Monday, October 13, 2008

Sidewalk Gallery

In mid-October, the sidewalks of my town's plaza are transformed into works of art as a fundraiser for North Coast Children's Services. Artists team up with sponsoring businesses to work wonders with pastels on a concrete canvas; thus, the event's simple moniker: Pastels on the Plaza. This year, it rained rather enthusiastically the night before but undeterred, participants showed up and got to work. The results, as usual, were often whimsical, sometimes stunning, and, perhaps, brighter than usual, as damp sidewalks made the pastels a more fluid medium. Artists are allowed to use only dry pastels (no oils), water, and whatever blending tools they desire. No fixatives...no chemicals...This is the first year that I managed to remember my camera so I could capture this celebration of art as ephemeral as sandcastles; the minute Nature sweeps through with a cleansing rain, all this beauty and hard work simply melts away. There were lots of bird images this year...This egret was this year's "poster bird" for a local organization, F.O.A.M, aka Friends of the Arcata Marsh. Egrets and herons are commonplace here on the Lost Coast so they are often a popular motif. There were also hummingbirds hovering in sweet columbine...

...and a resplendent peacock, his feathery finery spilling out of the boundaries of the artist's assigned space. This was probably my favorite of the year. I am always amazed at the level of detail and nuances of shading that these artists achieve on such a rough surface. More pics tomorrow..

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

A Lost Coast Tale: Unexpected Company for Tea

Sometimes...no, many, many times...certain events begin as one thing and end up as something else altogether. Case in point: My latest attempt to capture one of the grand, late summer sunsets here on the Western edge of the continent. I have this thing about sunsets; they fascinate me and I have fantastic view of the setting sun from my apartment balcony. In truth, photos never do justice to this end-of-day spectacle but I love to try to capture the miracle anyway. Ever notice, how, at some point, the sun seems to hover low in the sky, motionless, draped in all its fiery finery, only to begin to sink at an ever-increasing pace? I typically wait just a tad too long to grab my camera and then the race is on: the sun making its beeline for the horizon and me, trying to figure out what setting is best on my camera before the scene melts away. This evening was no different and I was out the door, snapping pictures before I realized what I had rushed into: swarms of bloodthirsty mosquitos. Some years here on the North Coast, the mosquitos seem especially prolific...and huge...and aggressive. So here I am, so beset by these little winged monsters that I'm afraid they'll actually show up in my photos (that's them...that black band at the bottom of the pic...just kidding...sort of). Feeling a bit weak from the constant hum of incoming mosquito attacks, I finish my impromptu photo shoot and run for home, trailing the swarm in my wake.

At my front door, no matter my haste, I am forced to pause...the mosquitos move in for a nice long, itchy drink...but I am held in place by the sight of a beautiful little Pacific tree frog clinging to my door jamb. His tiny little toes are in danger of sudden amputation if I blunder blindly onward so I scoop him up with my free hand and slip inside. The hungry hordes outside bounce harmlessly off my door, foiled in their quest for dinner.
My son always welcomes visitors of amphibian persuasion so I proceed upstairs, camera in one hand, squirmy guest in the other, calling out for Daniel to get ready for company. As I deposit the frog into my son's hands, I realize my camera is still at the ready so, calling out directions, I begin to snap off photos of our new friend. Blinking his copper eyes and slowly surveying his surroundings, the little frog seems momentarily stunned by the turn of events that have teleported him from my darkened door to a bright, foreign world that is getting brighter and noisier by the second as I try to coach my frog wrangler, compose my shots, adjust the lighting, and work the focus button. The green and gold fellow hesitates only momentarily and then begins his quest for home. He leaps with abandon, I cry out in surprise, and my son wisely backs away from the crazy dance of junior wildlife photographer and webbed subject. By happenstance, an empty teacup sits on the dining table and yes, also by chance, the little frog lands unexpectedly in the cup as he tries to escape. I am delighted by this, foolishly believing that this porcelain "cage" will halt my subject in his wild quest for freedom. Cackling excitedly, I snap off a few more shaky (and ultimately unusable) shots before the little one decides he's had enough. In one, brilliant moment that I could not have planned, he leaps to the edge of the cup while I simultaneously click the shutter. I catch him, paused at the cup's brim, comtemplating his next move. After this, a lively chase ensues that spans half my living room; I finally manage to scoop my guest up into a gentle hand so I can return him to the wild. He doesn't go back to the dangerous door jamb however. Instead, I deposit him into the flourishing jasmine that creeps the walls of my tiny back patio. Goodnight, sweet friend, and thanks for the unexpected adventure.

