Friday, April 30, 2010

Beware of fortune cookies!

When I cracked open my fortune cookie following dinner tonight, the above was my fortune! I couldn't stop myself from laughing out loud.

You see, today I was laid off from my job.

I'm not going to lie to you, it's been a very difficult day. Even though I was prepared for the possibility, the reality of being laid off hit me like a ton of bricks. 

Everyone was to report to work this morning by 8:45 a.m. When we arrived, we each had an envelope in our personal mailbox. The envelope contained a note either telling us that we should report to a 12:30 meeting to discuss program changes or that we had a individual morning meeting scheduled to discuss a job change (code for: layoff). Unfortunately, my envelope contained the latter.

We're a small office, so word spread like wildfire. By 9 a.m. everyone knew just which letter you got. It got sort of weird then--at least for me. For all of us, I guess. If you were one of the group with a morning meeting, you definitely felt everyone looking at you with...well, it was awkward. I wanted to disappear. 

My meeting was scheduled for 10 a.m. There was a possibility of a reduction in hours, but I, like 3 others, got a full layoff. I don't really feel like re-hashing all the details...but it was one of the hardest meetings I've ever had. Harder even because I truly like my supervisors. And I like where I work.

Afterwards, I spent a few moments with folks who are soon-to-be ex-co-workers, but truthfully, more like family and friends. There will be time later to support and comfort one another. I had hubby drive me to work today...and he was thankfully waiting nearby to take me home.

I will still be working for 3 weeks. I'm not sure what those 3 weeks will feel like--I can't quite imagine it. I'm going to take this weekend to lay low and sort of it let it soak in. I need to catch my breath.

I know there will be more grief...for the job I am losing, for my friends that are also leaving and for how my agency is being forced to change. Truth is, I know it will not be easy for the team of folks that are left behind to carry on. I wish them well and I hope that the changes work for them and for Southside.

And in the coming weeks, I will be working on being open to and accepting the changes that will be coming my way. There will be hard days. But I think there will also be new and exciting opportunities. It's not easy stepping into the unknown. 

I hope to do so with grace.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

A long week drawing to a difficult close...

First off, I will just comment that I am still "absorbing" last weekend's Art Crawl experience and will write about it soon. Overall, it was a good experience--lots of visitors to my studio, plenty of good conversation with folks about my art...As an introvert, on some levels, it is always a draining event for me...I need to pull back for a few days, spend some time with myself to recharge. But I enjoyed the Art Crawl a great deal.

Unfortunately, I've been forced to turn my attention this week to the difficult situation at my work. Tomorrow is the day that layoffs will be announced. I may very well be one of the staff that will be gone. Sometimes I think it might be even more painful to watch my friends/co-workers be told they're "done".

At work I'm keeping busy doing paperwork, updating files...At home, I try to divert my attention with a baseball game or something that doesn't require much thought. Mostly, I'm just a little numb.
I've done a lot of thinking about what matters to me...why I've stayed at Southside Family Nurturing Center--even though the pay is less than great, even though we've been under the budget ax this past year...and there are many reasons. There are the practical this job, I have great non-pay benefits (paid time off, insurance) that allows me to pursue my art. But more importantly, Southside's values echo my own: I'm not looking to get rich in this lifetime, but I do want to give back. It is important to me to help others.

And so that is my greatest sadness in all this: that Southside's ability to help struggling families is being greatly diminished and threatened. I am not sure, if I should lose my job, what my new direction will be...but I will miss helping the families. I will miss hearing their stories and encouraging them to keep moving forward one small step at a time. I will miss watching their children grow...and thrive.

I appreciate all the support and encouragement I have received from you these past months. It touches my heart to read an email or comment from someone I've never met that is taking a few moments to offer some support. In my book, it's those kinds of efforts that keep this world spinning round.

I'll let you know how things unfold. Either way, it will be better tomorrow to know and be able to move forward. 

If you would like to know more about Southside, you can go to their website, read this earlier post or read any of my posts concerning Southside by clicking on the label on the right sidebar.  (or you can watch the video below) 

It is an amazing place.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Just a teaser...

