Monthly Archives: March 2013

Go Big or Go Home

Last week, my painting professor assigned a texture study—specifically, a furry dog.  I decided to go big—I chose the furriest dog I could find.  I selected the Pumi—a cattle herding breed from Hungary.  As I worked to paint his curly coat, I couldn’t help but think about the 1980’s—the decade of ‘hair’.   Big hair.  Wild, curly, crazy hair.  It was ‘Go Big or Go Home’.  Though curls run on both sides of my family, the Genetics Fairy gave me straight, fine hair. In order to fit into that big decade, I decided to get a perm.  Actually, I got two perms over a three year period—and that was two too many.  While I think my locks have forgiven me for the cruel chemical assaults, the next time ‘Big Hair’ is in style—and it inevitably will be—I think I’ll ‘Go Home’.

“Pumi”–Acrylic on Birchwood–work in progress

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The Sandman

Today when I woke up, I felt like a kid on Christmas morning who had just opened that one special present—the one at the top of my list—the one thing I really wanted.  As a child, that ultimate gift was a rock tumbler, chemistry set, or record player.  As an adult, it was anything that packed a lot of sparkle and fit in a very small box.  But as 50 approaches, the gift I long for most is a good night’s sleep.  For months, sleep has eluded me.  I’d tried a variety of sleep aids including Melatonin, diphenhydramine, and chamomile extract.  Most of them didn’t help, and those that did left me hung-over in the morning. It’s hard to be creative—to function, even—without adequate sleep.  I need a clear head when I’m behind the wheel on my Artist’s Journey.  Last night I ditched the meds and got into bed—just me, my flimsy pillow, and my satin sheets.  Instead of Santa sneaking down my chimney, it was The Sandman—and he left a special present for me to discover in the morning. I had slept through the night.  I couldn’t have been happier. It was the perfect gift– just what I always wanted.

“The Perfect Gift”–graphite–from my sketchbook

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Trim To Fit

Lately, I’ve been in the mood to make something—to build—cut and paste—construct.  Maybe it was my trip to Home Depot that planted the seed.  I still wasn’t ready for power tools, but I definitely could handle scissors.  I decided to try my hand at making a collage.

It was tedious, detailed work, but it was fun.  Collage work is a little like putting together a puzzle.  The beauty of it is that if a piece doesn’t fit exactly, you can trim it down and make it fit.  I think there might be a life lesson in collage work—If something in your world isn’t working, trim it to fit. 

“Puzzle”–paper on…paper

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The Act of Creation

My grandmother, an incredibly philanthropic woman, spent countless hours teaching fellow volunteers how to transcribe books into Braille.  I was a young girl when she first taught me how to use a Braille slate and stylus—archaic by today’s standards.  One of my grandmother’s projects in the late 60’s was a Braille coloring book.  I still remember the day she proudly presented the prototype—a slim plywood box with a chrome handle and a sliding lid—inside were eight crayons and a coloring book.  Instead of lines to guide the crayons, blind children would color inside Braille dots that outlined each scene.  Each crayon was also labeled in Braille.  At the time, it made perfect sense.  I loved to color.  All kids loved to color.  But as I got older, I began to wonder if blind children could get satisfaction or joy from a finished work that they couldn’t see.

Now, I get it.  My grandmother was smart enough to know that art is about creation.  The act itself produces joy.  There is something incredibly therapeutic about coloring.  The gentle back and forth motion of the crayon has a soothing effect on the soul.  And perhaps young blind artists can see their finished masterpieces.  If they truly see through their fingers, then they can feel the smooth, silky wax on the paper.

We all create using our senses.  Cooks rely on taste, musicians on hearing, perfumers on smell, and artists on sight and touch.  Yes, touch.  It took me a little while to figure out what my grandmother knew all along.  I just wish she were here today to see me make the connection.

“Red”–graphite–From my sketchbook

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I’m Not That Kind of Girl

Hearing of my quest to find new and reasonably priced painting surfaces, my professor suggested I visit Home Depot’s lumber department.  Home Depot?  Me?  I can find my way around Michael’s blindfolded.  Sam Flax—it’s like my second home.  But Home Depot?  That’s a little outside my comfort zone.  Still, after paying thirteen dollars for an 8×8 piece of Gessobord, my practicality got the best of me and I headed out to the land of lumber.