Friday, September 12, 2008

TGIF

A quick shout out to Sesame Street (and perhaps, the ghost of Jackson Pollock as well...) Happy Friday Everyone!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Hello World!! (she shouted softly...)

It is sort of a "blink-and-you'll-miss-it" debut but I am very proud to be included in L.K. Ludwig's excellent book on art journaling, True Vision. One of my 2007 New Year's resolutions was to finally get some of my art published so when I saw L.K.'s call-for-art on her blog last summer, I took a huge emotional leap, sent some scans, and ultimately, sent one of my art journals for perusal and publication. Have to confess that I got a bit teary-eyed pulling this book off the shelf at Borders and opening it up to my pages...it wasn't so much the completion of my resolution itself but the huge shift in my mindset this small accomplishment represents...done hiding from the world, I think.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Just playing...

Since I got my cast off five months ago, I've fielded at least weekly (sometimes daily) well-intentioned, kindly inquiries as to when I am going to start painting again (read: "make some real art")...doctors, physical therapists, counselors, patrons, venue owners, fans, friends, family...if one more person asks...I admit to having taken a gentle, wandering, laidback route back to hard-core, all-day studio work but although I may not be churning out stuff to sell, I have been engaged in one artsy, crafty pursuit or another since just two or three days after the surgery. I started with coloring books, moved into regular journaling, and have slowly worked up to a bunch of personal projects that have been languishing on my wish list since I really fell headfirst in the life of a professional artist mid-July of last year. You know...the kind of stuff that won't win any awards or even pay for a cup of coffee but that definitely feed the soul of an artist: PLAYTIME! And my play projects have served as the perfect, no-pressure re-training ground for my post-fusion hand. Last week, I finally completed altering my first old suitcase....here's the little Featherlite before...

...and after...


I definitely went for "pretty, girlie vintage" on this...it was loads of fun and easy on the hands...it will be fun to travel with or simply for carting around art supplies in style if I'm teaching. And when it was finished, I felt an incredible sense of accomplishment; this suitcase has been fidgeting fretfully in my studio for months, self-conscious about its nakedness and eager to get some style on!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Returning to the World

It has been 4 months since I was allowed to finally meet my new, completely fused right wrist and the "getting-to-know-you" period has been protracted. Physically, things proceeded slowly but surely with lots of physical therapy (still ongoing.) The biggest challenge was/is combating the 39 years' worth of hard-wiring in my brain that tells me how to do things with a flexible wrist while actually using a fixed wrist. The simplest tasks seemed to become Chinese puzzles. Mentally...emotionally...my life took a turn down a dark corridor for a while as I tried to gain some measure of acceptance, inner peace, and strength in the face of a draining recovery process. For a while, I went into hiding as the world seemed just too bright for comfort.

And now, I am surfacing, breathing deeply and liking what I see. On so many levels, after some therapy, much brutal self-examination, lots of quiet contemplation, a multitude of sunny days spent beneath the garden's jasmine, a little bit of Tai Chi, the unwavering support of friends & family, copious journaling, healthy living and yes, a bit of medication, I feel as if I am entering a time of personal renaissance. My artistic life is still recovering as my wrist continues to strengthen but each new day, I manage a little bit more in the studio. I have show venues booked for 2009 but for now, I am playing, experimenting, testing and retraining my mind and hands. My journals have really taken center stage in the last several months so I have LOTS of new work to show. My journals provided a soft place for my wild emotions to land without judgment. They also became a daily "exercise yard" as I reintroduced my hand to the world of art supplies patiently waiting for me to reach out once again.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Free at Last! Free at Last!


"...see how the flesh grows back
across a wound, with a great vehemence,
more strong
than the simple, untested surface before.
There's a name for it on horses,
when it comes back darker and raised:
proud flesh,
as all flesh
is proud of its wounds, wears them
as honors given out after battle,
small triumphs pinned to the chest --"
Jane Hirshfield

Well, this moment was a longer time in coming than originally anticipated. I was scheduled to get out of the cast way back on March 26 (6 weeks post-op) and I told myself after my last blog entry..."When the cast comes off, I'll blog." "When the cast comes off, I'll journal." Turns out that Xrays revealed my hand had not fused in one of the three places the surgeons had packed in my hip bone. Sigh! Back into another blasted cast for another 4 weeks. Prescription: Lots of walking (to increase blood flow), calcium, vitamins, rest, and of course, the restriction and protection provided by a fiberglass prison. For the most part, I managed to behave myself. No lifting, pushing, or pulling. But I did "alter" my cast to make moving my fingers easier. While unauthorized (but tolerated with raised eyebrows) by my doctors, that deconstruction of my cast allowed for continued art-making while healing. Last week, after ten weeks in a cast, I went through the follow-up process again and received official word on Friday (4/25) that my hand is almost completely fused and that I could advance into a soft, removeable splint. Let me tell you: there was not enough hot water and perfumed soap in the house once I was allowed to actually wash my arm. And finally! Showering without a taped-on plastic bag! Yes! It is the small things in life that make living grand.

