Patti Edmon Altered Attic: September 2013

Monday, September 16, 2013

About Face

They say you can't teach an old dog new tricks. Artists, however, continue learning and growing until the cows come home. If your ducks are always in row, well, life gets a bit stale. Goofy metaphors aside, I do believe in ditching my creative comfort zone often enough to keep things exciting. And I certainly did just that last weekend! 

The ever-fabulous Jane Powell hosted the Drawn to Paint workshop at Random Arts. You may not think Misty Mawn was the instructor based on my favorite piece (one of the exercises was collage painting - my fave - and I did get a bit carried away), but I do like this guy.

Is there any experience more fulfilling than being in the company of talented, funny women who, being fellow creatives, just get it - very few explanations needed?! Not for me. I do wish I could travel more often but given the chronic illness that wipes me out, and my family, it's just not a reality. 

If you haven't been in the company of Misty Mawn, I'd highly recommend it! (even if, like me, you don't draw, or didn't before the workshop!) She does make it look annoyingly easy, which she more than makes up for with her insight, encouragement and all-round fabulous personality!

I try to do a workshop once a year (one that involves traveling:), and though I haven't been to many I find that they're life changing in many ways. Renewal of the spirit, truly. Especially in this case, when a turned a 2-day workshop into a six-day adventure! I stayed at the lovely Carolina Cottage, a gorgeous retreat tucked away in the woods, far from traffic, noise and reliable cell phone service.

Karen joined me on Saturday, making the trip even more fabulous! We have been best friends for more than forty years, most of those spent living in different states. But, since she now lives in the eastern part of North Carolina, Saluda was conveniently halfway for us both!

So, why am I sharing the work I did? You know how you say, "oh, I can't do that!" Really, stop and think - you know you say that. How often do we give ourselves credit for the vast stores of wisdom and experience we have? So, along with always telling that we got it for such a great price when complimented, the bashful, timid golly gosh is one of those things we just do.

Thing is, when I said that (more than once), I was really serious. I have drawn no more than a dozen doodle faces in my life. Can you say intimidated? So, when she started mushing paint around on the page, highlighting, accenting, saying "just follow the lines, the curves" and producing an angel, I did this gal!

OK, so she's a little wonky. Point is, I stretched in previously unimaginably ways. Along with being able to reproduce what resembles an actual human, I really enjoyed mixing colors, dabbing, blotting, working fast and with no abandon! Bizarre thing is, when I got home and rested for a day, I found myself in the studio... painting faces, which I really did not think would happen!

And if I had a day job I wouldn't quit, but I really am having too much fun!! And I'm sharing because, well, I have gotten such inconceivably positive feedback and I am proud of myself. Really. For taking a risk and being blessed by the incredible atmosphere and energy I brought away from Saluda. Sigh... my home away from home!

I already know that realism isn't going to be my thing, but that's OK. And I'll never be a Misty Mawn, and that's OK too, but I'm having a darned good time being me right now!

Happy Creating!!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Thoughts on Friendship

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.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

I Choose To

The theme of this year's National Chronic Invisible Illness Week is "I Choose To" and one of my choices is to always be emerging from the cocoon, seeking the new and extraordinary, finding and using wings that had been dormant, not settling for a life spent crawling. Well, not all the time. I wake up and wait to see how I'm going to feel for the day and more often than not it's so-so, meaning, no errands, social events or major chores. So, I choose to go to the studio, put on my headphones and blast my fight songs - Rage Against the Machine, Led Zeppelin, Three Days' Grace, Rolling Stones, Tool, well, you get the idea. And then I gesso a page, prepare for takeoff...

I most always start out with a layer of texture - paper, trim, stuff that will give my page depth. By then I usually have a photograph in mind and I choose a color palette. Hopefully with one or two colors I haven't used recently. That's when I reach high altitude. Paint on the hands, the artist's manicure, messy, whatever you want to call it, is my favorite state of being. Ever. 

Then, progressing to the 'put it all together' in a cohesive way stage takes me into bins, drawers, bags and stashes, exploring and in search of the elements that make my heart sing. Or fly. And after I've glued everything down, I use Pan Pastels to touch the piece with color, make it pop. And when I land I'm sitting in the exact same spot but have traveled through worlds of color, texture, music, depth, insight and love.

Thursday, September 5, 2013


Heading to Saluda tomorrow - one my most favorite home away from homes! The workshop will be fun and amazing (and surprising, I hope, considering I don't do faces:) and I so look forward to the company of other artists, along with the fabulous Jane Powell, proprietress of all things cool, funky, creative and unusual!

This piece is another in the series of watercolor pages I've done incorporating my photos - the options are proving to be endless, thankfully! Can't wait to try some new techniques - always a treat. Stay tuned for Invisible Illness Week!! Until then, what's on your table?

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

you think you've seen it before

We've been to our place on the lake a hundred times (well, not exactly, but close). I love the familiarity of watching the birds chat at the feeder when it rains and the squirrels aren't draining the food. The way the gravel in the driveway pinches when I take the three steps to the garage to get a cold water, the fawn leaping out of my way when I take the 4-wheeler out for an early morning cruise, and the comforting smallness of the cabin. 

Our love for the lake isn't about speeding across the open water for miles, it's about relaxing, exploring and for some of us, fishing. And for me, the only and best exercise possible for anyone suffering from chronic illness - swimming. A way to work my muscles against the resistance of the water and restore a bit of strength to my aching limbs. So, we go to the same cove most of the time. If we're early enough there's privacy and it's stunningly beautiful. I never tire of the endless detail in the rocks, trees with roots that continue to nourish despite threading along above ground. Labor Day is a crazy time to go to Lake Cumberland, as with any holiday weekend the traffic increases exponentially. But it was our last chance and I couldn't let the summer end without one more swim in my cove. So, we put the boat in at 9 a.m. and back out at 2 p.m. when the lines are stretching up far beyond the parking area.

Last summer they raised the water level 20 feet after finishing repairs to the dam, which created a new, tiny cove previously tucked out of sight. The Saturday-night storms created beautiful waterfalls and Sunday we discovered a new one. Instead of admiring it from the water we hiked up the creek through the cold, shallow water until we were a quarter-mile in and wishing we had a camera. The stillness, the rare, untouched quality, the frogs and ferns and forks in the creek that twisted deep into the woods... and then we found this guy, not rare but unlike any caterpillar I'd ever seen. We realized that the familiarity of our surroundings had given way to an entirely new vision. That's how it's supposed to be when you pay attention and look, really examine your surroundings. The detail we miss with every step is astounding and this was a great lesson in learning to really see.

When we finished admiring him, Jim took him back into the safety of the woods, and one day there will be a cocoon and eventually a Citherona Regalis (or Royal Walnut moth) will emerge. Maybe I'll be lucky enough to see him, or another just as beautiful.  


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