Thursday, March 27, 2014

Airports


I love airports. I hesitated after I wrote that because I thought, how funny, I am never relaxed enough in them to realize that I do love these midway travel points. I'm thinking about this today because I'm in one now on a longer than long layover that was necessitated by a mileage ticket with only one days notice. I'm sitting in SeaTac, sipping strong coffee, watching the planes and tarmac from a window seat in the atrium. There is an acoustical band with a cello, violin and sweet singer playing behind me. Elvis. Fools Rush In. I'm not traveling for a happy reason, going home to Victoria on short notice to be with family while my nana has taken a severe turn for the worse.

I have hours to wait. I have books to read, blogs to post, people watching to examine.  I am as plugged in as I would be at home, iPhone, iPad, Macbook within reach but there is something about airports for me that let me press pause on life and just be. Airports are a creative breathing space for me. Countless magazines to digest, guilt free reading and a place where my mind drifts. Places I want to travel to, ideas for art and paintings that don't have a name yet and chapter titles percolate. I am worried to be sure. I am thinking about my family, the reason for my visit. I am also watching the planes take off and land and staying as present as possible. xo




Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Wild Flowers


I sold a painting today. To be more precise, the talented and lovely Kelly Schulz at elizabethW in Carmel, CA sold the above painting today. ("Wild Flowers", 8x10") I rarely mention painting sales, and they are frequent and exciting enough to merit mentioning. But there is that artist part of me, like all of us perhaps, that shies away from really owning that we are tapping into our creativity to earn a living. I have no problem answering the Worst Question Ever, "So what do you do?" You mean, read, paint, exercise, connect with friends and family, mediate, write, drink coffee, hike, play with my cat, daydream, create mail art, cook, clean, decorate, shop, correspond, listen to NPR, binge watch Scandal, surf the net and do errands? Ohhhhh, you mean what do I DO that has value that makes green money? I own a greeting card company.  That is my IRS profession. But I wouldn't have said company if I hadn't painted a whole bunch of pieces months and years in advance of launching that company. It is the thing that "I do" every day, at strange hours, in bursts of activity, then long periods of post-carb eye glaze followed by what should I do with my life-itis. Then I snap out of it, get back to email, packing, shipping, creating, corresponding, selling, marketing, whatever the need is that day. The critical part that this painting reminds me of is that I still have hunchy shoulder, really, I'm an artist? reaction when I hear that a painting has sold. Happiness and joy, for sure. No doubt, I do a little (big) YES, in the sky, and thank the seller/purchaser. But old habits die hard. There is no profession that starts out with "I Used to be....".  Time to own this sucker.

It's been a long road to making art for a living.  It's nerve wracking, joyous, frustrating, exhilarating, lonely, fabulous, exciting, peaceful and a sentiment I can't think of a word for: more faith than you ever knew you could muster. That word. And that's why when I see this little still life and hear that it has sold, I think of me sitting in my studio/living room painting late at night, I think of my kind and generous friends who own a store and take and sell whatever paintings I send them. I think of the beautiful women who sell them, the person I'll probably never meet who bought it and I think about this professional road less traveled. I think of the years of baby steps on this path it took to even have the material and story to write this post. I think the heart does not lie. If you are being called, whispered to or flat out, bullhorn in the ear yelled at to step towards your creative thing, inch closer to your wild flowers. xo

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Bird by Bird


Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott is one of my go to books on creativity, writing, micro-movements and getting it done when just about anything else seems more important, interesting or, let's be honest, distracting. The title comes from the story in her childhood when her younger brother was doing an overwhelming school project on birds and mid-meltdown, Lamott's father, intervened and told the child, just take it bird by bird. I resonate with this every time I re-read her book as if it's the first time I've heard the message.