Now, I move on to the next signpost in this journey: rehabilitation and adaptation. My arm is withered and pathetic, weak and awkward. I find it quite strange that it doesn't move; although my logical self understands that 10 screws, a titanium plate, and no joints mean that my wrist doesn't move (and won't ever again), my brain seems to have missed that news flash. It keeps sending signals to move my wrist as I go through my day and automatically try motions I could do pre-surgery, only to discover "Ooops! Can't do that any more!" It is taking some adjustment. As for the Harry Potter-esque scar...it actually looks pretty good. My hand surgeon has excellent sewing skills and a knack for working in small spaces, so the scars acquired in the last four surgeries are all minimal. I've looked at pictures of incisions on the Internet, posted by people who have the same surgeries I've had, and their scars are Frankenstein-ish by comparison. I'm not a vain person but I am very self-conscious. This is the largest, most obvious scar I have (love the lightning bolt motif!) but if this is what it looks like at eleven weeks out, it is sure to fade to almost nothing over time. And if it doesn't...well, the quote above says it all.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Blue Days & Conquering Posies

Journal entries: Feb 24 & 26, 2008

My artistic energies as of late have been solely devoted to working in my current art journal, a repurposed tome of illustrated children's poems. I prep my journals entirely in advance before I commence working on them: removing extra pages so the journal isn't too unwieldly once finished, gluing pages together to make a sturdy work surface, and gessoing all the pages to create a nice blank canvas. Sometimes, I preserve text or images from the original book and I use those as prompts for entries when I arrive at those particular pages. In this journal, I painted a bunch of pages in advance of my surgery so I could skip that step while casted. The surgeon would probably frown upon a paint-encrusted cast...although that would be cool! Since the surgery, this journal has served as a vital place for me to express all my inner turmoil and trepidations but I have also been using the journal as a forum for lifting my own spirits and as a very fun form of physical therapy. It is fantastic exercise to hold brushes and pencils & to try creating from the elbow and shoulder as opposed to the wrist. As a result, I am discovering that my style is evolving. I am forced to be imprecise and my lack of fine motor control gives the entries a sort of wiggly, energetic look. The entries above were definitely somber in tone so on the next spread, I deliberately set out to brighten my mood. Inspiration came serendipitously one day after I bought some lovely flowers at my local market.

Now I am not known for my green thumb; in fact, based on my past "gardening" history, you might think I was cursed. But I still can't resist getting my fingers in dirt once in a while and these "Ranuncula" won over my better judgment. They have wildly-layered petals in these incredibly saturated colors. That evening, I unconsciously began working on a journal spread that mirrored the flowers I had welcomed home to my front door. I really didn't realize the flowers' influence until I was finished and I recognized a similarity between my purchase and my art.

Journal Entry: March 6, 2008:

This project took a few days but aside from the sticker letter title and a couple of rub-ons (I am all about the rub-ons!!,) the painting and doodling is all me. I used acrylics, while gel pen, Sharpies, Staz-On, colored pencils for dark surfaces...a little bit of everything. In retrospect, I think it isn't too shabby given my current level of ability. The journaling is still a bit morose (I'm glad scans and photos blur out my writing) but in the end, these pages did indeed fill me with joy. I am a huge fan of fuschia-pink, sunlight-yellow, and pumpkin-orange so the pages turned out rather soaked in color. As a final touch, I added a couple busy little bumbles buzzing across the pages. It felt good to just play and allow myself to enjoy the process without concern for what artistic skills might now be compromised or lost completely. Actually, I found this piece very revealing: despite all my reservations, deep-down, I think I believe now that all will be okay in the end.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Infinitely Better than Purple

