Sunday, November 22, 2009

What I Learned This Week

  • My marmalade baby Marley taught some fool human before me to let him drink out of faucets instead of bowls like proper cats so whenever he hears water running in the house, he comes running and hops up on the counter begging for water.  This is proving to be a very difficult habit to break...
  • I probably will never have a quiet moment alone in the bathroom ever again as both Tuscany and Marley have separation anxiety and feel they must supervise all operations in said bathroom...
  • Owning one cat is like owning an elephant; owning two cats is like owning the whole damn herd!
  • A herd of elephants will likely run you over if you don't get out of the way...
  • All it takes to lift my spirits is a torrential downpour.  I hope it pours buckets whilst I am on Thanksgiving break...
  • Although my break is ostensibly for relaxing, I have a ton of things to do and I hope I can be at least moderately productive in the coming week...
  • Last Minute Lesson:  I'd forgotten how tiny new humans can be.  I got to meet my nephew yesterday, just a mere 12 hours after he made his grand entrance onto the planet...welcome sweet baby boy!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Miss Frankenstein

This piece is 9 by 12 inches in real life so there's a tiny bit of clipping going on in the scan but I think you get the idea.  It might not be finished so I am letting it percolate in my brain awhile before I call it good.  (I think it might need some text.)  These are pretty fun to do desite some tediousness.  I'm trying to decide if I want the top coat to be beeswax or simply a high gloss varnish.  I'm also going to play around with a more deliberate layout of the pieces, different "mosaic" materials other than photocopies of old journal pages and pondering the use of 3-D embellishments like keys, washers, rhinestones and so on.  My studio is filled to bursting with whatnots and whatits and I'd love to have a series that starts to make use of all that I've collected.  When I'm working, however, I tend to get stuck on a look and fail to stray much from the formula, even if that formula was created in the first couple of pieces.  I need more of a mad scientist mentality when it comes to my art.  I have all sorts of wild ideas but stop short of bringing them to life.  A fear of failure definitely comes into play but wow!  Soooo time to get over that!  I need to learn to throw the switch and see what happens!  Sounds like a good resolution for the new year...

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Rain Came Down...

...and with the downpour, my spirits rose.  There's something about the relentless patter of rain that I find deeply comforting and inspiring.  Maybe it is a sort of white noise for my soul, drowning out all the hectic thoughts and doubts.  As the kitties stretched their toes before the heater, worn out from their usual morning play session, I settled into the studio, excited for the first time in days by a torrent of new ideas.  Of course, I should've been working on canvases for the December show but I felt that while the inspiration was flowing, I should follow it wherever it led.  What resulted was a series of small collaged canvases (5 inches square) on which I applied some of the journaling techniques I've been playing with lately.  I am excited by this concept and feel that the roots for a new show (or at least new work) have been planted.  I'm still very much in the experimental stage, trying to find my way through a wilderness of possibilities.  However, somehow I am confident that the path lies ahead.  I pop open a virtual umbrella and skip through the rain, delighting in the ideas falling from my brain.  

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


For me, 2009 hasn't been a bad year...not spectacular but not bad either.  However, I am really looking forward to the turning of an old year into new and the fresh start it represents.  In fact, I sort of wish we could just skip right past the intervening holidays and get down to the business of ringing in the new year.  Over time, New Year's Eve has become one of my favorite days;  I love the concept of resolutions and take the making and keeping of resolutions quite seriously.  That feeling of renewal is something I start craving right about now.  The approaching holidays feel oppressive rather than joyous.  It is a mindset I am trying to shake.  Maybe things will lighten up on Friday as Thanksgiving break starts and I'll be able to relax for a few days straight.  That should definitely help.  It will also feel good to hang my last art show of the year on December third; I'm ready to move on to new explorations and themes.  This feeling of restlessness is almost overwhelming.  It flutters around in my tummy and rattles my brain.  I tell myself to breathe, to take each day one at a time but I am ever so impatient.  Each week feels impossibly long and every weekend unbelieveably short.  Yes, I am definitely ready for a break...

Monday, November 16, 2009

Seeing & Searching

Well, I've decided to publish through the weekend to make up for some of the days I missed during the week.  In accordance with "Art Every Day Month," I've been doing a little bit of art each day no matter how I feel or how busy I am; I just don't always have time or energy left over for blogging.  But when I fail to blog, I miss you, dear readers, and your witty, funny, supportive commentary and so Lost Coast Post is going to try and resume a regular publishing schedule in spite of the chaos that has swirled in with the autumn winds.

As you can see from the above journal page, I continue to shamelessly indulge my Zettiology passion.  The incomparable Bea of Dog in the Hole Studio suggested a Zetti alter-ego as a vehicle for riding this wave of Teesha Moore-inspired art and I just think that is a fabulous idea.  I am currently auditioning characters in my brain and we'll see who comes out on top.  I want to be able to pursue my joy for Zetti without guilt over neglecting the other art styles and mediums I also love.  Of course the guilt is all self-manufactured but there nonetheless and I find that it is putting a damper on the merry-making.  And I feel like there is lots of merry-making to be done.  The world of Zetti is seemingly infinite, bounded only by the limits of imagination, and I want to spend plenty of time skipping through it, no matter what the art pundits say about imitation and originality.  Surely something that makes my heart sing can't be all bad.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Meet Marley