When I was in a position last summer to make some difficult (exciting and amazing, but they felt difficult at the time) decisions about my next direction, I realized that I had been quietly practicing the art of bird by bird over the years, one painting at a time not realizing that they were destined for a greeting card line. A few of these pieces were a hobby. A bunch of them all together were a collection! Who knew!? And admittedly, If I was to do it again, they would probably be more directed, have a theme, a uniform color palette. But would I have got the job done if I had known all that? I slowly but surely did my 100 paintings, vowing to post on Facebook the good, bad and the ugly. And with that, I had 100 paintings. And then I kept going! I kept accumulating. When you have 100 paintings or 100 posts or 100 essays, you can edit and cull and refine. When you have nothing, you can't edit air.  I remind myself of this these days when the blank page seems vast and tricky. I showed up for my paintings, I was somehow able to let go of results and I wasn't critiquing as I went. I just kept going. The photo I posted is the cover of my catalogue. I love it because it's homespun, made on a shoestring budget with love and represents the sum is greater than its individual parts. Over time, showing up repeatedly, I developed a voice that was uniquely my own. I didn't plan on it being that one, I had no clue I was destined to paint neon buoys or girls on docks or vintage VWs or Hunter boots or typewriters ad infinitum. But showing up and standing still with my art allowed this to take life. Painting by painting. Word by word. xo

"Lighthouses don't go running all over an island looking for boats to save; they just stand there shining." Anne Lamott


Friday, March 21, 2014

Mountain Echo


I warned you about the portrait angst. It's not over. Friday is studio day, an all day session of Peet's coffee, apple and blackberry crumble with whipped cream, laughter, violin music and armchair wandering. There are 6 or 7 of us, a rotating group of women that drops in every Friday to a magical cottage in the railroad district owned by, quite frankly, whether she's reading this or not, the best art instructor/mentor/fairy godmother one could ever dream of. She has taught me a considerable amount about the art world, artists, contemporary and diseased, and art instruction. She has opened my eyes wider to Bonnard, Matisse, Hockney, Kalman, Gaugin, Picasso, Thiebaud, and more.

But what she has given me, and I'm going to presume gives my fellow Friday painters, is permission and confidence to claim our own voice. The blank canvas is a terrible thing. It's up there with the blank page. The I have so many great ideas thoughts stories snippets messages colors images and they were racing through my head....yesterday. In the shower. While driving. Walking through the park. On the way out of Safeway. Rarely while you've got brush in hand or fingers on the keyboard. And that is what Suzanne (Magical Mentor from this blog post out) provides. A gentle starting place to commit. It doesn't matter what. Just get paint down, keep going, get messy, make a "mistake", clean it up, make a u-turn, let it rest, start another, come back, always come back, and most important, stay true to your own voice. That is the invisible magic she spreads. That we all have an individual voice and we can pore over hundreds of images, fall in love with paintings or artists, but it is our voice, interpreting these influences that will shine in the end.

The Rumi quote I put on this painting has been around my neck on a Janine Payer silver pendant necklace for years. It is engraved and tiny, so delicate that whenever someone asks me what it says, I can barely read it anymore. It is well loved and cherished and all these years later,  coming full circle to remind me that the voice being held, it's the wisdom we've been given from teachers and experiences along the way, the whispers from those who love us along our creative journeys, and it is us. It is our artistic voice reminding us to keep going. Hold on. xo

"Mountain Echo", 16x20"

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

To Thine Own Self Be True


I had a yellow Snoopy autograph book when I was a kid, they were all the rage. Not the Snoopy part, but the autograph book. I haven't thought about that little glossy vinyl bubbled cover for ages. If ever. I'd love to know whose autographs I was collecting...in Victoria, BC? In the early 80's? Nevertheless, someone was kind enough to gift me that little book thinking I was the right person to hold on to it. What I do remember, is that I asked both my parents to write in it and above, is what my mum wrote. "To Thine Own Self Be True". When you are 10 or 11 (or 30...or 40), this sounds poetic and meaningful and you're pretty sure you understand but do you really, really understand? I didn't. I thought I did. I was always half understanding it, grasping it intellectually but not always following through with the most important part of all, the heart. I graduated with a degree that did not set my heart on fire, I traveled to a foreign country post graduation to teach English to pay off debt and met someone, a fellow American teacher, who I married. And divorced. In the career world, I worked for other people who were following their creative passions and I was a great wingman but not the pilot. This sounds like a sob story and it really isn't because that road was also paved with amazing experiences including extensive travel, living in wonderful cities and meeting some of the best friends I've ever known.

