Saturday, February 28, 2009

Wanted: Mannequins

"Force of Nature: Womanspirit Revisited"

I started t0day off like I do most days...eating a bowl of oatmeal while I peruse my favorite computer websites. First stop, my etsy shop. No sales. (Alas, that's pretty typical). Moving on, I checked my e-mail and blog. Then, I started blog-hopping.

Sometimes I think that the time I spend checking out other blogs just sucks up too much of my time. There is danger in that. But by writing my blog and visiting other artists' blogs I stay connected to a larger artist community. It motivates me to keep creating and writing. Often times by visiting other blogs I am inspired to try a new technique or to "push the envelope" a bit more.

Today's blog-hopping brought me an "a-ha" moment.

I was checking out the blog of "SwirlyGirl", aka Christine Mason Miller, and as I strolled down I saw her updated photos of an art project she is doing using dress forms. I've recently seen on some other blog (I can't remember where) someone else using dress forms for an art project.

Suddenly it occurred to me that dress forms or mannequins would be the perfect medium for me to use as part of my "Force of Nature: Womanspirt Revisited" series. I've been working on this series of paintings featuring women off and on for the past year. I keep plugging away on the series in between other projects.

This series is highly personal. This series had it's inception many, many years ago. My life was in major upheaval and I was re-inventing my life after leaving an abusive marriage. Art was part of my healing process and this series was born then. (I wrote some about this here).

Since part of my story is being a domestic abuse survivor, this series reflects that history. It is not all dark and gloomy. It is not just a story of survival. This series is a celebration of women, regardless of their story.

My thought is that I could use the dress forms as mixed media pieces that would reflect the spirit and souls of women who have experienced domestic violence. Some would be directly related to my paintings. I can imagine this series of paintings hanging in a gallery with the mannequins as part of the exhibit. Really, I can see it in my mind. I would love to have such an exhibit draw attention to the issue of domestic violence.

It's been many years (over 20) since I left that abusive relationship. In many ways, I am not the same woman who was in that relationship. And yet, that experience is part of who I am. It made me a stronger woman. That experience shapes my work as a social worker as I help other young women work to make their lives better. And in some ways, it shapes my life as an artist.

So there's my new art project. I'm not quite sure how to make this happen. But I figure if I put it out here, it will push me to work towards this goal. I did say I want to DREAM BIG in 2009.

Anyone know where to get my hands on some cheap mannequins?

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Warmer thoughts

Yesterday morning as I was walking into work I heard birds chirping. That was just a tease of spring as today we were hit hard by a snowstorm. At noon there was nothing happening, weather-wise. A half hour later the snow had started and by the time I headed home at 1:30 it felt like I was driving into a blizzard. At one point I was using the guard rail on my right side to guide me...visibility was that bad. When I got near home, I actually had to back track, because my route was blocked by cars that couldn't make it up a hill. Thanks to 4-wheel drive I made it up a similar hill. It was definitely a white-knuckle sort of drive.

But I know the end of winter is in sight. Unfortunately, it's found at the end of what feels like a very long tunnel. I know spring is coming, because the cold & snowy days are mixed with warmer, almost balmy days (balmy meaning anything near 40's all relative, folks). Best of all, the days are definitely getting longer--there is some daylight still at 6 pm. That feels good.

At this time of year, when winter feels so long and spring still feels so far away, it's hard not giving in to lethargy. Inspiration & motivation seems to be hard to find...even for creative folks. I feel like I am walking a fine line between pushing myself to go to the studio & try to create something and giving myself permission sometimes to just be a slug. Usually I find if I make it to the studio, I feel better by the time I head home.

For me, my environment feels a bit like a prison in the winter. I'm not a winter person and I don't like going out to play in the snow. I am helped through this cold, dreary time by remembering how beautiful my neighborhood is to live in during the warmer months. "Lowertown" (where I live) is a strong artist community located on the on the edge of downtown St. Paul. It definitely has an urban feel, but is still very quiet. The apartment building I live in is a 7-story building that once housed a rubber company. It is a historic building, like many buildings around it. This area was originally shaped by the river and railroad that runs beside it.

Besides the beautiful buildings, it has many charms. The Farmer's Market is literally outside my door. There are many parks with lots of flowers all around. Although Lowertown is just blocks from the downtown business district, it is very much a residential neighborhood.

So, I am trying to remember what my neighborhood will look like in just a few months. This video montage is comprised of photos I took in the summer of 2007. I thought you might enjoy it too.