This seemingly laidback and lengthy fellow is definitely responsible for a good deal of my recent weariness as a human being.  He is also the reason that there will be no Christmas tree (aka "giant kitty toy") this year at Hand & Soul Studios (unless I am suddenly afflicted with brain fever).  Please welcome Marley, the newest (and last) addition to the family.  Marley is a freakishly large eight-month old bundle of insane energy that has quite literally turned our household upside-down.  I never really appreciated how sedate and sweet Miss Tuscany was until I introduced dear Marley into the mix.  And what an introduction it was.  At first, Tuscany hissed and growled and spit for all she was worth, puffing herself up to three times her normal size just to let the interloper know who was boss.  The two cats hunched their backs and inflated their tails, scuttling around each other like furry, furious crabs.  Three days later, they are chasing each other throughout the house like hormone-crazed teenagers.  Both are "fixed" so no fear there but that doesn't seem to put a damper on the love affair.  My son and I are on the sidelines, cleaning up after the feline hurricane.  We may need to be rescued from these rescue animals.  But as wild as they are, when they are "off" (and recharging), Tuscany and Marley are curled up in their respective spaces, looking adorable as ever.  And in those quiet times, I catch my breath and remind myself that it will eventually settle down.  I remember that they give as much as they take most days and that life would definitely be emptier without them.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

What I Learned This Week

  • Some weeks there doesn't seem much to glean as it is all about survival to the weekend...and then to the next weekend and so forth and so on...
  • I was weary of the holiday season starting back in August; this may be a Scrooge year...
  • The monkeys and squirrels seem particularly sensitive to my weariness and feed off it like vultures...
  • Thanksgiving week will be a welcome respite...
  • My obsession with Teesha Moore continues unabated and I will let it run its course to see where it may lead no matter how much self-doubt trails along behind...
  • My doodling skills are quite rusty...
  • There are a lot of supplies and skills that I've left to rust and I really feel that I must do something about that...
  • Once my favorite place to haunt, I realized that I now hate scrapbook stores and all the neat, predetermined looks they advertise as "must-haves."  Fine art stores are much more supportive of real soul expression...
  • My soul is in serious need of authentic expression.  I feel some humdinger New Year's resolutions forming in my head...

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Marching Forward Through Doubt

These last few days have been a strange mix of excitement and ennui as I try to find some balance between doing and being.  Tis the season for such feelings I suppose.  Even if I'm not directly involved in the holiday chaos, I can feel it in the air and it is sucking the life right out of me.  I'm definitely looking forward to Thanksgiving break.  I've been keeping up with AEDM for the most part, working on journal page construction or the journaling itself.  In her videos, Teesha explains that she completes all the artwork in advance of the writing and then sits down later to add her thoughts.  Thus, the images don't always relate directly to the journaling and I'm finding that hard as I tend to use the imagery to inspire and support what I have to say.  I'm also struggling deeply with working in this style; it feels oddly comforting and foreign at the same time.  I'm wondering how I can make this my own.  Perhaps I can't.  Maybe I just need to balance this sort of work with continued work in all my other journals.  Art journaling is supposed to be for one's own soul alone; what it looks like isn't all that important as long as the process of building the pages supports the expression of internal dialogue.  And I adore this process of collaging, character construction, doodling, and lettering.  As I relax into page construction, my brain relaxes as well and the words begin to flow.  That what's  most important.  I just need to keep that in mind if I begin to doubt myself.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

What I Learned This Week

  • Sometimes a week is clearly defined by one, simple overriding principle: "What was I thinking??!?"
  • Attempting two shadow puppet, ad-libbed productions of The Wizard of Oz in three weeks' time definitely rates several "What was I thinking??!?" moments...maybe a lifetime's worth...
  • Attempting said production with 45 middle school monkeys with rather sketchy memories of the Judy Garland classic is even crazier...
  • "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" is hilarious when sung by a middle school boy who doesn't know the lyrics...
  • When allowing students to improvise, be prepared say "Keep it appropriate" about a billion times.
  • Ghetto scarecrows, zombie tin men and cross-dressing lions may show up during improvisation...stay calm...  
  • Post-teaching beverages should have an alcoholic content of some kind...sigh!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Happy Is As Happy Does

It is day 5 of Art Every Day Month and I'm cruisin' right along.  In between four loads of laundry and a kitchen full of dirty dishes, I am doing some journaling on Zetti pages that I've completed otherwise.  These pages have been so much fun to do but I have to keep reminding myself not to over-contemplate things and just clip, glue, go!  The borders seem to come together in a jiffy but constructing the characters is a much more tedious process.  So much material to choose many much digging around in the stash for the perfect image.  I guess that the more I do it, the faster I'll get but for now it seems to take forever for a character to form. 

According to the weatherman, there's a big rainstorm is rolling in off the Pacific and I hope that's the case as I adore the sound of rain.  I sleep better, I work better, I feel better when a little bit of precipitation falls down around me and I can stay inside with some coffee, a good movie, and uninterrupted art time.  Sigh!  That sounds absolutely delicious!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Happiness is a Warm Journal

Wow!  Welcome to Wednesday!  The week is almost halfway over and not a peep from me since last Friday!  Those of you who care may ask yourselves "Now what has that girl gone and gotten herself into?"  "What is shakin' over at Lost Coast Post?"  Well, this year's Art Every Day Month started out with a bang on Sunday, November 1 and thanks to Miz Teesha Moore, Hand and Soul Studios has been rockin' and rollin' ever since.  As you may know (the art journaling world seems sort of abuzz about it), Teesha has posted a series of videos over at her blog and on YouTube showing how she journals step-by-step.  FOR FREE!  Talk about a gift!  As a long time fan, I am thrilled to pieces and am completely enthralled with journaling all over again!  Do these pages I've been creating follow and mimic Teesha's stuff?  Yup.  Am I worried about not having my own voice or look?  Nope.  Do I care?  Nope.  Not one teeny tiny bit.  'Cause I'm having so much fun!  I figure Teesha isn't worried all that much about it either.  I have about 12 journals in varying stages of completition (besides the one above) and those journals are very much "me."  Hell, I think that even my "a la Teesha" pages are "me" as my eyes, brain and hands assembled them.  My heart gets poured out onto the pages.  I'm not out to teach a class in the techniques I pick up from Teesha nor do I plan to sell my work.  I plan to play my brains out.  I want to slip into some sort of collage trance with bits of paper softly drifting down down around me, remnants of a paper clipping blizzard.  I plan to lose all my pens a thousand times in the disaster I now call my studio table.  I intend to find them again and doodle, doodle, doodle until my fingers stiffen around the barrels like claws.  Then I'll take my paint-splashed self and collaspe, exhausted, wrapped in the sheer bliss that follows a fabulously frantic day of art-making.  And then I plan on doing it all again tomorrow...   