However. Here I am, in this quirky hippie yuppie town on the California border, a town I had never even heard of before I made it here from Marin and I am finding, I can relate to that quote more than ever before. I work for myself. I create art on a regular basis. I have a beautiful network of friends. I have a slow paced laid back lifestyle that I am able to thrive in. I live in a cool house with a great view that sort of boggles my mind. (The near impossibility of buying a house in Northern California is an idea so deeply rooted in my mind, a transfer up to Oregon is worth it for home ownership alone!!!) I also have financial and business uncertainty that tries to keep me up at night. I do not have Plan B formulated. I don't live near my family which is a pull I'm constantly assessing. I miss the ocean. The beach. My bench in Sausalito. Tennessee Valley and the smell of eucalyptus. But this is what I've got right now and creating art every day for a company I created out of thin air doing the thing that my makes my heart sing is probably more important than my geography right now or the universe wouldn't have put me here.


So I will do a version of what I did yesterday. A series of baby steps towards the things that light me up. Reach out to current or new customers. Paint. Write. Correspond with friends and family. Pack and ship orders. Exercise. Walk in the world. Hopefully put my face up to the sun. Drink coffee. And be extremely grateful. xo

Monday, March 17, 2014

Just for Today


I have been writing. Nothing special, nothing specific, but training myself to get words on paper, sometimes word count helps, blog posts are good for keeping me accountable, or often its just a quick story about the background life of a painting that I file away in a magic folder that I call "My Book".  (I know, so imaginative, right?) The process is keeping me grounded. When you work from home, activities that keep you grounded, accountable, present are very very did I mention very important. Otherwise, days become weeks become August become New Years Eve and what the hell happened anyway. Sometimes its just a 10 or 15 minute writing session, or every Friday all day marathon painting in the studio so I can do short sprints on the weekend. Whatever your creative process is, I honor it. Repetitive action in our creative pursuits yields inventory or books or blog posts or an art show or a portfolio. So today, I write. Nothing spectacular but I honored this March 17th St Patricks Day in Ashland OR where, in the span of 24 hours, we had torrential downpour of rain, warm sunny skies, freezing temps, snow, sleet, hail, howling wind and an apricot colored sunset as if none of the former had ever happened. And I documented my little slice of beautiful life. Just for today. xo

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Portrait


I paint objects. Typewriters, sailboats, vintage cars, cakes, toys, cats, teddybears, anything that feels good and evokes coziness. I did not set out to do this, it happens to be my voice, my color palette, the way I see the world. So, like any beginner (read: IMPATIENT) artist, I decided, I didn’t like that path anymore. Too predictable, too bright, too cute, tu-tu. I wanted to stretch. Stretching is good. But what I did was more like running a marathon without stretching and beating myself up horribly because I did not place in the race and had to hobble the last several miles in agony. And by hobbling, I mean painting portraits. Here’s the rub. I have a deep desire to paint faces. I need to paint them, draw them, doodle them. I’m sure the columns of my notebooks from high school and university are littered with the same faces over and over again. Yet when I paint them, I enter some kind of crazytown phenomena of them not looking like what my brain had imagined. They are abstract and I’ll say it, ugly. Not ugly in that cool French I meant to look crooked and bored kind of way. I mean, weird ugly where the hell did that come from and please lord, show me how to paint a nose for Godsakes!

I talked to my painting teacher about this longing for stepping over the invisible line from quirky and charming. Like the perfect mentor for me, she laughed. Not at me, but with me. She gave it some deep thought, she is kind like that. And this is more or less what she came up with and it (for a few minutes…hours) set me free. She said, we all have our voice. Our look. What comes naturally. Don’t fight your voice. Keep going. Keep stretching and it will develop on its own. Find other painters you like and do what they did until it becomes your own voice. Practice, play, process not results!