...of a few shots of my studio set up for the Art Crawl. Still open today 12-5! Find me at 300 Broadway Street, Studio 507.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Art Crawl tips

Sunrise (18x24 / acrylic on canvas)

The Art Crawl is almost ready to begin--it's time to present --
"Tips for making the Art Crawl a fun experience"
--Wear comfortable clothes and walking shoes. You will be doing a lot of walking and after a while, comfort takes priority over fashion (at least in my book...but then I'm an artist, not a fashionista).

--A word of warning: we have a little bit of construction going on in Lowertown St. Paul. But don't let a little lightrail construction discourage you. Park in a lot and then walk or catch the shuttle bus. I would suggest using the parking lot at Kellogg and Broadway. (Unofficial word is that if you park in the upper level of this lot, it's r free). Oh, you can also catch the shuttle bus at this lot.

--Then select a few buildings to begin your crawl experience. I recommend starting with the Tilsner  (300 Broadway Street) where I'm located (Studio #507). The Tilsner is located across the street from that parking lot I just told you about (see how that works!) Generally I suggest checking out some of the buildings that are live/work spaces (like the Tilsner) and buildings that are solely work spaces--like the Jax. The Jax has a high concentration of open studios--many of the artists have been open there for years. I still have a working studio at the Jax and love the work of the artists there.

--Buy a crawl catalogue for a small donation ($2, I think). It's your all-in-one guide to the art crawl. It contains a nifty map of the crawl,along with artist information. 

--Generally start on the top floor of a building and work your way down. It's easier and less tiring to go down steps. Don't count on elevators--some buildings don't even have public elevators (but the Tilsner does)

-Although you won't be served a meal, you will find plenty of treats at the Art Crawl. So studios will even be serving wine.

--There will also be music and performers in some studios or outside buildings. You'll find the most street entertainment on Friday night. The Black Dog Cafe usually has a fire juggler on Friday night and will definitely have music on Friday night. 

--Feel free to chat with the artists. They open up their studios so you can learn about their work and because they would like to hear what you think. This is the part I most enjoy. After creating art almost in a vacuum for 6 months out of the year, I welcome the opportunity to share my work with others and hear what they think. 

--Which leads me to my last point (not so much a tip perhaps, but a thought...) -- The Art Crawl is a great place to buy art, directly from the artist! Many people don't think of buying original art as something they can do, but often it's much more affordable than you might imagine. And it makes a great gift--one that will last a lifetime and be remembered for a lifetime. When my husband (then a boyfriend) took me to my first art crawl years ago, he returned to a studio we had visited and bought a painting for me. It was one of the best gifts I've ever received...and I think about that every time I see the painting hanging on our wall.

But even if you don't buy any art, come to the Art Crawl (I always call it a cheap date!)...And have a good time!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Art Crawl set-up

Only 2 days till the St. Paul Art Crawl--an open studio event held here twice a year. I am busy converting our home studio/living space into an art gallery for the weekend! Unfortunately, I am not at the top of my game--I have not been feeling good today--tired, achy, getting the chills...but the show must go on!

Earlier today I did some shopping, picking up supplies. Now I'm moving furniture around, setting out artwork and trying to envision where everything should go. 

I'm hoping that tomorrow I'm feeling better (I picked up some medicine while I was out!) and can get lots more done. Friday I will be hanging the final pieces, putting up tags, baking some treats and saying a few prayers for good weather!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Hope Garden

With less than a week before Art Crawl, I finished "Hope Garden" this weekend! Working on this painting the past few weeks has helped me escape the stress at work and keep my spirits up. I love working with such bright, intense colors. It measures 24x36--so it is one of my larger paintings. I think it is even more vibrant viewed in person than these pictures show. I will have it on display during the Art Crawl.

Some detail shots--

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Painting the stress away

Back to work this week meant dealing with everyone's stress--besides my own--regarding who's going to be laid off, when it's going to happen, what work is going to be like for those still at work...not a relaxing or productive day! 
All the more reason to head over to the studio after work...that and the fact that the Art Crawl is just 10 days away!

The studio is this little place where work stress doesn't exist. Turn on the music (tonight--some 70's Motown love songs), do a little dancing and painting and stress escapes!