While I longed to look like a confident tigress on the prowl in search of prey, I was more like a scared bunny peeking timidly down every aisle. I passed mysterious things made of metal and rubber and plastic.  I was definitely out of my element.  Finally, a gentleman in a bright orange apron offered to help.  He led me down the lumber aisle, past plywood, and pine board, and Fiberboard.  Everything was huge and heavy with rough, jagged edges.  Nothing looked like a suitable painting surface.  And then he showed me Birchwood.  It was a monstrous piece, but it was smooth, and if cut down, it would be light and manageable.  As I stood pondering how I could fit Goliath in my car, my Home Depot Hero said, “You can cut that down in no time with the right power saw.”

The expression on my face must have said it all: Excuse me?  Power tools?  What kind of girl do you think I am?  He smiled and quickly added, “Or I could cut it for you.”  And so he did.  Thanks to my Knight in Shining Apron, I now have eight small pieces of Birchwood waiting to be gessoed.  Of course, they do need to be sanded first.  I wonder if Home Depot’s lumber department has an electric sander and a skilled craftsman who would be willing to help out a scared little bunny…Maybe I’ll hop on over there and find out. 

“Bunny”–graphite–from my sketch book

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In The Dark

My Artist’s Journey constantly requires me to make choices about the materials I use.  In the studio, I’m exploring painting on different surfaces.  This week’s experiment was painting on a black canvas.  I have terrible night vision, so it’s no wonder I had trouble painting with dark pigments on an even darker surface.  It was more challenging than I had anticipated, and caused a bit of eye strain, but I’m happy with the results so far.  It’s not always easy to reach a premium destination—especially in the dark—but this time, it was worth all the hard work.

“In The Dark”–Acrylic on Black Canvas–work in progress

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My Strange Addcition

I am a recovering ‘chip addict’, and my ‘chip of choice’ is Fritos.  The salt, the crunch, the fried corn taste—I couldn’t stop eating them.  I tried telling myself that their three simple, natural ingredients—corn, oil, and salt—made them okay to consume in mass quantities.  After all, corn is a vegetable…My waistline disagreed.  Artists are trained to study the human form, and I couldn’t help but notice that my ‘form’ was spilling out over the top of my jeans.  The Fritos had to go.

I knew it wouldn’t be easy since my husband was addicted, too.  The Fritos would always be there every time I opened the pantry.  I had to be strong enough to avoid the overwhelming temptation when my husband pulled out the bag and started popping those salty delights into his mouth—crunching loudly, wildly, joyfully. I had to keep my resolve when he waved the open bag under my nose and said “Just have a few.”  But I knew that ‘a few’ would become half a bag.

I went cold turkey.  I’m proud to say I’ve been Frito-free for a month now.  The hardest part is over.  My waistline is slowly recovering, and my jeans are much more comfortable.  And in May, when I’m sitting on the beach in the Bahamas wearing my new bikini instead of hiding under a towel, I won’t be missing my Fritos at all.  I’ll be smiling.

“My Strange Addiction”*–graphite–from my sketchbook–*No Fritos were consumed during the sketching of this bag.

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Play Time

I am a firm believer in the theory that states that engaging in playtime is essential to retaining one’s youth.  Dogs seem to know that instinctively.  I love to watch as our Bostons invite each other to play with the introduction of a tennis ball, an enticing bark, or a full-blown play-bow.   No one needs to remind them, or encourage them, to play.

As we age, ‘play’ becomes something for the young.    There is not enough time.  It’s too silly.  There are more important things to do.  I still find time, though.  Whether I’m playfully painting in the impasto style, dressing up in costume for a Star Trek convention, or asking my husband  “Wanna ride bikes?”—I make it a priority to do things that make me laugh, smile, and feel young.  Life can be hectic and crazy, so we should all will take a cue from our dogs and remember to put a little ‘play’ in our day.

“Play Time”–Acrylic on Canvas–4 of 4 from the series “Time”

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“Time”–  Acrylic Series on Canvas

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Treat Time

If bath time is the most loathed time for my canine crew, then treat time is the most beloved.  After a walk, a meal, or a bath, the next stop is always the laundry room where my Bostons sit at attention and gaze up at the treat jar.  Even when they haven’t earned a tidbit, it’s hard for me to say ‘no’ to those big brown eyes.

“Treat Time”–Acrylic on Canvas 3 of 4 from the series “Time”

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Bath Time

Every Sunday is doggie spa day here on Tamberrino Island.  I lovingly lift my dogs into the tub, gently file their nails, brush their teeth with poultry flavored toothpaste, and give them a warm bubbly bath.  What’s not to love?  While my two female Bostons tolerate all the fuss, nothing strikes terror in the heart of my male like the realization that it’s bath time.  I guess some guys just aren’t into the whole spa experience.

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