Oh, and if you have a moment, check out the "spring thaw" treasury I created on Etsy. It features several mixed media artists I have "met". Here's the link:

If you are having trouble viewing the above video on your computer, try clicking on this link:

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Monday, you come too fast

Just a quick update...last week was a busy week. Joel and I started out the week with a belated Valentine's getaway to our favorite b&b, Moondance Inn. I'll be writing more about that later, but it was a wonderful little trip out of town, just the two of us.

Then back home and to work...the "real world" intrudes...but at least it was a "short" week!

This weekend was spent with family. My mom came to stay with us for a few days and my kids were around lots too. Today we had a big family brunch. It's nice to have the opportunity to be together.

But weekends go by so fast and this one left no time for working in the studio. That is hard for me on several fronts. First off, I count on that studio time to provide my creative fix. And then, I just need some alone time on the weekend. Working as a social worker all week, in an office with NO private space (we have a "free range" office)...well by the time the weekend rolls around, I need time alone to recharge.

Tomorrow it's back to work and then in the evening, hubby and I go back to our dancing class...but Tuesday, aah Tuesday after work...I'll be in the studio!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Secret 5: Committing to Self-Focus

I'm a little "behind" everyone else; most folks have already moved on to Secret #6. I thought about skipping writing about this chapter altogether, but then I read it and had some thoughts I wanted to share.

One of the quotes from this chapter that I could relate to came from Joan L. Bolker. She wrote,

"One of the most important prerequisites of the creative
process for a woman is the assurance that her work will not rupture the
important connections of her life."

Like the author, my relationships with the people in my life are my top priority. For years, raising my children as a single parent was my priority. But still I managed to find a way to make art. Now as a social worker, I juggle the demands of helping others with taking care of myself. It isn't always easy. But I recognize this is who I am and my connections to people are as vital to me as making art. One feeds the other.

I know that I am fortunate to finally have found a man who wholeheartedly supports my artmaking. This is a Valentine's Day shoutout to my love: Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thanks for understanding and not begrudging the time and energy I put into making art. Thank you for actually encouraging me to head over to the studio to work! I have spent many years of my adult life as a single woman...and really, this man was worth waiting for!

It will always be a juggling act. I liked that this chapter acknowledged that sometimes in order to be creative and complete art projects, you must "let go"...sometimes household chores must wait when we are listening to our creative muse...and that is o.k. (Thank god, my husband is tolerant of this as well...and he always does the dishes!)

May Sarton summed it up best when she wrote,

"As far as I can see from here almost everyone I know is
trying to do the impossible every day. All mothers, all writers, all artists of every kind, every human being who has work to do
and still wants to stay human and to be responsive to another human being's needs, joys, and sorrows. There is
never enough time and that's the rub.
In my case every choice I make means depriving someone."

I've moved past the "feeling selfish" stage--in regards to the time and committment my art takes. That doesn't mean that I'm not sometimes torn between my art, family work..., but I know that I'm conscious with my time and I'm not depriving anyone to the point of hurting them. As I get older, I think it's become easier to feel "ok" about taking time for myself and my projects.

Perhaps that's one of the gifts of age. I have earned it.

Happy V Day!

It was a rough week at work, so I am looking forward to an extra-long, 4 day weekend. I'm planning lots of down time to include plenty of time with the hubby and some time in the studio. We will even be stealing away for a day to our favorite b & b.

I'm sure I'll be sharing some time with folks here too, but let me take this chance to say--

Happy Valentine's Day everyone! May you spend the day with the ones you love!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

The world of Artful Blogging

Today was a day for running around. It was a nice sunny day and relatively warm (relative in Minnesota during February means "somewhere in the 30's).

I started by running my daughter out to a work meeting at the Mall of America (yup, that's the mall I run to). While Ana was at her meeting, I walked around the mall. One of my stops was at a bookstore. I headed straight to the magazine section...craft/art magazines in particular. My favorite magazines were buried behind rows of other publications, but then I saw it...the new edition of Artful Blogging.

Without hesitation, I grabbed a copy and made my way to the checkout. I'll have to admit that about a year ago when I saw my first Artful Blogging I did hesitate. My initial thought was that $15 is alot for a magazine...I mean I could buy art supplies with that $15. But every time I went to the bookstore I would pick up Artful Blogging. Finally I thought I had drooled enough and bought a copy to take home.

Since then I have bought every copy. And I love it. I love the colorful photos and the glimpses into other artist's blogs. I pour over every copy and check out all the blogs featured in the magazine. Secretly, I covet the opportunity to be featured in the magazine (oops, not a secret any longer).

Artful Blogging helped pulled me into the world of blogging. I started blogging so that I had a place to write and share my experiences. I saw it as an online journal. I really had no audience in mind. Actually I wasn't really sure I would ever have an audience.

