Thursday, May 31, 2007

Time to Paint Furiously


Well, I learned an important lesson on Wednesday: Sometimes when you leap blindly into unknown territory, you can land somewhere not only unexpected but wonderful.
As I have said, I've started painting again after a six year absence from the craft. Multiple hand surgeries and long term complications made painting just too difficult to do and enjoy. I have been doing a lot of painting in my journals but nothing on canvas. Just about three weeks ago, I decided, rather tentatively, to try again, ostensibly to deal with a flare-up of panic disorder triggered by current medical issues. The rhythm of brushstrokes, the smell of the paint, the experimentation with color mixing...I have missed it so much. It is an intoxicating craft and it works beautifully to keep me calm and grounded. It is still very painful (and sometimes still impossible) to do but hopefully, ongoing physical therapy will help make the process easier as I get stronger and healthier.
I had completed three canvases exploring Chinese folk art images in three weeks and was suddenly wondering what I was going to do with all these finished products. I only have so much wall space and I really only care to stare at my work for so long. So, in a burst of wild abandon, I wrapped the canvases in brown paper, gathered my courage, and set out to obliterate my comfort zone.
Every month, on the second Friday evening of the month, my home town hosts something called Arts Alive! Local businesses all over the city stay open late on that evening, provide live music and food in some cases, and host the work of local artists on the walls of their stores. A map of participating businesses, the artists, and the type of work featured is published in advance. It is a lively affair; people wander in and out of shops, looking at the art, enjoying the atmosphere, and buying art, of course, as the whim strikes. I've wanted to get in on this event for some time now but I really had no clue as to how artists paired up with each business. That part - the behind the scenes stuff - was a complete mystery to me as I had yet to enter the very healthy artist community here. I teach my classes and make my art but I keep it very much behind closed doors.
But something whispered to me on Wednesday that it was time so I bundled up my canvases and marched uninvited into a participating business that has, in my opinion, a fabulous atmosphere and layout for displaying art. It is a warm and sleek high-end furniture store with an emphasis on beautiful wood, splendid carpets, and unique pieces. The art is hung at eye level, the business only takes a 10 percent commission (that goes towards the employee snack fund), and there is plenty of room for lots of people to linger and gawk at art without feeling crowded. I waited patiently for the owner, introduced myself and asked if she would look at my work. (Remember...I'm wandering in completely from left field). She loved it and before I could really understand what I had just accomplished, I was booked for a solo showing in February 2008 and a smaller showing as well this October! Believe me...I tried really hard not to skip out the door. I'm still a bit in shock but my mind is rushing with ideas and I am so excited. This is the step I needed to take and how funny that I took it before I really knew what I was doing...

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Don't Forget to Breathe

Oh, so many journal pages and artworks to post since I've been "vacationing" from the Lost Coast for so long...the good thing is that they are all scanned and ready to go! I thought I'd start with this page as it is very appropriate for me today as I rush here & there preparing for an open studio on Saturday! It is simply amazing how fast dust can gather?! As someone with chronic migraines, I'm not big on opening my curtains too much but when I do...ack! Everything looks like it is covered in a soft, thick grey blanket. I'm battling an entire stampede of dust bunnies! Actually, they're more elephant-sized...

Anyway, since I last posted a journal entry from "My World Within" project, my pages have become so much more elaborate. I've been teaching cartooning this semester at my son's school so my pages really reflect my intense interest in more complicated bodies, outfits, and positions. The stork head is from Dover (copied, enlarged, & colored), the crown from a collage sheet I created and the rest is all me. I loved working on Her Majesty's robe and the doodled circle border. As of late, I've become particularly intrigued by birds (unusual ones rather than the typical, sweet songbird image), queens, and circles. Spirals, of course, being a favored and personally significant motif, will always be found somewhere in everything I do but it is fun to experiment with new elements.

Thank you to all for the comments rolling in since I popped up on the blog radar yesterday! It feels good to be missed! Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Rumors of My Blog Death...

...have been greatly exaggerated...whew! Five months can just fly right by when health issues rise up to steal away time and energy. Overall, I think Blogger is a great service but every time I thought about sitting at the computer, scanning, resizing, archiving, uploading, editing code, typing and...oh...trying to be witty...I suddenly found something much more entertaining to do.

I had what was supposed to be a "simple" foot surgery in mid-March to remove a benign tumor. Note to self: Don't listen to surgeons! I've been battling my way back to health day-by-day and and I am, by no means, where I need or want to be. Explaining all the complications would require several posts full of boring and depressing medical explanations so suffice it to say that much more than my foot has been affected as pre-existing chronic conditions responded to a drastic increase in pain and decrease in mobility.

However, as with all hardships, there is a bright side; I have turned to art more than ever to comfort and heal my spirit, even if my physical self is in complete rebellion. My "5 Squares A Day" project took a (perhaps predictable) nosedive into obilivion but I found that something very positive came of the attempt: I am, indeed, making art EVERY day...it's just that I'm not working on the inch-by-inch canvas. If I am not creating samples for a full and healthy teaching schedule (my students, kids and adults alike, have been very gracious in adjusting to the changes I've needed to make in my teaching style), I have been journaling my surgery experience and for the first time in at least five years, I have once again taken up painting. While I am still not able to paint at an easel (a long term goal of mine), I am able to paint in repeated short bursts. It is incredibly meditative and I can easily get lost in the work. It is escapist behavior at its best.

I've been working feverishly on a series of canvases using Chinese folk art designs, multi-layered, transparent backgrounds, and Golden Fluid acrylics. The backgrounds take a bit of time but are really a test of patience more than anything else. (It really is essential to let each layer completely dry before moving on.) Once I get to painting the actual image, I need uninterrupted time to sit and paint in one complete session as my mixes (sometimes up to ten in a single image) will dry on the palette as I go. I am practicing blending one color smoothly into the next, often working two or more brushes at the same time (one for each mixture) and a dry brush in my teeth to ease the color transitions.

The image posted today is an 18 by 18 inch gallery wrapped canvas of a phoenix, symbol in China of the Empress and representive of the "yin" or female half of Yin Yang (the dragon is its counterpart). This piece is entitled "Empress Rising." I thought this image would be particularly relevant given today's resurrection of my oft-neglected blog and was painted in comtemplation of my desire to rise from the ashes of my chronic conditions and become someone healthier and happier.
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