Altered Attic

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Thrills and Chills

Aside from making books, painting faces still occupies most of my studio time. I've expanded my repertoire to include even more layers of paints, sprays, ink, tons of paper; I've done 3-dimensional on cradled canvas, canvas boxes and experimented with a few new texturing techniques. Molding paste, fabric, found objects and other stuff, the possibilities are endless.





Early in June, I entered these two gals in More & More, a competition defining mixed media, juried by the Senior Curator at the Huntington Museum of Art. The 200 entries from across the country were narrowed to the 38 selected for the exhibit. I was blown away when I got the email saying that both faces (9x12) were among those chosen.  

 I had an opportunity to chat with the judge during the artist's reception and I (bravely? naively?) asked her why she chose mine. She liked the pieces visually and was impressed by the lengthy materials list. And that's not the real kicker! When my husband went to Mary Rezny's Gallery to pick up my art Monday, he came home with one (below) because the other had been sold. To a guy who owns Cross Gate Gallery here in Lexington. If you have a minute, check his place out and you'll see why I'm so surprised... (and thrilled, of course).




A cautionary note:  When using re-inkers in the background of a painting we all know that some of the color will surface; the oregano really came through on this one and that's why she's adorned with so many leaves. What I didn't realize is that putting on a coat of varnish, weeks later, will cause more color to surface. If you look closely around her chin, that hint of purple/red came blazing to the foreground like she'd been in a pie-eating contest. I didn't see it until the night of the reception and I was mortified. Gotta love those 'happy' accidents.



Saturday, June 28, 2014

The 'A' Word

The 'A' word is the topic over on The Altered Page. Seth addresses the difficulty too many of us have referring to ourselves as Artists. Like, "oh, what do you do?" Answer, "I stay at home, work in the studio most every day." Or, "I'm often creative." 

When I was in an advanced fiction program ten years ago, I never introduced myself as a writer, because it's inevitably followed by, "oh, really, where are you published?" I am a writer, have written all my life: poetry, essays, and a collection of short stories, albeit unpublished. (Nobody really wants to hear about the book forwards and prefaces or the ton of commercial writing) and I've been blogging for several years now. It is very fulfilling when I get blog comments as much about my writing as art. So, I write, I've done loads of photography/ darkroom work I paint almost every day and dabble in lots of mixed media but only recently did I acknowledge that "I am an artist."

Not so coincidently, it was at Seth's Random Arts workshop back in April where I had a blast with my best art bud, Rachel Stewart. Seth and I have corresponded regularly but it was the first time I met him (which I'd highly recommend if you have not done so). During the few days we had the 'what makes a creative an artist' discussion and I realized that, while I have no formal training and my resume is brief, I have had some exposure, sold pieces and recently juried into an exhibit defining mixed media art. So, what is the point? 




















I shudder when I hear  "I don't have a creative bone in my body," and yes, it took me well into adulthood to claim the passion I've been nurturing all my life. The point is that it shouldn't be an issue but it is. A huge one. Even without my few public ventures I would still be an artist. Read the post and the responses from those brave enough to comment about their struggles. Mine is the one that says: Of course I'm an artist! A guy at a workshop embarrassed me into calling myself one... what a great guy!" And that, he is without a doubt. If the wealth he spreads in this art world was monetary he could buy a country. A fairly good-sized one.

No post is complete without photos so below are a few shots of the book I made after Seth's workshop. Did I really put a magic wand on the cover?? Of course, I'm an artist :)



























Another fairly permanent lesson I learned was that working outside the confines of the directions is not only very liberating, it's OK! Problem-solving and breaking all the rules is the greatest fun of all!






























If you haven't read/commented on Seth's page I'd suggest it! 

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Buried Treasure



When I read that Seth Apter was launching another Buried Treasure adventure it wasn't difficult to figure out what post I wanted to use. This post (published last year) is the essence of who I am and why I am an artist. Thanks, as always, to Seth, such an amazingly creative artist and even greater person. He shares so much of himself with this community and for that I give him thanks. Extra appreciation for the support he so easily provides, just because he's that's kind of guy! 