But blogging has opened doors to a whole new community. Blogging has made my world both larger and smaller. Through blogging I have "met" artists from all over the world. I have learned about new art techniques and encouraged to share the results of those new "experiments". I have come to realize that whether we are full-time or part-time artists we share common goals and passions, not to mention fears and vulnerabilities.

Blogging has made me a better artist. It has connected me to the world of artists...some in my backyard and others half way cross the world. It has challenged me as an artist to try new things and share my work. And my creative passion is fed each time I read the blog of a fellow artist.

So ya, I could have spent that $15 on art supplies...but I think that $15 spent on a magazine was money well spent.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Holding on to a little girl's dreams

While I was in the studio today I snapped a few pictures of the new piece I finished last week. This is something different for me...a mixed media piece. I am experimenting with some different processes, using different materials...This piece was completed on a 9x12 board (new for me). I first painted the board and then applied some pieces of paper with gel medium...for sort of a quilt-like affect. I painted on top of that, and also added the picture of me as a little girl. I used pencil on the face and figure. I added the words printed on paper and other accents. A little bit of gold paint was added in certain areas...I rubbed the paint on with a foam brush and my finger and then wiped some of it away.
I've always wanted to try some mixed media work...and that experimentation is in full swing. One of the books I am currently reading is Kelly Rae Roberts Taking Flight and this piece/technique is inspired in part by her book. The subject matter is also inspired by my reading of Twelve Secrets of Highly Creative Women...this piece pays honor to the dreams I had as a young girl to be an artist.
As often is the case, this piece feels like it is part of a new series. I am planning to continue experimenting with this subject by doing some similar pieces on larger canvases.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Julie's work

Last weekend, on that beautiful sunny Saturday, I stopped at the Textile Center to check out their current member show (click on the link on the right to check out their website). My best friend and fellow artist, Julie, had this wonderful piece in the show! Julie lives in upstate New York and shipped the piece out here to Minnesota to be in the show. I just had to go visit! I even sneaked a few photos so I could send them on to Julie.
It was a wonderful show...well, worth the visit. It also was a good reminder that there are many places out there where you can show your just need to keep looking for possibilities.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Secret 4: Surrendering to Creative Cycles

" Like a Phoenix Rising"

" is a series of cycles and was never meant to roll out on a straight line..."
--Gail McMeeken

Boy, ain't that the truth. And my life certainly has been a case in point.

This chapter of Twelve Secrets of Highly Creative Women explores the nature of cycles in our lives. It is natural to experience highs and lows. As artists there will be times when inspiration is everywhere we turn and other times when we feel void of all creative inspiration.

It is those periods of void that cause us to struggle. And yet the lesson is that we need to learn to embrace the void, to let go and see what may come to us in the darkness.

Easier said than done.

Reading this chapter took me back to a time in my life when I faced my greatest struggle with the void. When my kids were just 1 & 3, I left their father. My first marriage was filled with first it was emotional abuse and then it escalated to physical abuse. Once that happened, I left.

But the damage had been done. My body was a shell. My soul and psyche were lost in a darkness so deep I could not see the light leading me out.

My first priority was maintaining the safety of me and my children...and that took considerable time and energy. Then once I knew we were truly safe, the healing began.

My first marriage had destroyed my creative self. I remember wondering if I would ever create art again. And I remember the joy I felt when I was finally able to open up a box of oil pastels and create a piece I titled "Rebirth".

During that dark time, I learned to embrace the void. It wasn't easy and it wasn't pretty. Life has never been harder. I was alone, raising 2 children on my own. In order to be safe, I had left my job and moved to a new city. I re-invented my life.

I believe making art is what saved me.

And while I would never want to re-live that time in my life, I can't imagine where my life would be without having gone through that cycle of death and rebirth. I discovered how strong and courageous a woman I am. I discovered that nothing, absolutely nothing or no one, could destroy the core of who I artist.

Life has continued to be a journey of ups and downs. I raised my 2 kids as a single parent (they are now 22 and 24). I went back to work as a social worker...and a large part of that was about my desire to give back and help others.

Over the years I have continued to make art, some years more than others. Now at this point in my life, with my kids grown and a supportive husband by my side, I am making art more than ever.

Inspiration is often abundant, but there are still days when I search for motivation. On those days when I am searching, I am confident that I will work through it. And I have learned that I am creative in many different ways, from baking to painting.

When times have been tough I have reminded myself of this quote that was included in this chapter:

"When you come to the edge of
all the light you know, and are about to step off into the darkness of the unknown, faith is knowing one of two things will happen: There will be something solid to stand on,or you will be taught how to fly."