Friday, October 30, 2009

What I Learned This Week

  • Handing sharp instruments to squirrely students does not have to spell "B-L-O-O-D-S-H-E-D" and in fact, can result in cleverness and creativity galore.
  • Handing sharp instruments to said squirrels DOES mean much worry and sweating and stern guidance.
  • While classroom chaos does not occur in carving class, it DOES erupt during a lesson on paper folding...go figure!
  • Perhaps having 45 students fold and race paper airplanes was not the best idea if the goal was a soft, reserved, dignified lesson plan on origami.
  • It was really fun watching the middle school monkeys and their creativity take flight, no matter how chaotic the air space.
  • Spending a lot of time working small can result in a nearly wild urge to work HUGE! 
  • Large, prestretched canvases cost as much as dinner at a nice restaurant.  Box mac & cheese it is for me!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Dem Bones

Well, we had studied design elements and principles to death so it was finally time to give my high school squirrels some sharp objects and hope that no blood letting (unintentional or otherwise) ensued.  I am very happy to report that my first day of stamp carving with the students went well (and bloodless).  There were constant reminders of "Don't put your fingers in the carving path!" (she shrieked) and the occasional "Don't use the gouge as a pointer!" but all in all, they did just fine.  We are studying Mexican printmaker and social commentator Jose Posada in conjunction with our stamp carving, using Posada's famous calavera (Spanish for "skull")illustrations as inspiration for our own carvings of playful skulls and skeletons.  Yesterday, students started out by carving something small and simple so they could get a feel for the tools and material.  Over the next three or four class sessions, we will advance to carving a full skeleton and then learn how to ink the carvings and pull prints.  The kids have done some deliciously wicked skeleton sketches and I can't wait to see them translated into carvings.  There are skeletons dancing and skeletons skating, royal skeletons and warrior skeletons.  Drawing even a simplified skeleton with clothes and accessories is no small feat and the squirrels have done a fabulous job.  I'm off to carve my own skeleton to use as a demo piece.  Hope everyone has a terrific Tuesday!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Art in the (Itty Bitty) Round

My weekend was soft and quiet, filled with tiny art-making and here and there, some vigorous house cleaning.  These are some "rinchies" (inchies in circle format) that I made for a swap of such itty bitty things.  There is something oddly meditative about creating art on such a small canvas.  When I sit down to work on miniatures, the world sort of melts away as I focus on finding and clipping just the right size images, gluing down the practically microscopic pieces, figuring out my theme, adding the words, and finally edging the circles with a little bit of Staz-On ink.  You may ask:  What in the world do you do with such little things?  Inchies, rinchies, and other art in a mini format (typically under two or three inches in any one direction) are perfect for use in mixed media jewelry projects, greeting cards, small artists' books, and gift tags among other things.  I like to use these as mini illustrations in my journals where writing is the primary focus as opposed to those journals where ideas are mainly communicated through images and journaling is secondary.  I am finding that the process of creating minis, the intense concentration that develops as I hunch over my creations, is the most important and refreshing result of a tiny art session.   

Friday, October 23, 2009

What I Learned This Week

Welcome to a new Friday feature here at Lost Coast Post...
"What I Learned This Week:"

  • Tiny, tiny art can fill the need to create something without feeling compelled to create a major masterpiece...
  • To pick up all those bitsy clippings off the table with a fused hand, put a little bit of poster putty on the end of a paintbrush and viola!  Works splendid for found word poetry work as well...
  • My kitty princess, Miss Tuscany Jane, likes to play tag but my ankles are getting the short end of the deal in this game...
  • Aforementioned royalty is becoming a bit of a bed hog...
  • Blackberry honey and peanut butter sandwiches make the best breakfast in the world...
  • Monkeys will climb down off the bookshelves and light fixtures if the ole cartooning lesson plan is dangled in front of them...
  • Monkeys love, love, love to model funny poses for each other during said cartooning class...
  • I love monkeys!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Two Twinchies and a Mini Mona

After making those Paris-themed inchies for a swap, I realized how much I've missed working small...really small...and so after a cup of coffee and toast at 4:30am, I managed an inchie of dear, sweet-faced Mona, and just to spice things up, two butterfly "twinchies" (2-inch square art)....all before my son crawled out of bed at 5:30.  If I didn't have an intervening physical therapy appointment, I think I'd play straight through to evening.  I've decided that I'm going to make a bunch of these little pieces of art and then color-copy them at Staples to make my own collage sheet.  Won't that be fun?  I'd also forgotten how much I love to make up my own collage sheets and so I'm on a mission to create a Hand & Soul Studios image collection.  Anahata Katkin had these themed collage image books some while back (she discontinued them last year or the year before that) and while I coveted them, I never made the investment because I didn't want to use so much of someone else's stuff in my own work.  But if I make my own???  Too cool! I know exactly what types of images and symbols I like to use over and over again in my work and I'll be able to tailor my collage sheets directly to what I'm always looking for in collage material.  And going through the process of making art for collage sheets will ensure I have plenty of little projects to do when AEDM starts up in November.  Wheee!  Off to hunch over my work table some more!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Parisians & AEDM