Invisible Illness (Awareness) Week has begun! In keeping with the theme, another of my choices is to be my best possible self. And that includes reaching out, sharing, caring, helping when I can... all qualities of being a good friend. There's an old saying, to make a friend you first have to be one. True, but. Sometimes those of us with chronic illness get overlooked, passed by as though not being able to able make the party means we don't need to get an invitation. 

The text I used in this piece of art, called Thoughts on Friendship, is an excerpt from a friendship 'manifesto' I wrote several years ago, after experiencing what I call being tossed from the merry-go-round. When life as I knew it ended and, unlike those with visible injuries and acute illnesses (especially cancer - God forbid), the carousel kept right on turning without me. Don't get me wrong, my family has always been really supportive and I do have good friends. But there were a couple of years when, along with being really sick, I felt isolated, lost, alone.  Walking away from my business, my horse, my fiction-writing venture, my social identity, my life, turned out to be far more painful than I'd bargained for; it was, in a word, grief.




















We chronics endure repeated, sporadic grief cycles because we mourn the loss but there is no end. Just lots of beginnings, I can now say with gratitude. But before the warm fuzzies there was pain, feeling abandoned, let down, forgotten and it took time and effort to mend those wounds. The (almost) funny thing is, I was taking so much medication that for a few years I did look fairly sick. But in a vague, perpetual sense. Three years ago I scaled back on the prednisone and lost the moon face and extra 50 lbs. and that's when the invisibility factor really hit. Hard. People said things like, "oh, you're back" and "you seem like a completely different person" as I struggled through an evening. There wasn't an obvious reason in the world for the fatigue gnawing its way from the inside out, the cognitive disfunction (brain drain) that settled like London fog, the flu-like feeling that is my last-chance signal to get the hell out of wherever I am and go to bed! I've had lots of practice. I cried, grieved, learned the bits and pieces of acceptance, made lots of art and built a close, fabulous new community of online friends with whom I communicate regularly.   

So now, when I do venture out of my studio wearing my former-sized (healthy) clothes, jewelry and makeup I no longer even think about guilt or apologies. I am fierce. And I'm a better friend now than ever before. And my friends here, the ones who really know me get it, and that's enough, for now. 

Following is the entire piece - I welcome thoughts and comments about attributes I've overlooked, points I may have missed, i.e., YOUR opinion.
Happy Tuesday - hope it's creative and filled with friendship.



Thoughts on Friendship

     When you think of a ‘friend,’ who comes to mind? Someone with whom you can go to a movie or fishing? A neighbor who always has a cup of sugar, the person who sits next to you at church, school or work? Or, a person with whom you can entrust your life, your deepest fears, dreams you’re afraid are too big to come true?

     Friendship can be defined, classified, measured in so many ways. Perhaps the most important element is simply the willingness to be there. To be tuned to the fine strings upon which our friends’ lives are balanced. To reach for part of the burden when there is immeasurable grief or sorrow.  And to multiply the joy of triumph, celebration, good news.

     Authentic friends speak the truth even when it isn’t universal because there is freedom to reveal oneself and an openness to another’s worldview. Friends don’t quit when the air grows heavy with misunderstanding or tension. They work harder to breathe instead. Connecting with a friend at the soul level is sharing the life force that keeps us trudging, skipping, lurching, running toward whatever our destination might be. They are the fuel that sustains our journey. The food that fills our longing, hunger, blindness so that we might walk closer to our true path.

     The world is full of magic. The way leaves swirl in random patterns through the air in fall. In spring when the first evidence of new life comes in the purple and white crocuses urging their way up through matted yellow grass. It is the triumph that comes with achieving a personal goal. A letter or phone call or hug given at the exact moment that it is needed. The fullness of spirit after sharing a meal.
     It is also sick and cold and dark. Bombs, terrorists, pornography, insecurity, accidents, extinction, natural disaster, illness, loneliness. People, material possessions, financial security, peace, health and happiness can come and go so quickly that our lives can be changed in a single moment. What do we do when confronted with the raw instability of life?  When the unthinkable happens, our world is shaken, or compromised? Most of us turn to those whom we love, and who love us back, in spite of our flaws and failures. This is the reality: the only tangible worth of living in this world is the people with whom we fill our lives.

