Playing around

During my holiday break, I have been deeply engaged in creative play.

One inspiration was a friend of mine, who, as we were discussing ideas for creating work for a spring exhibition, she told me that my idea sounded “safe.”

My initial reaction was to immediately reject her words, but I also realized that she was right. I tend to fall back on a particular subject matter because I’m comfortable with it and can predict the successful results of creating that subject matter. (Although sometimes it is hard to know whether it is comfort or a calling that leads me there.)

So, to get me out of the comfort zone, I’m playing with ideas that are not necessarily connected to what I traditionally do. I’ve chosen to play with materials and techniques (pictured is a watercolor piece on card stock) that are unfamiliar to me.

So far it has been exciting and my mind is racing with possibility.

It’s good to be pushed–sometimes. 🙂


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.

Following along


There’s an old saying that goes something like, “If you want to make God laugh, make plans.” I have to admit that I never really liked that saying. I think God is a lot nicer than that and more accommodating of our dreams. But, that’s another story.

The saying came to mind this weekend as I worked on a new mixed media painting that I had definite plans for. I knew exactly where I wanted it to go, spent all morning Saturday trying to drive it there. However, it laughed at me and went its own direction. So, I just had to follow along.

Here is where things are right now. I don’t know if this is where things will be next weekend when I revisit this “unplanned” painting. The repeated symbol is the Adinkra symbol for love, harmony and fidelity. I placed a circle between the two symbols to connect them. I may go back in and broaden the circle until it covers the entire painting, which is about 18 x 24.

So, here’s a new saying, “If you want to make the Muse laugh, plan your art.”

Child’s play, artist’s work

Leave it to a child to remind me that art is all about play. A co-worker’s young daughter was in the office recently. I noticed a cute little necklace she was wearing. It was a little plastic flower-shaped pendant with stripes. It turns out that she made it herself using something I had never heard of: Shrinky Dink. I asked her all about it.  She gave me all of the details and even help me find it in the local art store (accompanied by her mom). I tried it this weekend and OMG! I’m hooked! I created these earrings using this material, which is basically some kind of magic plastic that you can draw on, bake and turn into a hardened object of any shape that can be used  in many imaginative ways. You’ve got to try it at least once. Thanks so much, Co-worker’s Daughter.

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

NOT a lady in a flowing gown

This is NOT a lady in a flowing gown. OK, OK, yes, her dress is gown-like, but it is not flowing. I say this because I’m trying to work on some art creations that don’t involve the lady in the flowing gown to which I’m naturally drawn. I’m trying to challenge myself to explore other subject matter that might be lurking beneath my creative surface. It is always hard to know whether I’m doing the same subject over and over again because there is something about that subject I need to express or whether I go to the same subject because it is the first thing that comes to mind, is easy, safe. So…I explore…and I give you “Lady in Lavender” (mixed media collage with acrylic paint on canvas).

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?

The art of questioning

Today I’m thinking a lot about what I’m doing as an artist—again. This is, in part, thanks to my husband. He’s very honest when it comes to my art making.

I’ve been too busy with work and life to create. I finally sat in my studio early Saturday morning determined to get back into things. I started out by not planning to make anything in particular. I just wanted to scribble on paper, move around paint, etc. And, who showed up again? One of the gown-wearing ladies I always paint.

That was fine, I thought. But when I looked at the entire piece that I created I decided that it was a hot mess. It’s out of proportion, the colors are all wrong, and the focus of attention is in the wrong place. There are so many places where I should have stopped and not overwork the piece, but I didn’t.

I asked my husband, “this is a disaster, right?” I knew the answer. “Yeah,” he confirmed. The truth sucks! It’s important, but sucks, nonetheless.

Then he went further by again probing why I keep painting the same figure. I, of course, still have no answer. He challenged me to push myself to paint something else, noting that when I do I come up with some really powerful work. I just smiled, fighting all the urges that arise when an artist feels criticized and questioned.

In my heart and head, I know that he is right. I should explore other things. Is it that I’m just  creatively drawn to this lady in the gown? Or is it that I’m afraid I can’t do anything else, so it is more comfortable to always end up drawing her?

Fear. Hello, old pal.

I don’t know the answer, but I will continue to think about it, and perhaps try other subject matter.

The images above show my  creative process leading up to my little “disaster.” (I was so sure that this would be a spectacular piece that I wanted to document it. That assumption likely was the start of the problem.) I finally cut up the piece and kept the one part I like most–the lady. 🙂

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.