Sometimes, all I have time for is a tiny bit of art, what with all the dishes, laundry, kitty snuggling, parenting, teaching of monkeys, and necessary self-care so I don't crash and burn.  And I do mean tiny art:  here's 6 Paris-themed inchies (one-inch square art) I managed to create this morning in between getting the boy out the door for school and lunchtime.  I used to do inchies all the time before my hand surgery and now, with my wrist fused, it can be quite a challenge to pick such little things up off the table.  But, as always, I managed and I love the results.  I have a feeling that when Art Every Day Month starts up in a mere ten days, I'll be playing around a lot more with inchies.  They are a great way to get in some art time without a huge commitment.  And on that note...if you are joining me for AEDM in November, remember that you do NOT have to start and finish a piece every single day.  The guideline is just that you work on something artsy each day in the month.  As the coordinator of AEDM, Leah Piken Kolidas states, this is a "low-pressure challenge."  Art is how you define it and could range from painting to knitting to a home-cooked meal to singing in the shower.  If you miss a day, just start again the next.  Besides making a little art every day, I'm planning on using November to live loudly and proudly as an artist, something that is really hard for me.  That'll mean wearing handmade jewelry, brightening up the wardrobe, using the purses and bags that I've made, artist dates...just coming out of the studio, so to speak.  What will committing to art every day inspire you to do?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Pretty in Pastel

More simple playing around...I'm still dealing with fibromyalgia fatigue so I'm not as productive as I'd like but still managing to create a little something every day and that's a plus.  Every so often, I get the urge to make pink and girly and romantic things and so this postcard piece arose out of that sort of compulsion.  It used to be that all I did was pink and pretty but now my palette is dominated by hot pinks, lemon yellow, and pumpkin orange.  It is good to take a break from all that screaming color every now and again and take a breath.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Jeepers Creepers & Farmers' Market

I love these birdy paper dolls from ARTchix!  I spent the weekend just playing around, trying to shake off some stress and shake loose some artist's block.  My creative juices always seem to dry up a bit after a big push to complete a lot of large pieces and since hanging my "Facades" show October 1st, my easel has stood dusty and neglected.  I long to paint but my brain is fried so I am working on little bits here and there.  When I want to "prime the pump," so to speak, I tend to play with a lot of pre-determined materials like scrapbook papers, collage sheets, embellishments and so forth rather than creating everything myself.  Using stuff other people have designed takes the pressure off and I feel free to let go.

In other weekend news, I spent Saturday morning at the local Farmers' Market and came away with apple-cinnamon bread, jalapeno-cheddar scones, blackberry honey, zucchini, and three pounds of Ruben Star apples.  I've been making an effort to get out to the market each weekend as I love simply wandering around, listening to the live music, admiring the baskets of flowers, fruits, and veggies, and watching everyone else who has decided to trade sleeping in for market morning.  Plus, I get some fabulously tasty organic goodies in the bargain! 

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Ruler of the House

It has almost been a year since a new baby came into my life, one actually prescribed by a forward-thinking physician.  Full of fine soft fur, fun, and fight, she has had me laughing and loving ever since.  Miss Tuscany Jane came into the world the hard way, born at a millyard that sits along the cold, blustery edge of the bay.  I'm told that she had siblings and of course, a mama, but that of all the wild babies at the mill, only Tuscany was successfully captured.  She was transported to a local animal rescue where she promptly hissed and bit for all she was worth and the rescue manager proclaimed her one of "the top ten worse feral cases" she'd ever dealt with in ten years.  She was so traumatized that the rescue had to keep a blanket over her carrier so she wouldn't try to attack her caregivers through the bars.  She was extremely malnourished and there were moments when her life was in question.  But she made it and slowly, very slowly, she warmed up to the idea of living in a world with human beings.  Some five months later, I wandered into the rescue, companion animal prescription in hand, and it took all of two minutes for me to know that Tuscany, with all her rough edges, was the one for me.  There had been several other adoption petitions filed before mine but somehow they all fell through.  I took it as a sign that this fiesty little furball was meant to tear up my household and brighten my days.

When I brought Tussy home, she hid under the dining table for several days but predictably she emerged for tuna-flavored kibbles and (thankfully), the potty.  Gradually, she began to seek out my attention and I responded with gentle, nonthreatening baby talk and sneaky little strokes from head to tail when I could make physical contact.  It has been a long, slow dance for the last ten months but Tuscany now sleeps with me under the comforter every night and spends a good portion of the morning curled in my lap, purring for all she's worth.  She has retained some feral behaviors:  she hates loud noises and strangers, she rarely meows, and she has a certain unpredictableness of mood.  I've showed these pictures to the rescue and I'm told that it is highly unusual for reformed feral cats to expose their belly.  However, Miss Tuscany seems quite comfortable with Rubenesque, full frontal exposure.  She reminds me every day to play fiercely and love passionately with plenty of naps in between.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Miles To Go

Our mild fall weather has turned dark and stormy with rain periodically beating down upon the roof, bringing a lovely, soothing sound to this loft-like apartment.  The little green & copper tree frogs are singing along to the rhythm of the rain, thrilled that their world has suddenly turned so damp.  These are snuggle-in-bed days but I'm due to teach the ins and outs of focal points this afternoon to my high school students.  We are (finally) finishing up our unit on design elements and principles and the kids are sooo ready to move on to stamp carving and printing.  And frankly, so am I.  I have so many things on my plate right now and so many more things waiting in the wings for time to bring them to fruition. All I need is time and focus and energy and...time.  Sigh!  I just have to trust that my dreams will wait patiently for me to catch up. 