     Without these relationships all of the glory and accomplishment, health and happiness, is poised on a shell that could crack under the slightest pressure. Who are those nearest and dearest to your heart?  Have you invested in them all that they are worth to you? Open your heart, reach out and whether or not you are needed, be there. Breathe each day the fragility and wildness and wonder of life and love.

    Celebrate yourself and your friends. Know that I celebrate you.









Monday, May 5, 2014

Judge this book by the cover


The two-day workshop that Seth Apter taught (For Your Eyes Only) last weekend at Random Arts was inspiring and challenging and a big step outside my comfort zone. The supply list was fairly extensive and specific but when it was time to pull supplies, like a variety of papers, ephemera and objects, I had a hard time deciding what to pack.  So I pulled stuff without over-thinking it and ended up with ample, albeit completely unrelated-theme stuff. 
(Fortunately, Jane's amazing shop has a bit of everything, which alleviates the fear that all the 'right' stuff was left back in the studio. So no worries and I always return with lots more than I took.)


Seth's book is amazing and I love his gridded design approach; however, when we started to work I could not make the first one (though I understood the concept). But Seth is amazing. He shares brilliant techniques fully understanding that the same format might not work for everyone (like me), so once freed I got into the zone. Along with a few of my photographs I'd brought 2 pages of haiku that I'd written over the past couple of years; my theme presented itself. 




Having limited supplies turned out to be a blessing in this case. In the studio it would have taken weeks to figure out how to put pages together...  I used a painting and a lot of the painted papers I took.


And I had a bunch of vintage school paper used by "Lester" and his work appears throughout :) 



I had a bagful of batik and sari ribbon (supplemented by a trip to Jane's shop) and I found they made great binding covers, plus I love having things showing outside the piece.




Fortunately I had a lot of small scraps - burlap, screen, tissue paper, snaps, lace trim, mica, rick-rack, butterflies...



Seth said our books were filled with 'happy accidents'... or were they?



He gave a rather Freudian explanation for the dual face spread - half child and half emerging being....


And of course I had to use one of my faces.


and put an old library card in the back cover


I'd left the back cover blank but wrote a haiku when I got back to my studio.


We all experienced the same thorough, detailed demonstration and explanation of the processes.  But Sunday afternoon when we shared our work via 'show and tell' (which included Seth's thorough and amazing critique) I was blown away by the diversity, originality and creative interpretation. The only similarity was that they all had 2 covers. 
I think I'll take a break from painting faces and make another.


Friday, May 2, 2014

Bingo was his name-o



The only thing harder than getting to Saluda is leaving it behind. Seth Apter was an instant favorite last weekend; we enjoyed perfect weather, great food, fun and art thanks to the fabulous Jane of Random Arts. If you haven't taken a class with Seth you should do yourself a favor and check his itinerary. Both workshops were crammed with technique, demos, lots of one-on-one help and finished projects. One of the best experiences ever.




The first workshop was a one-day called Shredded Silhouettes and it wasn't long before our work tables were in complete disarray, hands covered with paint. Ahhh, yes. The 'Bingo Bird' at the top is my piece and I really am happy with it, which doesn't always happen. 

Spending all five days with Rachel was the icing on the cake. We met in Knoxville and drove to Saluda together; we stayed in the Carolina Cottage and it was entirely perfect. I already miss her!




The second workshop - 'For Your Eyes Only' - was spread over two days, thankfully. Book making wasn't a familiar process to many of us so I'm fairly sure that it worked because Seth was at the helm. I've finished the piece but no photography so that comes next.

Until then, wishing you blessings and inspiration in all your creative projects!  







Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Countdown to Saluda!!