--Barbara Winter

Monday, February 2, 2009

25 Random Things

I was tagged on Facebook, but I thought I would share my list of 25 Random Things About Me here.

1. I was born in Iowa. Hey, we lived in MN, but a mile from the border.

2. So when I was old enough to ride a bike, I would ride my bike across the state line, just so when I came home and was asked where I had gone, I could say "Iowa".

3. Later, when I was 12 we moved into the house my dad was born in. 7 years later (at the age of 53) he died there. I didn't realize until later how unusual it was for my dad to begin and end his life in the same house. And how special it was that I spent part of my childhood in the same house.

4. I like small towns, but also love the energy of the city.

5. I realized at about the age of 8 that I wanted to be an artist. My oldest brother came home from college with a poster of a Renoir painting.

6. I visited my first art museum (Mpls Institue of Arts) when I left home for college. It is still one of my favorite places to go on a gloomy day. Or any day for that matter.

7. I dragged my kids to every museum I could.

8. In college, I was originally a journalism major. Then a studio arts major. And then almost a Middle Eastern studies major.

9. Both my kids were born by c-section. I was happy to be awake for both births.

10. I miss the nature walks I used to take with my son by Minnehaha Falls. (My baby turns 22 on Friday!)

11. I love that my daughter likes to go antique shopping with me.

12. I'm a great baker. I love baking, especially for people who appreciate it. (Sorry, I'm dieting right now and trying to "be good". SUCKS.)

13. I have a Santa collection that I love to take out each year.

14. If I had the space, I would decorate more than one Christmas tree. (And I realized this year, that I like to decorate by myself...I just like to have that quiet time by myself. And I'll admit, I want to do it "my way".)

15. Unfortunately, I hate packing up the holiday decorations.

16. My hubby and I just started taking ballroom dance classes through community ed. Now we'll see who the real leader is.

17. I've always wanted to learn belly dancing.

18. I like to do a little dancing in the studio when I'm painting.

19. I have only travelled outside of the country Mexico. I have not even been to Canada! (but I have been to Iowa often).

20. I have always wanted to travel to Morocco.

21. I will LOVE being a grandma, but my kids are NOT I will patiently wait (really, I'm not hoping it happens anytime soon, cause I also don't feel "old" enough to be called "grandma")

22. I hope to have a solo art show one day.

23. And I would like to be published (either my artwork or something I've written).

24. This is the best time of my life.

25. And there is more great stuff ahead.

So there it is...25 Random Things About Me...what 25 random things about yourself would you care to share?

Sunday, February 1, 2009

A relaxing weekend...complete with warm weather

It has been a fun, relaxing weekend filled with plenty of activity, but nothing too strenuous. For the first time in ages, I haven't felt like crap. I think it had something to do with the wonderful weather.

Friday night, otherwise known as "Date Night" in our home, me and the hubby went for dinner at Outback and then a trip to Dick Blick. Dick Blick is having their semi-annual canvas sale, so I bought 20 canvases, mostly small ones (6x8, 9x12...) Dick Blick was followed by a mega-trip to the grocery store. I know, a super-hot date, but it was a good night.

Saturday, aah lovely Saturday, the day the temperature climbed above freezing for the first time in ages. It reached something like 44 or 45 degrees...the warmest we've been since November 6th. I started the morning out in the studio to do a little work. Then in the afternoon I did some running around...driving with the windows down to feel the cool breeze on my face.

Saturday evening we stepped outside our door to watch the Winter Carnival Torchlight parade. St. Paulites like to celebrate winter with not one, but two parades. The first one was last Saturday when it was brutally cold. Ana and I watched that one from the warmth of my 2nd floor studio (which overlooked the parade route). This week it was warm enough to watch the parade outdoors...and Joel & I watched the parade from our doorsteps, along with his 2 kids and my son, Cyrus. It was actually quite fun and hey this particular parade, which is the final event of the Winter Carnival, is supposed to celebrate the end of winter. (We can only wish).

Today was another glorious day. We did not quite reach 44 degrees, but it was still beautiful regardless. Again, I started the day over at the studio. Then this afternoon, Ana and I ran around shopping on Grand Avenue. We hit an antique store, Starbucks, 2 vintage clothing stores, and last, but not least, Cheapo records. I walked out of Cheapo's with a few treasures...including a collection of 70's love songs from Motown. I snatched that CD up once I saw it included the Spinners' One of A Kind (Love Affair). The fact that the CD included 2 Barry White songs was a bonus! Definitely music to paint/dance by.

Tomorrow it will be back to the work week...not so exciting, but it was nice to have such a relaxing weekend.