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Be Fabulous

For purposes of blog post illustration, I've been pulling images (today & yesterday) from a journal of mine previously kept pretty much under wraps.  "Soul Stories" is about two-thirds complete and is a repurposed tome of children's poetry.  Whilst preparing the book for journaling, I gessoed the pages before painting with a variety of cheap craft acrylics. (Note:  For art journaling, crafting paints are best because they have more binder than pigment, making them easier to write over AND they save your expensive acrylics for other projects.)   On some pages, I left just a thin coat of gesso over the illustration so I could come back through and alter that image for a journal entry.  On others, I preserved the poem so I could use it for future inspiration.  Mostly I simply used the book as a substrate for my journaling, completely painting over the original text and images (as with the page above.)  A lot of the entries in this journal are very personal and thus off limits for public viewing but a few are more illustrative than narrative.  I really like to create "affirmation" pages in my journals, little visual bits of positive self-talk that I can return to when I am blue.

And speaking of fabulous, do yourself a favor and visit dear sweet Kelly at Soul Humming to reserve yourself a copy of her incredible art calendar for 2010!  12 months worth of Kelly's incredible art just waiting to grace your walls!  Wow! 

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Sweet Songbird O' Mine

A bird came down the walk;
He did not know I saw;
He bit an angle-worm in halves
And ate the fellow, raw.

And then he drank a dew
From a convenient grass,
And then hopped sidewise to the wall
To let a beetle pass.

He glanced with rapid eyes
That hurried all abroad, -
They looked like frightened beads, I thought
He stirred his velvet head

Like one in danger; cautious,
I offered him a crumb,
And he unrolled his feathers
And rowed him softer home

Than oars divide the ocean,
Too silver for a seam,
Or butterflies, off banks of noon,
Leap, plashless, as they swim.

Emily Dickinson

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Witches Have Arrived

As the weather cools down and the leaves begin to swirl, I start to get in the mood for the most Zetti holiday of all - Halloween!  While I spied Halloween merchandise in the craft stores by late June, it seems only natural to play in orange, purple, and black when the quilts come out of the linen closet and icy lemonade gives way to hot tea with cinnamon sticks.  Over at My ARTistic Life, Helga is hosting a challenge asking artists to create something with an inchie attached.  Given the option of using a 4x4-inch or ATC format to feature the inchie, I ran with the trading card idea and created my first little piece of the fall season.  With a jeweled flower pinned to her quite stylish purple pointed hat, this witchy woman is ready for October frights and flights. 

Sunday, October 11, 2009


I am gearing up to join Leah and many others for "Art Every Day" month which has been taking place in Blogland and studios around the world every November for the last seven years.  The rules are ridiculously simple:  create (or work on) something artsy every day for a month.  Now I tried a similiar challenge back in May and while I didn't create something every single day (aside from my daily journaling), I did fulfill a vow to begin blogging more regularly.  Even partial participation in this sort of challenge can have lasting, positive effects but I am determined to make it through the month this time around.  It'll be question about that, especially with lots of monkey wrangling thrown in for good measure but I really, really want to spend a month immersed in the artistic life.  I suppose I do that now but for one month I want to do it and document it and truly appreciate all that my life encompasses each day.  November - the month of thankfulness - is perfect for such an endeavor.  Won't you join me?  

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Space-making Potential

I need a nook.  I am currently nook-less.  Like many of you, I have a lot of stuff.  It seems to go with the territory as us artists are potential-o-holics.  Things always have potential to become something cool or beautiful or whimiscal or just simply, something else.  And so we save and purchase and hoard things that have potential until one day, we look around and wonder why the studio feels so claustrophobic.  Did I mention that I have a lot of stuff??  (Maybe a virtual studio tour is in order.)  Anyway, I have realized that in all the neatly restrained and color-coded stuff, I am in serious need of a nook, a little space to curl up and read and sip French vanilla coffee and just breathe.  When I was hanging my show in the furniture store the other day, I kept getting distracted by all the furniture, specifically the overstuffed (no pun intended) chairs.  I could imagine myself snuggled into one of those chairs, wrapped in a quilt, gazing out at the lazy cows who wander the neighboring field.  Then something interrupted my daydreaming and I remembered that there's probably no room for another piece of furniture in my already stuffed apartment.  It is definitely time to commit wholeheartedly to using what I have and making space where I can.  And that can mean, most definitely, making time to breathe, time to snuggle, time to cow-watch.  In a pinch, the couch has nook potential.

Friday, October 9, 2009

White Dove Moments

This particular journal entry is downright sedate compared to all my usual work but it seems to accurately reflect the peacefulness that has settled into my spirit with the last few days of rest and relaxation.  I am making a concerted effort to find a little bit of contentment in each day, no matter how I feel.  Having chronic health issues can take its toll on positivity and the sense of accomplishment highly productive days can bring.  It becomes all about finding peace in the small movements forward, in the little moments that otherwise would be overlooked.  Perhaps those times can be described as "white dove" moments;  most of the time, life gives us pigeons (and all the associated mess) but every so often, a dove wanders into the grey-black flock, cooing and strutting for all its worth, and we are temporarily entranced.  I am trying to recognize those moments more often and give them the attention they deserve.  I think that if I really pay attention, I'll find that there are a lot more doves out there than I give the world credit for.    

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Hibernating & Incubating

I've taken a bit of a break from blogging this past week to enjoy a small vacation from teaching while the middle and high school students are on a weeklong school trip to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.  It has turned out to be an important time to get the house back in order, to rest and recover from the remaining vestiges of the flu, and to incubate fresh, new ideas for artwork.  The weather has turned cold and grey which is perfect for encouraging a lack of errand-running, something that eats up my energy.  So I've been curled up on the couch beneath a mountain of blankets, sketching and note-taking, sipping acai tea, and nibbling on mint Milano cookies.  Plans for new work are taking shape, slowly but surely, even as I continue to work on the "old" stuff for the November and December shows.  I am regaining my feet after being swept off of them by a particularly nasty fibromyalgia flare-up.  Of course, the minute I get all rested up, it'll be time to get back to teaching.  So I am enjoying this respite while I can... 