Just two more days until I arrive in Saluda, a tiny town in the mountains of North Carolina. But those who really know me understand that Saluda, Random Arts in particular - is my escape, my sanctuary, my art haven. I cannot wait to see Jane in her freshly stocked store, with morning coffee, setting up in a warmly familiar room full of fellow creatives (no explanations needed about paint on clothing or body parts, weird hair, jewelry or humor or passion for our work). What community could be better than like-minded artists talking, laughing, messy hands and learning new techniques? The addition of our instructor and friend, Seth Apter - for this amazing three-day workshop; well, a one-day and two-day (who could pass that up??).





This break could not come at a better time, which is probably what I always say. However, while many people enjoy traveling on a regular basis, I do not. Partly by choice but mostly due to the chronic illness that keeps me closer to home (in the studio as often as possible). In fact, the last time I was out of town was... last September when I took Misty Mawn's workshop in Saluda. I've painted hundreds of faces since then, which I might never have even tried if not for that experience.


























As I've often expressed, finding and evolving my style of painting faces is sanity-saving and deeply gratifying. And while realism in painting offers a truth much like photography, there is no structure, rules or absolutes in my crazy process, which means endless possibilities. Making books will be a refreshing shift and fun opportunity to play with art supplies that have been patiently waiting.


  

























Once or twice a year, I believe it's vital for us as women, artists, mothers, etc. etc., to disappear for several days (yes, I can turn a three-day workshop into a six-day event), to widen our range of projects while feeding the soul. This trip will be especially delightful since I'll be with Rachel, my art sponsor and close pal! Now off to pack...












Sunday, April 13, 2014

Got Junk?















Who has to worry about running out of junk, stuff, rusty parts and curious bits? Not me. This printer's tray was been parked against a wall in the studio for years and then became highly visible after brief stretches of organization. One day last week, I was particularly drained and decided it would be a brain friendly, albeit creative way to spend the afternoon.  I've seen these trays for years with brilliant collections of oddities and I thought it would be time consuming; however, it was frighteningly easy. I didn't have to dig very deep at all to locate more than enough small odds and ends to fill the rectangular/horizontal spaces.

A quality photo would require a different lens, so, after much effort and delay I decided to publish this one anyway, because the point isn't about stunning photography. It has everything to do with an abiding passion for art, my saving grace. Creating daily (with rare exceptions) improves mental, physical, spiritual and emotional health. My stress level has been been magnified recently, which has fueled many hours of anxiety and sadness, feeling overwhelmed and spiraling out into strange, deep space. Not close to my emotional center, my happy place. 

A while back I established an early morning ritual of brewing coffee, putting on my headphones and tucked away in my studio, I begin by considering the endless possibilities for paint, canvas, paper, ink, stuff and more stuff. This habit defines me and helps block my vision of past and future by bringing me back to a known, safe place where I belong, in the present moment; the here and now.

The projects might vary widely but the one thing they have in common is the validation and satisfaction that comes with making something that did not exist before. Filling this tray was easy, fun and a reminder that no matter what the day brings, I can create a physical manifestation of my curiosity, fears, joy and sorrow, underlined by a comforting sense of my truest identity. Amazing. 

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Flowers Rock!



Sold!! To bidder #21, an artist I don't know but one to whom I'm eternally grateful. Selling a piece is fabulous enough, but, I wonder if I'm the only one who gets an extra thrill when the buyer is a complete stranger... The theme of the event was Floral Freeway (if you can't tell), and the object was to incorporate as many flowers from donated cuff bracelets as possible. 

The event was a charity (silent) auction and the invited guests were a who's who of the regional art scene. I won't pretend that I wasn't nervous, to have my work alongside widely collected artists. It was one of those galas where the hors d' oeuvres were delish, no matter that I had no idea what was in them, and the friendly, popular guy strolling through the crowd with bottles of wine.