Honestly, sometimes there is stress in the creative process...the stress of not being sure of how to proceed with a piece or if you even like what you just did...but that is a very different stress...

Thank you for your words of encouragement...One of the things I didn't expect when I started this blog was to build a community of friends and fellow artists that I could turn to for much needed really does make a difference...and it gives me hope.

(The painting is not done yet...but I'm determined!)

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Painting hope

Those of you who are friends or have been reading this blog for a while (not mutually exclusive groups by any means!) know that my day job is being a social worker at a small nonprofit agency and that this past fall my agency was within hours of laying folks off. (If you are new to my blog, you can read about it at this earlier post or by clicking on the Southside Family Nurturing Center label).

We've been waiting these past few months for the county that contracts with our agency to release the new specs for our future contract. It was supposed to be released in March, but we were not really surprised that it was not released on time. 

Over spring break, our director received an update from the county. Yesterday at a staff meeting our director shared the news that basically the county does not have the new specs ready but the county has informed us that starting July 1st they intend to cut our monthly budget allotment in half! The bad news doesn't end there. The new contract proposals don't look to favor agencies such as ours.

The bottom line is that staff will be cut...soon. At the end of the month we will have more news and shortly thereafter layoffs will likely be announced. At this point it looks like 5-6 people will lose their jobs. With the 2 positions recently vacated this is 20% of our staff.

It's hard hearing this kind of news as you're heading home for the weekend...definitely puts a damper on weekend festivities. I'm taking in the news, trying to digest it, not quite ready to take action. 

Except I knew that I had to paint. And I knew exactly what I had to paint. I had to paint Hope. I went to the studio on Friday night and started painting a new large piece that I had dreamed about at the end of Spring Break. It is bright and colorful, full of flowers and life. 

I will be busting my butt to finish this painting in time for the Spring Art Crawl (just 2 weeks away!) I worked on it for several hours today. It is similar in nature to the whimsical winter paintings that I started working on in early winter--when I was first dealing with the possibility of losing my job.

I read somewhere that in these tough economic times people are more interested in art that expresses hope and optimism. I don't know if that is true, but I know that I sure what to paint work that reflects hope. I want to paint with bright, vibrant colors. I want to paint things that make me feel better. Hopefully others will feel more hopeful when they look at my paintings.


Melange mixed media challenge


I saw this week's challenge on the Melange Mixed Media website--Ice Cream--and had to participate! From time to time, I incorporate some mixed media in my work. This is a painting that I finished this summer. I call it "Ode to Izzy's". Izzy's is my favorite ice cream place in is so good! They make all their own ice creams and make some pretty crazy flavors...but back to the artwork!

It was created on a 16x20 stretched canvas. I used acrylic paints, but also some oil pastel sticks for the face and hands. It's new for me to be painting more realistic people. Painting the ice cream was fun...I used lots of medium to create texture in the ice cream. Oh, that little strawberry dip on top...that's what they call an "izzy". I want a taste!

I used letters that I painted and attached to the canvas to spell out Izzy's. I also used ribbon on the dress and hat, along with a brad on the hat.



You can look at the other pieces completed for this challenge on the Melange site. You can find work by some very talented artists there. Check it out!

I'm thinking about listing this painting in my Etsy shop--probably after the Art Crawl...unless someone buys it at the Art Crawl first!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Spring Break is over and...

It's back to work for me...which means juggling work with studio time. I have a major event coming up in a few short weeks, lots of paintings started and need to find my way to the studio after work. So far that's not been happening!

My butt has been dragging this week. When I get home from work I feel like I'm barely functional. If I can just get myself to the studio...even for an hour...I would feel so much better.

We'll see how this plan works!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Just keep painting...

It's been a glorious week here--sunny, unseasonably warm (we hit 80 today!)--a wonderful week for Spring Break. I've enjoyed some time outdoors, but lots of time in the studio painting.

Just a little over 20 days till the Spring Art Crawl...I feel good about all the work I've been doing. The real question is will I have enough time to get everything done (in time for the Crawl) that I've started. Probably not...but I'm going to keep painting like crazy!