Monday, October 5, 2009

Neighborhood Construction Finished

Well, this photo should be admitted into the "Bad Photo Hall of Fame" but it is all I've got of my new art show entitled "Facades," now hanging at a local furniture store.  That wall is actually a rich buttercream yellow and it always makes the color in my work pop!  There are 20 pieces total (more are hanging on another wall) and I am quite happy with the way it turned out.  The reception is this Friday evening during the monthly art walk event in my town and the work will remain up during October.  Next up is a post-wrist fusion retrospective to hang at my physical therapy office in November & December.  Then, also in December, "Facades" is scheduled to be installed at an antique lighting and furniture store in a neighboring city that also hosts a monthly art event.  Despite everything that has slammed me in recent weeks, I am, slowly but surely, seeing things through.  It has not been easy and some issues are still very much unresolved but it feels good to see my work out in the bright lights of the world...   

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A Tribute to Zetti

The challenge theme this week at Three Muses is "Zlightly Zetti" and this is probably my all-time favorite topic.  Since discovering the queen and king of Zetti, Teesha and Tracy Moore, my art has transformed from something stodgy and dripping with perfectionism (I began in scientific illustration) to something wonderously zany and imperfect.  Zetti means different things to different people but to me it means this: bright colors (or alternately, black & white with a splash of red), pointed hats, wings, mismatched patterns, transplanted heads and altered features.  Philosophically, Zetti means an opportunity to go a little bit crazy, to let loose the inner child so she can create a world filled with oddball characters who exalt in playing, dreaming, and wondering at all life has to offer.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Monkey Tales

My middle school students are snip, snip, snipping through their way through their Romare Bearden-inspired neighborhood collages.  I had so much fun on Friday listening to all their stories and descriptions of their art as I repeatedly asked "So tell me about what is going on here."  I was rewarded with elaborate expositions on door cities, umbrella hats, atom bomb factories (there's always one it seems), and funhouse malls.  I tried to soak in every enchanting and imaginative detail as the monkeys spun their tales, chattering as fast as they could once gently prompted to describe their creations.  The classroom becomes a hurricane of paper bits, rogue glue sticks, and the occasional "running with scissors" incident.  The noise level is just beneath a dull roar but I let it rumble on as long as I see steady progress on collage construction.  All in all, it was a morning filled with wonder and wild wisdom.     

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Day Saver

Here's an ATC I made for Helga's "pink & green" challenge over at My ARTistic Life.  This is my first piece ever using ArtChix products and I love them!  ATCs are about all I can manage these days it seems but I'll gather them all together and color copy to leverage for future journaling and art pieces.  Even these little pieces of art are saving my sanity as I work to find a path that can include teaching art AND doing art.  That's the challenge of the moment!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Looking Inside

Here's my entry for this week's challenge theme of "windows" at Three Muses.  Still trying to get my feet underneath me but I think things are slowly least I've been able to get a bit of art done for myself.  Yay for that!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Running Wild and Resting Much

The days are flying by in a flurry of frenzied activity and I am struggling to find balance.  I can't believe that it is the 21st of September already.  In just ten short days, my next show is scheduled to hang and I definitely don't feel ready.  Teaching is consuming all my energy and focus like some out of control wildfire.  All I can do during the in between times is lay on the couch and practice breathing....practice being still, inside and out.  I'm sure the fibromyalgia and lingering upper respiratory gunk is contributing to this extreme fatigue but I am hoping I will become acclimated to my new schedule in the next few weeks.  There's lots to do - stuff I must do and stuff I want to do.  But for now, I am just trying to go with what my body seems to need...lots and lots of rest. 

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Monkey Business

Well, I took a couple days off from blogging simply out of exhaustion.  This *cough, cough, hack* wicked little cold I've been fighting is lingering in my chest and it seems there is never enough sleep to be had.  However, when I'm upright, I'm on the run and going and doing, and being at the speed of light.

I met my middle school monkeys yesterday; 38 of 40 showed up, eager to hang from the ceilings as only this age group can.  I have to note that because the school is so small, "middle school" (traditionally 6th, 7th & 8th) in this case, also includes some 4th and 5th graders, who are particularly adept at monkey shenanigans.  My son tagged along to act as assistant monkey wrangler and together we wrestled the babes into their seats so we could get some fantastic art-making done.  As part of this year's "Art Around the World" theme, we have started with African-American artist Romare Bearden, using his nearly 18-foot collage "On the Block"  as inspiration for our own neighborhood collages.  Colored paper bits were everywhere, scissors were carving out all sorts of wonderously imaginative shapes, and glue sticks were used to stick fingers together as well as paper.  This collage process is a multi-layered affair; yesterday, the kids got started on their backgrounds, gluing down their big shapes.  In the next couple of weeks, we will add more and more details and I plan on bringing in a bunch of cool, textured and printed papers for them to choose from as well as magazines so they can add people and objects to their cut paper worlds.  When all is said and done, I plan on displaying the finished works all in a row to create one gigantic paper neighborhood stretching across the school walls.  

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

By the Light of the Moon

This is another page in Kelly's circle journal that I've been working on in between naps...just a little paper owlet that decided to flutter down from my imagination onto the page.  I may embellish this some more; I think the piece needs some text.  However, for now, this little birdie is content to rest on a branch and wait for my next big brainstorm.    