On the flip side, I submitted a second piece to Lesley Riley, whose book of illustrated quotes is being expanded for republication by F&W/North Light Books later this year. There were only 30 slots available and she received an overwhelming 230+ pieces of art. No, one of the 30 slots was not filled with my piece. Knowing I had less than a 2% chance didn't ease the sting, but it also didn't slow me down. Not for a minute. In fact, I've painted nearly every day, probably 15-20 hours a week. Rejection is an inherent part of putting your self out there, yet I don't often read much about it in blogland. There was a time when it would have stopped me cold, shut down the muse. That just means I wasn't ready. I doubt anyone welcomes the 'no thanks' but it's inevitable if you think about it, and I believe I'm one submission closer to being accepted.

The fabulous Miz Katie left a comment on my previous post, recommending that I listen to a segment from Artists Helping Artists on Blog Talk Radio. The focus is on finding your signature style, and is an extremely good discussion on a subject about which I've given quite a lot of thought. A statement the artist, Nancy Rhodes Harper, made has really stuck with me. She says you have to put in the hours, do the work, for hours, years even. It's one of those statements that may be patently obvious but heard at the right time, speaks volumes. And it explained my insatiable need to work in the studio (obviously instead of paying attention to my blog), with a relentless, determined, eager - and positive - attitude.  I highly recommend you listen and thanks again Katie!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Can it be?? Really?

























Got an anonymous comment (four to be exact) on my last post about how vanilla my title was and that I really should add more content. Then anonymous went on to say I should visit Yahoo (not that yahoo, for sure!), and so on. I love reading those - the bad grammar, broken sentences, what a hoot!

As I've continued to paint faces on a daily basis, I believe I've (finally) turned a corner. After complaining to my husband that they all my faces looked like a variation on the same theme, I realized that's because I've been using the same approach. And, Jim told me I really needed to loosen up before another, truer voice would appear. How true! Instead of starting off with torn bits of pages I'd painted, I went with black gesso, such a stark difference. Then I added color(s) and then scribbled on the background to show some character and hopefully a bit of the black.



Below is the beginning of the painting I posted last week - fairly bizarre - at least to my prior thinking style. But the more scribbly I worked, the more fun I had, and with results that I'm actually pleased with. A month ago I would have looked at the above beginning with horror - you mean, it's OK not to make pretty art (as my good friend Lesley Riley says)??



I'm a long way from where I want to be but so much closer than I was a week ago - if that makes sense. The word journey is defined as: traveling from one place to another. While I've kept the music blaring (headphones are my security blanket) and the coffee brewing, I came to see that this alteration in approach was the only way to get to the next place. And to me there is nothing more alive and exciting than being immersed in truly creative process, not over-thinking, just doing. After all, a bit of paint and an 8x10 canvas from Dick Blick aren't really that expensive. So, I hope you'll agree that I'm learning to loosen up a bit and play!




















The anonymous poster also said I should add more content to my posts. Hmmm, I've always thought I had a decent blend of writing and art. Perhaps I'll visit Yahoo...


Sunday, January 26, 2014

50 ways to save a face





Though the frequency of my blog posts suggests otherwise, I've been working in the studio nearly every day for an hour, or three on a good day. I've been painting... faces. Still. I seem to have come up with a 'face' but I don't think I've really broken through the surface. It is truly difficult to really let go, be counterintuitive, dig beneath the rubble of what is and is not good and/or acceptable. But I'm not going to stop. 

I don't know about you, but every so often I see an artist's work and a voice screams up from the depths - I want to paint like that. Of course, copying, imitating never works but it does give me hope. Reason to keep going, to be relentless and never, ever give up. Maybe this process is like evolution... never really fast enough but silent wheels turning.





















My studio is adorned by at least 50 face paintings, started after the Misty Mawn workshop late last September, and many influenced by Juliette Crane's fabulous technique classes. I haven't felt the need to show them, to anyone really. Painting is enormously good therapy, a mood stabilizer, a reason to get up extra early. A cup of coffee in hand, music/headphones and a quick washing of the brushes has become zen-like, a meditation on creativity - what at it's core and why it's so crucially critical for me to practice.