Following my right wrist fusion surgery on February 11, I was trapped in a bulky plaster, gauze, and elastic wrap dressing for 10 days. Then I made the 6 and one-half hour trek down to see my surgeon and received a shiny new purple cast. The doctor was running four hours (!!!!) behind schedule and they had settled me in the cast room, removed the dressing and then the stitches an hour after that and then...I sat there. Eventually, my surgeon wandered in, eyeballed the incision and ordered the new cast. I had had plenty of time to stare at all the possible cast colors, samples of which were displayed on a wall, wrapped around an old cane. Fire engine red, deep blue, some pastels and the most nasty array of florescent colors imaginable. Neon orange would have made me look as if I was wearing a road cone! Ultimately, I chose purple...my first colored cast in 6 surgeries. It looked really pretty - if such things can be pretty but it wasn't "installed" correctly and after a week, I had to have it removed and replaced by a doctor friend of mine. Plain ole white fiberglass...the kind of cast that starts to look very yucky in a very short period of time...bulky, heavy...an all-around pain in the $#@! However, add in a bunch of drawings by my cartooning students and of course, my own budding artist (his little alien dude named Splurg can be seen right by my thumb) and you start to have something a little bit more bearable. A couple of evenings later, I was sitting at my studio table, sponging Staz-On onto a journal page and eyeballing my teen sitting gluing to his computer game. I must have sort of glazed over, pausing in mid-sponge. Daniel looked at me and I glanced down at my cast. Hmmm...vibrant, lively permanent ink...hard, ugly, white surface...the nerve endings in my brain made the connection and I began to sponge ink onto my cast, tentatively at first but then gleefully, wildly. I also ending up doodling with Sharpies and stamping here and there. My son rolled his eyes (as only a teenager can) and laughed, saying "Well, it was only a matter of time." Indeed.

In other matters, I have been journaling like crazy...which means each entry is only taking me two days instead of three. I have lots of pages photographed but I need to get the photos resized and fit for posting. Stay tuned! More art coming!



Thursday, February 28, 2008

impertinences of fate

Journal page for Feb 23, 2008:

"The one resolution, which was in my mind long before it took the form of a resolution, is the keynote of my life. It is this, always to regard as mere impertinences of fate, the handicaps which were placed upon my life almost at the beginning. I resolved that they should not crush or dwarf my soul, but rather, be made to blossom, like Aaron's rod, with flowers."
Helen Keller

Monday, February 25, 2008

returning to art bit by tiny bit

Journal page for February 22, 2008:
...my post-surgerical days are progressing very slowly...battling some anxiety, depression...lots of pain and medication side effects...but i am pushing my hand hard to recover fine motor skills. any range of motion and strength lost in these early days will be almost impossible to regain fully once out of the cast. 3 days after surgery, i pulled back the gauze from between my thumb & index finger so i could work on my pinch. today is the two-week mark and i can gingerly use scissors and write with semi-legible results. i can color, doodle, glue and paint with both hands. i try to use my left hand whenever possible (i'll post in the future about the tricks of one-handed journaling). it is all very painful and by the end of the day, i regret moving at all but i find it is important to soothe my soul with a bit of art journaling...it takes all day to complete one entry...in between naps and crying jags...but i do feel a small sense of triumph when i can look at a completed page before bedtime. my journal has become a cherished place to air my wild worries, simmering sadness, and most importantly, whisper-soft, positive self-talk that needs a forum to become strong and loud and fierce so it can sustain me in the months to come.
P.S. Thank you so very much for any and all well wishes and comments...i can't respond to comments right now...mostly because Blogger doesn't have an email track-back feature (i have to dig around to find someone's email if not specfically written into a comment) but also because i'm conserving my typing energies for posting. so please don't take offense if i don't comment on a comment. thanks for reading and sticking with the lost coast post through its fits of starts & stops...

Sunday, February 17, 2008

and the road begins...