Monday, September 14, 2009

She of the Luminous Eyes

I am slowly getting better, recovering from a fast-acting cold/flu bug that hopped on board the first day back to teaching.  I felt well enough yesterday to manage a load of laundry, three days worth of dishes and some lovely time in the studio working in Kelly's circle journal.  I can't tell you how good it felt to get the brushes swirling around again.  I've been all about teaching prep the last couple of weeks and my paints have become dusty, my water cup dry as a bone, and my brushes stiff with neglect.  However, all my supplies welcomed me back in an instant.  My big challenge, now that I'm back in the classroom, is to find a balance between being an art teacher and being an artist.  The two are in no way mutually exclusive but one can certainly overtake the other and to be truly happy, I must find a way to make these two paths run parallel.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Update from Plague Girl

Thought I'd pop in for a rare Saturday post and update my sweet well wishers on my mini (very mini) health drama.  Not long after my post yesterday, I started throwing up and spiked a fever.  As hurling my guts up is where I draw the line at working, I was forced to call in sick.  So sad but teaching with a bucket on hand is a bit much, even for me.  Fortunately, my talented and awesome son was able to sub for me and by all accounts, did an incredible job with only about 15 minutes preparation time.  (Luckily, I had had my entire lesson plan completed and ready to go.)

Then I proceeded to sleep...and sleep...and sleep.  16 hours or so.  Woke up at four this morning with all the congestion settled into my chest, no fever, very weak but I think (knock on wood) I am on the mend.  I think I am the victim of some sort of viral blitz attack as I can't remember ever catching something that moved so fast.  I've got the weekend so I will continue to rest easy and watch for any sort of upper respiratory complication.  Thank you for all your kind thoughts and support!  I'm sure they played a part in paving the road to recovery and back into the classroom...xo - Michelle

Friday, September 11, 2009

Small Things, Great Love

It is a minute past one a.m. Pacific Standard Time and I'm up, doing battle with a monsterous rhino virus that has me congested, coughing, and consequently, sleepless.  Bah!  I'm supposed to teach in eight hours and as it is my first day with my middle school monkeys, it is a day I can't miss.  I am frustrated that I will be less than my best, trying to just survive the morning.  But maybe today is the perfect time to heed Mother Theresa's advice:  there'll probably be no stellar performance in front of the classroom, no great big exciting day.  But maybe there will be circle time instead, a quieter, more intimate arrangement to accommodate my raspy voice.  Maybe we'll take a little bit more time to get to know one another before we pick up our pencils and try to tackle the six elements of design.  Maybe instead of following the grand plan, we'll try to just get done as much as we can and see what develops out of those eager, young minds when they are pushed gently with great love.  Maybe this cold is all part of some master plan to get me to slow down, to listen more than I talk.  Yes, I think I can make this work.  Now if I could only sleep...

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Patient Zero

Well, it's official: one day back on the job and I'm sick. Those sweet, bacteria-ridden youngsters saw me and my less-than-robust immune system coming from a mile away. It started with a sore, scratchy throat and a congested feeling and overnight, it rapidly evolved into the "drowning in my own fluids with my throat on fire" syndrome. Ick! *sniffle* What a lovely "first day" memento. I'm sort of chuckling though (in between nose blowing) because this literally happens every time I go back to teaching. Typically, it'll be the only time I'm sick during the semester even as, into the winter, the rest of the school begins to contract varying degrees of upper respiratory ickiness. As the school is very small, illness, once it gets started, runs like a wildfire through the school population. I wonder if I'm Patient Zero. Now there's a dubious designation. Anyway, not much I can do now except ride it out and hope the 33 middle school squirrels don't eat me alive tomorrow as my voice dwindles down to nothing. I have a day off today from any sort of compelling errands so I can stay home, bundle up, and get to the business of getting better. Sounds like a plan to me...

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

What Is Art?

Art is... expression of one's inner self in images and color.
...whatever you think is beautiful and want the world to see.
...a safe way to explode in any way. and life.
...something someone thinks is cool or beautiful. inspired drawing of an image from one's mind.
...a way to free your emotions. in another form.

Today, I started class by asking my 12 high school students to write a succinct definition of art and the above words are some of their responses. Then we discussed the "official" definition of art as per the American Heritage Dictionary. We talked about how to make objective judgments about whether or not an image or object is art. I filled their tables with famous images, from da Vinci's Mona Lisa to Pollock's Lavender Mist. I gave them all sorts of objects to ponder: a decorative birdcage, carved wooden hands, a wind-up robot, a scary sculpted clown my son made in the fourth grade and more. Next week, we begin to build our artistic vocabulary by exploring the elements of design: line, shape, form, space, color and texture. Now at home, still dazed from all the pressure of recent weeks, I feel an ominous scratchiness in my throat, my feet hurt and my busy, busy head is racing ahead to Friday when I meet my middle school kids for the first time. But as I reread the wisdom of my young flock of artists, I am quiet, content. It was a good first day.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Moonscape & Messes

The theme for this week at Three Muses is "Moonstruck" and in this ATC, I decided to zoom on in the moon's surface to see what mysteries could be revealed there. I confess that this is an old piece as I am swamped in teaching prep work but I wanted to make sure that I had something to show for my favorite weekly challenge.

My first teaching day for the 2009-2010 school year is tomorrow! I am excited to see what students are returning to my classes and who's new to the program. Time to learn names again! I'm told I have approximately 15 high school students and at least 33 middle school students. I was cleaning up the art supply room today at the school and one of my students from last year happened upon me knee deep in crumbs of sidewalk chalk and crayon nubs. "Are we doing art?" he asked. "Tomorrow," was my reply to which he brightened, "So cool. See you then!" High praise coming from a young teenage boy. Just that small exchange kept me wading through the ruined bits of paper mache models, sticky glue bottles, dusty pottery supplies, stringy fabric scraps, and wayward glitter. Oh, the glitter! It was everywhere! I keep my supplies in my office so maintaining the school supply closet is simply something I offer to do as part of my artist-in-residence duties. It is a thankless job, no matter how organized I get it, as it seems to be the "kitchen sink" room (as in "everything but.") With some of the remodeling that has been going on, I wouldn't be surprised to see a sink magically appear in there when I'm not looking. Anyhow, after three hours this morning, I was able to unearth the floor and recreate access to the washer and dryer. (Oh, is also the laundry room.) I also tidied up my office, got my supply cart stocked and ready to roll into tomorrow's class. Go! Go! Go!