I've been painting for the sake of creating, no goals or plans. There are literally stacks - sorted by canvas size, watercolor sheets and, well, the dud pile, which is thankfully small. Each one started with a blank canvas, paint palette and brushes. (Aside from the chalk self-portrait to reflect my awful case of pink eye - the suggestion of my good friend Rachel - thank you very much).







Today I decided to go against the grain, ditch the comfort zone and try for more than variations on a single theme. And, I did a couple of crappy paintings, but then I did the one at the top of this post. And I like her. Parts of the background, technique and the face itself is starting to look different. Not sure where I go from here, but I'll figure it out. 

Monday, December 16, 2013

Serendipity & Leading an Altered Life






















The Art Every Day icon was on my blog for most of November, which is also when I last posted. It isn't that I did work on art every day, it's just that, well, I'm in workshop mode. Ever since I left Random Arts in September, I've been in a painting frenzy! A two-day workshop with Misty Mawn was a great start but I needed more, wanted to expand my brushes...

I'm currently taking a course called Serendipity, with the lovely and talented Juliette Crane! It's a year-long class with different techniques, supplies and project each month! Highly, highly recommended! I am stuck on September though, wanting to secure a few things, like faces (still!). My daughter told me yesterday that the girls in my paintings aren't smiling and I said happy lips are harder to draw/paint. Last night I drew 30 mouths, thankfully noticing a bit of improvement. I'm going to try to make the deers in the headlights less grim.

I hope all my art pals (and everyone else) is in the Christmas (Hanukkah or Kwanza) spirit by now. I don't know about you but I spend the weeks leading up to the event so busy I don't see anybody! I did cut back on the decorating this year since the arthritis has been kicking my butt for the past couple of months, but I get to choose what I will and won't compromise on. 

There are so many of us living with illnesses, disability, both physical and mental - and spiritual. While it does limit the energy hours I have learned to spend them well. Most of the time! Making art became my therapy several years ago and when I woke up a bit sad this morning, I put my headphones on (loud music) and took a mug of coffee up to the studio at 7:00 am. In a matter of minutes I forgot about moods and irritations, annoyances and the chronic 'sick and tired of feeling sick and tired' and instead, my muse - who is thankfully so good to me - took over.

I'm writing a piece that addresses illness and art and it's for those of us who lead altered lives, use art to replace all that we used to do, much of which has been given up. For me, it's running the business I started with my beloved, Jim, in 1990. He's had a new business partner since the beginning of 2012 and even after eight years, the loss is keen.

Nearing the home stretch in an advanced fiction program in late 2004 (loved those trips to San Fran!), I had to drop it, too tired, cognitive dysfunction and all. And my horse, Sir Richard, (I loved him with all my heart) went too. Art does give me a sense of accomplishment (though I change my medium and style like seasonal wardrobes). And I know that living a true life means being rather than doing, but most people haven't gotten that memo.


So if you are living an altered life, I want to hear from YOU. Really. Please - I need your hard-earned badges of wisdom, frustrations, thoughts that you might not share with those who don't 'get' invisible illness, know what I mean? :)

Hope. Grace. Gratitude. I am thankful for my friends and art pals, you know who you are, with your love and words of encouragement. Most of the time I realize how much there is to be thankful for, to celebrate. 


“I know you can’t live on hope alone, but without hope life isn’t worth living." Sean Penn

As always, blessings and satisfaction to you!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Yay, I'm published!




Good News: Quotes Illustrated, by the fabulous Lesley Riley, has been published! I am very honored to be included in this incredible collection (thanks Lesley), so if you're interested it's on Amazon or you can email me for details.

The Art Every Day icon was on my blog for the second half of November, which is also when I last posted. It isn't that I did work on art every day, it's just that, well, I'm in workshop mode. Ever since I left Random Arts in September, I've been in a painting frenzy! A two-day workshop with Misty Mawn was a great start but I needed more, wanted to expand my brushes...

Stay tuned for more tomorrow!

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