...it has been a busy month since i last posted. i finished 21 paintings for my show just before it went up on february 1st...i named this particular event "Ying, Yang, and a little bit of Jung" and the pieces fell into two types of series. the first series is big, bright, bold, simple, graphic...yang. the painting on the left, entitled "Born of Fire," is part of the first half of the show. the second series, ying, applies a more intimate version of the Chinese hua yang embroidery designs that inspired this entire group of artworks i've been working on since last june. for more than one reason...the most important of which i'll get to later in this post...i think i've finally come to the end of this style but i have learned a great deal and had a bunch of fun in the process.
the ying portion of the show is a series of landscapes that i simply numbered from 1 to 11. i call them "compositions in landscape." the underlying background prep is similiar to the above set of canvases, but as you can see the colors are softer and the detailed imagery (and accompanying found word poetry) makes the piece more reflective.
i named this show "Ying, Yang, and a Little Bit of Jung" because, while i worked on both sets of canvases simultaneously, alternating between styles when i got bored with one or the other, i didn't realize until the night before the show was to be hung, that i had generated a series of paintings that really represented two sides of me. lying in bed, i saw the harmony of the endeavor and given upcoming physical challenges, i saw how i had managed to play with and reveal two different sides of not only my artistic self but my mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical selves as well. too cool! click the image gallery link on the right for my picturetrail and then peek in the "Art on Canvas" folder. you'll be able to see all 21 pieces...
so the show went up february 1st and then i had 10 days to prepare myself for the next big adventure: surgery to completely and permanently fuse my right wrist. i've pecked out this post a la poet e.e. cummings because the shift key is a bitch with one hand. the surgery was feb 11 and i've been slowly recovering. the pain has been startling in its intensity; this is my 6th hand surgery and while post-surgical pain is a given, it has been a wildly miserable 6 six days. the surgeons used bone from my right hip to pack into the joint spaces in the hand and that surgery site seemed to wake up the day before yesterday, determined not to be ignored. i decided to rap out a blog posting today as a way of convincing myself i'm still all here but i really want to just burrow under my covers and pillows and sleep. the road ahead will be rough in places and triumphant in others, but for now, i'll be napping, gathering my strength.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Hip Deep in Canvas

I have a show to hang on February 1st and I am feverishly trying to make forward progress on this project. Here's a shot of some of the canvases I'm stepping around in the studio. Some are complete...some have the background dyed but not yet stencilled or sealed...on others, the backgrounds are finished and sealed, waiting for the imagery to be drawn and painted...some have the imagery sketched but are not yet painted. Off to the side, out of the picture frame, are more canvases. Some are fresh out of the wrapping and white as new snow; the rest have the initial layer of collage and are waiting for me to add the Japanese paper on top so it can be dyed. It gets a little crazy trying to keep it all straight. I'm in a push right now to get all the unfinished canvases to a point where the backgrounds are complete and sealed. Then, all I have to do is draw and paint, moving from one to another. Once the paintings are really, really complete, I'll add sawtooth hangers to the back, type, print & mount the display cards, write & print out my artist statement and make up a master price list. Whew! The up side is that I'll be really ready to just sit and rest once I have the surgery mid-February.

Monday, January 7, 2008

New Year's Contemplations

I haven't forgotten about blogging, my friends...a combination of traditional holiday chaos, frantic art show preparation, my son's school vacation, and a series of nasty winter storms all conspired to keep me from sending word from the Lost Coast in the last couple of weeks. I'm taking advantage of a break in the weather and a stretch of reliable electricity to post my first ramblings of 2008.

Between this post and the last, an old year came to a close and a new one was born. This is the time for resolutions, a game I typically play very enthusiastically. I actually make a list that I keep by my side the entire year. In 2007, I resolved to lose 40 pounds...I managed to drop 33 so let's call that close enough for now. I resolved to get serious about art as a career so I learned to work at least five to six hours per day in the studio, got bold about showing my art beyond my apartment threshold and emerged onto the local art scene with two successful shows. There were several other 2007 resolutions that I accomplished but as the sun rose on 2008, I found myself lost in thought.

With the significant challenges and changes I have coming in February, namely a full fusion of my dominant hand, the future is uncertain as a rickety wooden bridge traversing a raging river. Will the crossing be wobbly and scary but successful? Will a slat or two drop from beneath my feet, forcing me to step back for a time until I gain the courage (or ability) to leap across the void? What awaits me on the other side? Will I be sorry I ever decided to cross at all? Under these conditions, I am finding it hard to resolve to do anything specific in terms of my art. I won't know what mediums and techniques I'll be able to return to after the surgery. The level of fine motor control I'll regain won't become clear until several months, or even up to a year, after the surgery. Look at your wrist position sometime when you are painting, drawing, collaging, writing and then imagine your wrist perfectly flat and fixed...forever. I've been practicing with a brace, in the studio and around the house and it is amazing how integral the wrist is to so many movements and manipulations. It is certainly a joint I take for granted even after five surgeries. It is all so overwhelming to ponder on much that I am simply throwing myself into the work of the moment which means preparing canvases for a show that goes up February 1st. When the time comes, I think I will face that creaky old bridge with trepidation but also excitement, step slowly but steadily across, neverminding the holes that threaten the smooth progression of my journey and ultimately, with heart...spirit...soul wide open, welcome whatever awaits me on the opposite side.

Tonight,

I saw

the mysterious

dark velvet bird

again.

It seemed

to swoop out of

the shadows of my mind,

whispering

"Don't be foolish, my child.

You must dare to

fly...

fly...

fly..."

It was a sign,

a very good omen.

All would be well.

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