A Fine Line

Right when I need to be the most focused, I find myself wandering around the upstairs studio, fiddling with the stacks of files and whatnots bearing down upon and minimizing my workspace. I can't seem to settle in on any one project. Even the laundry has gone unfolded and outfits must be pulled piece by wrinkled piece from the pile covering the table in the downstairs studio. What is up?? I think I am a tad nervous about getting back into the classroom; in addition, my to-do list is so very long that I really don't know where to begin. I've been pecking away at it for a month or so but it seems for every one thing I cross off the list, two more get added. This September will probably go on record as one of the busiest months of my life. I'm having a hard time just remembering to breathe. My heart is swelling with all the opportunities presenting themselves - whoo hoo! Just trying to find a balance between crazy busy and just plain crazy! Now that's a fine line!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Beauty Will Be Bloomin'

Happy Labor Day to all of my readers here in the United States and for my international followers, happy day in general! Hope it is a relaxing event for one and all! For my part, I am furiously writing lesson plans as I start back to teaching in a mere two days! For those late to the ballgame, I'm the middle and high school art teacher at a small charter school in my hometown and my schedule has expanded this year from one to three days a week. In the past I've taught semester length classes but this year is the first where I'll have two classes (one per age grouping) that run the length of the entire year. This is fantastic as it means I'll have the same students all year and have more time to fully explore the artists and activities I have lined up. The high school group will be studying Spanish and Hispanic artists including Jose Posada, Xul Solar, Pablo Picasso, Frida Kahlo, and Diego Rivera. They'll be carving and printing, working with water-soluble oil pastels, creating Cubist self-portraits, sewing mixed media quilties, and designing and executing a mural. The middle school students will spend the year studying an artist or technique per continent so for them that includes Romare Bearden, Chinese brush painting, Australian bark paintings, and Georgia O'Keefe as well as Solar and Picasso. My supply shipments have all arrived on time so I'm ready to go...with the exception of all the lesson plans and visual aides. I'm a bit of a Last Minute Lucy so I've been busy typing up my thoughts in outline form so I have at least a rough idea of what I am going to babble on about each session. I am so excited! Teaching really energizes me and my own artistic process; watching fresh, young artists soak in information and then turn that into beautiful, soulful creations is the stuff of teachers' dreams. And this year, I will be blogging my experiences in the art classroom so maybe the inspiration that I have the privilege of drinking in every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday will inspire some of you to play at your own art with the eyes and heart of a child.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Itsy Bitsy Neighborhood

"When the last late, late show has gone off, I shall sleep. And then tomorrow..."

So reads the found word poem adorning the little houses in this collage piece for my upcoming show "Facades." This is an unusually small piece in the series - measuring just 6 by 12 inches. Most of the canvases are at least 2 feet long and a few are a foot by three feet in length. That's a whole lot of construction going on! Each little house begins with hand dyed and stenciled paper and then various scrapbook papers are cut, edged with ink and layered to create rooftops, windows, and doors. Each canvas then gets its own found word poem that tells a tiny tale about the scene presented. The assembly work involved reminds me a lot of quilting: tedious but meditative. I often pause midway through the process and wonder: "What was I thinking??" especially if it is a much longer piece. But somehow I manage to push past the doubts and fulfill the construction contract. So much of art is just that...pushing past doubts to completition. And when the doubt still lingers, it becomes all about letting go for a bit until you can return with refreshed eyes.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

One Down, Three to Go, Go, Go!

Well, yesterday I managed to get my first show hung since my wrist surgery. 19 "inspirational abstracts" are now residing for the next two months at a sweet little hair salon in my neighborhood. The owner, having booked the show without seeing my work, said the canvases "made her feel happy" so I'll take that and run since sometimes abstracts aren't that well received and it was my first foray into something other than representational imagery. (Ironically, the salon is named "New Image," quite fitting I would say for this freshman look from me.)
Now that I've gotten my feet wet on the local show circuit again, it's on to the next one scheduled to hang the first of October. Entitled "Facades" and to be located at a trendy furniture store, this show is a comprehensive, definitely representational, collage exploration of the simple house shape. I have 15 pieces ready to go but as I have another show booked in December that is interested in this series, I'll need to be cranking out more house 'scapes over the next couple of months. That December show is at a venue that sells antique lighting and furniture for people busy restoring their Victorians. An art series featuring houses would be perfect! Hopefully, I can come up with enough canvases to fill both bookings.
Ah, but there is no rest for the weary! In November and December, I am showing at my physical therapist's office, a huge (too huge) venue that could easily and happily accomodate 50 to 60 pieces. I've decided that this show will be the perfect time for what I'm calling "A Post-Fusion Retrospective," featuring all the work I've completed since my wrist fusion in March 2008. Pieces from both the "Soul Terrain" and "Facades" shows will end up in this show as will a series called "Souls in Flight" and many other miscellaneous pieces littering my studios. Whew! Oh, and I start back to teaching next week! Should be fun! Stay tuned for updates as my crazy art life gears up for some rollickin' good times!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Channeling the Tramp

"...a tramp, a gentleman, a poet, a dreamer, a lonely fellow, always hopeful of romance and adventure..."

Thus, Charlie Chaplin described his most famous character (and himself), seen here in silhouette for this week's challenge at Three Muses. Charlie is drawn by hand and collaged onto scrapbook paper along with a ransom note quote. Quick, simple, yet meaningful...hope you laugh today!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Stitched & Stenciled Part 2

Here's more scans of my project-in-progress, a little Asian-themed stitched and stenciled book. I built the imagery on the pages with acrylic paint washes, stencilling, collage, stamping, stitching and mark-making. There's a lot of serendipity involved in this book which makes for relaxing fun in the studio.

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