute angle under the stairs
with T., I tasted my first kiss – a heady blend
of heat, his sour apple Jolly Rancher
and my pink lemonade Bubble Yum
that made all those late nights of memorizing
theorems and formulas worth every
missed must-see TV show and girly conference call.

Whenever I hear the crunch of broken glass
and discarded Newport filters underfoot,
I remember the night L. forced me to my knees
under those stairs and pressed my face
against his open fly, when he was supposed to be watching
me while my mom went around the corner for groceries.

Under this stairwell, I learned one source of my power
that will take me beyond this stairwell and these shadowy halls.
The power is in my mouth –
to recite rules or rhymes,
to sing songs or wail battle cries,
to give ardent pleasure or exact excruciating pain.

Spark: Day 1

I’m participating in Spark: art from writing, writing from art. It’s an event in which artists and writers respond to each other’s works over a 10-day period from today through May 27. Participants sign up and the organizer e-mails the inspiration piece for the works that will be created. Each person gets a different piece. Artists get words, writers get art for inspiration. I’m planning to chronicle my creative process and reveal the final piece on May 27.

I was so excited to wake up this morning to receive the inspiration piece. I never loved homework while in school, but I so love assignments as an artist. They get my heart going. And this one certainly has. The poem below by Annmarie Lockhart is so very, very lovely. Line by line, it speaks to me on a deep level and to the work that I’ve been doing for so long–that lady in the flowing gown who constantly shows up in my work, the lady I’m trying to figure out, trying not to paint so much so that I might grow as an artist, but can’t seem to leave behind. Her. Can’t wait to translate this on canvas. So many images are flying through my head already: stars, mystery, revelation, darkness, light. May my lady will show up, maybe not. Here is the piece that will inspire my creation:

Waxing and Waning

By Annmarie Lockhart
Inspiration Piece

crescent moon
on a clear-sky night
she shines center stage
in front of a deep dark
velvet curtain with
a handful of stars
scattered like glitter
across midnight

a silvery sliver of
her full brazen self
she emanates light
weak and pale

she glows
but does not grab
she is beautiful
but subdued
she shows
but does not tell
she is eyecatching
but definitely not
breathtaking

Why I blog

At the end of April I will be conducting a workshop titled “So You Want to Start a Blog?” sponsored by the Dorchester Arts Collaborative. It will be a basic workshop for those who are new to blogging. I’m happy to help other artists any way that I can, because so many artists in the blogsphere have helped and inspired me by offering support, sharing their talent and revealing vulnerabilities that remind me that we all have so much in common.

In preparation for the workshop, I’m thinking back to when and why I started this blog. I can’t remember exactly why I started a blog. It could be that I discovered WordPress and wanted to try out a new tool. That’s pretty much how I am as an artist. I find some new toy that I’m not familiar with and I want to play.

My very first post was in March 2009. I laugh now when I look at it. It was not so much a post, but rather more of a headline: “Getting inspired.” I can remember that uncomfortable-what-am-I-doing feeling and not really knowing what to say–or to whom. I apparently got over that by just doing it My next entry was in October 2009, and I was off and running at that point.

I have artist Leah Piken Kolidas, the creator of the Creative Every Day Challenge blog, to thank for that. She challenges us to keep the creative process flowing as she poses themes each month for artists. We can choose to follow the theme as we make artwork, or not, and then check in for others to see, thus broadening the interactive experience that blogging provides.

The push to create something every day and post the results inspired me as an artist and as a blogger. Connecting with other artists in a virtual community is irresistible. So far, I have explored territory that I would not have explored on my own. I’ve met, corresponded and exchanged art with artists from across the world whom I’ve never met in person and likely never would have even known about without my blog.

Art is all about exchange. As an artist I offer those who view my artwork my imagination, observations, fears, hopes and dreams. In exchange, I seek their interpretation, analysis, wonderment and excitement. This exchange brings the creative cycle full circle. And with each new look at my artwork, the cycle is renewed.

Usually this exchange takes place undetected. However, blogging brings everything to light so that the full benefit of it is clearly realized for both sides.

As I create artwork each week, I post images and write about the inspirations behind the work, as well as the challenges that I faced in creating it. Blog readers comment and tell me what they think of the work, ask questions, and share information about their lives and what inspires them. Sometimes the comments even give me ideas about what I want to create next, or helps me figure out in which direction I should go on a current piece.

Since that first post in 2009, there were more than 7,000 views of this blog and looked at my artwork. That is amazing to me. I would never had been able to reach that many viewers with my work in any other way. 7,000 views?! I’m truly honored.

What about you? Why do you blog?

New work

For years, I’ve enjoyed creating works that are based on fractured space. I think that stems from my love of working with torn paper in the collage works I create. Taking things apart and reconstructing them in a way that makes the eye move around the piece is so much fun. I get totally lost in the process as I calculate which color, which piece will go where, as if I’m putting together a puzzle.

This new 9 x 12 work, “Silver Star,” was created using mixed media — pencil, watercolor and acrylic paint. I came up with the image working with the theme of “air” for December’s Creative Every Day Month. Can’t you feel the air moving around her?

Prints and greeting cards featuring the work are available  here.