And it’s all true what she said. I was nodding, like, uh huh, I know this, but oh how it has a different meaning when its YOU getting in the messy middle. I shall continue with this unpaved road of creativity, portrait painting. Maybe it is my next great passion. Maybe it is a creative doodling mess making process I need to loosen up for other projects. Maybe it is the thing that reminds me to have fun, be joyful in creation and trust. Maybe it is my Muse in disguise. xo

“The muses are ghosts, and sometimes they come uninvited.” Stephen King



Friday, March 14, 2014

F is for les fleurs


The monogram paintings live! F is for les fleurs. No actual "F" in this as my monkey mind could not stay still on the varieties of F words I could come up with so rather than disparage my lovely kaftan clad lady and fur companion, I held fast with "les fleurs". (If someone really wants a big ol' F painted in, happy to oblige!)

Spring is here today in Ashland, Oregon. Sunny, warm, blue skies,  and cherry blossom popcorn in the branches. It's a good day. xo

"Les Fleurs" 18x24"



Thursday, March 13, 2014

Luvbugs


I love painting & writing. Wait. Is that really true? Yes and no. I love having written. I love having painted. I'm sure someone famous and chain smoking has said that already but it's the truth. There is a physicality to painting that I love--yes, your arms will be stiff, feet might ache and your back is tight after hours of standing leaning crouching head tilting. But it feels good. You've done it. I've shown up. There are paintings, above, and pieces of writing, let's cross our fingers it will be this blog post, that flow. They dance and move with me with little effort & remind me that I'm supposed to be engaging in this part of life. The universe is doing a round of applause and high-fivin' to the other muses up in the sky. Not that it's "good" or "bad" but it has flow and feels like I'm going with the stream. These are the bright shiny diamond moments that I wish I could bottle. I can't. So I surf Pinterest, Facebook, Amazon, read a ton of books, devour all information on my favourite artists & writers, their work, their words, their habits. I want what they have. Then I realize, when it's time to go back to the page, the canvas, I have what they have minus a whole lot of patience & experience. They did not become overnight successes. They consistently showed up & thanked god when some magic showed up & persevered anyway when the magic felt forced & frustrating.

And I submit "Exhibit B" for examination of forced & frustrating. Same Volkswagen? Maybe a little. But these two Luvbugs couldn't be more different from the inside out. Blue Luvbug was painted quickly and I daresay effortlessly, almost as if by surprise, from a photo. The round form took shape easily & the personality informed me of color & detail as I progressed. Everything about this little painting felt spirited & happy & all the things you want a Friday afternoon art class to include. It reflected my aesthetic, I liked the color & the pesky mechanics, tires, roof rack, rear lights, placed themselves more or less where hardware lives on a Beetle. It took shape & "worked". 

Now Pinky Tuscadero (humor me, "Happy Days" fans!) was another story. Painted minutes after I finished the blue one, this same sweet little car could not find it's shape. And then when it found it's shape, it couldn't find it's pieces to attach symmetrically, or at least in way, that would be drivable. When doors finally met windows met racks met surf boards, the colors competed. Purple and pink. Pink and aqua. Neon pink & aqua. One more like you mean it, neon pink & lime green! Still no. So I did what I have only recently learned to do. I put it aside & let it breathe. I was forcing this one. I was so tickled that a quirkly little VW could materialize out of thin air that I rushed into the second thinking waving my banner of "more is more". Was I rushing? Expecting lightning to strike twice? Maybe both or maybe the first one was just dumb luck that it resembled the feeling I had wanted. Either way, I did what I find very difficult. I let it go. And painted over it. And painted it again. And again. There are probably 20 layers of pink underneath that neon background & I still can't say it's got that "it works" feeling for me, but I didn't leave it in a pile of half painted canvases destined for the most ominous day of the week, "Some Day". 

The moral of the VW story? Wait, this has to have a moral? There are a few lessons & reminders for me here: one, share the agony & the joy. I am so not alone in this roller coaster creative process of "huh, not bad to I should wear a paper bag on my head in public pendulum." It's a process. Second, I'm learning to lean in to the moments when there is that flow & truly appreciate those times for what they are. Magic can not be taken for granted. I am learning. I am learning to be a working artist in all it's modern forms. The act of creating, the business, & sharing with the world when sometimes your world in front of you is only a laptop or an easel in the corner of your living room. xo

"Luvbug", 8x10", framed in barn wood: SOLD (Thank you, Nicole Kowalski!!!)

"Pink Luvbug", 8x10", framed in barn wood: For sale at ElizabethW in Carmel, CA.