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The Way of the Artist

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At loooong last, I’m finally working my way through The Artist’s Way.  This book has become a staple in the artist community and I’ve had it on my shelf forever, but was somehow resistant to starting.  After our trip in May, my daughter was talking about doing it as a way of connecting her art with her spirituality and I was inspired to give it a try.  We’re now on week 7 and, OH, what a ride it has been!!

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I’ve been inspired to explore amazing new (to me) spaces – like The Savage Quilter and the fabulous “Unbound” exhibit at Artspace @ Untitled.   I’ve investigated other ways of creating – like planting a garden and learning to Zentangle.  Most of all, I’m learning to let my art be more about play – and a little less about productivity.  It’s a difficult line to straddle when you’re in the business of selling art.  But, the funny thing is, the art I make from that place of play feels infinitely more real to me than the art I make because I think it might sell.  Certainly not a new idea, but one that isn’t always easy to hold onto.

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Photos included in this post are some I credit to the work I’ve done via The Artist’s Way.

Rave

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It isn’t often in our mortal lives that we get a chance to hear what people really think about us, to be lifted above the day-to-day, greeting card words that some of us (namely, me) question in the brutal light of day.  It seems there is a tradition in Rugby of honoring someone special with a “Rave” – my daughter-in-law described it this way…

“ruggers are very in tune to the negativity in the world because often we are the outcasts of the sports world (in America).  We know first-hand that it is far too easy to focus on all that bad energy and all the bad thoughts of the society surrounding us, and that we needed something to offset all the bad juju.  So the tradition of doing a Rave to signify the importance of an individual or event was born.  Instead of ranting, we … spew forth anything and everything positive and inspiring about that person to as many people as are willing to listen.”

For my 50th birthday, my family gifted me with a Rave (Jul 2 – but celebrated last night).  There were other beautiful gifts – a lovely dinner, shopping cards, an amazing martini glass – but the Rave is the one I will hold in my heart for always.  You see, turning 50 is sort of strange and tragic and wonderful all at the same time.  It’s strange because in my heart I don’t feel a day over 30 (until I look in the mirror and see that 30 was a considerable while ago).  It’s tragic because I find myself looking back at all the things I never did (see Machu Pichu, sip wine in a real French bistro, sing in a smokey bar) and I can’t really avoid the fact that the prime time for me to do some of these things is starting to slip away.  At the same time, it’s a little wonderful because I’m suddenly compelled to review all that I’ve learned and experienced in my life, all that’s shaped me into the person I am today, and I’m realizing (at last) that I actually kind of LIKE me!

The part that’s most amazing of all, the part that became apparent to me last night, is that all those years I spent wishing I could make everyone love me enough to compensate for how much I despised myself… well, those years were somehow incubating the person I am right now.  A person who is suddenly aware of the positive impact she’s had on the world around her, a person who never knew, never dared to dream it was possible that she was exactly the way she was MEANT to be.  The weirdest thing of all is, now that I’m finally starting to sense my own gentle sparkle, people are coming out of the woodwork to help me polish and shine – to reflect my own light right back to me, as though I was somehow shining all along.

One day last week, a guy pulled out in front of me so suddenly I had to slam on the brakes to avoid hitting him.  I pounded the palm of my hand against the steering wheel as if it were his face and I screamed, so loudly my throat hurt a little later, “SEE ME, DAMMIT… why can’t you just SEE me!?”  And I almost have to laugh when I say this – I wasn’t talking to him, I was talking to myself (literally AND figuratively).  I’ve spent so much time waiting and hoping for the world to see me, when all along it was really just me who needed to look at myself with some compassion and trust and appreciation.

It takes something like a Rave to see this – a light shining so brightly that you cannot turn away – lighting every crevice and going on and on around the table until the light’s shining right out of you and back to these people who love you so much, love you enough to give you this gift of yourself.

You can never go back after this – it is an irreversible transformation.

Class Overload?

I may, once again, be in the land of Class Overload!  It’s not my fault really – I tell myself to work with the skills and tools I’ve already amassed, but I’m like a magpie – I just can’t stop collecting more!!  Here’s a list of what I have on my plate right now or starting soon…

Jane Davenport – Supplies Me:  This one got me fired up about drawing faces (early classwork below).  It has a lot of supplies-focused content, but also some great instruction on portrait painting and it’s listed as a good entry point for Jane’s classes.

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Jodi Ohl – Behind You:  This is a short, technique-based class and I’m embarrassed to admit I got distracted and had forgotten it.  I adore Jodi’s style – bright, bright colors and simple shapes and symbols.  Definitely plan to revisit this one!

Creative Kismet – Expressions:  This is another portrait class and I learned a LOT, but pooped out on the last week.  I like drawing faces but it takes time and practice and I’m a very instant-gratification type of artist.  So, practice still needed, but below is one of my favorites from the class (love that black-background peeking through).

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Misty Mawn’s Face-to-Face:  I just adore Misty – had the good fortune to take an in-person class with her and Katie Kendrick last spring.  Misty scratched the surface of portrait drawing in that class and I’ve wanted to explore further ever since, so when I saw this one opening up, I was excited to jump in.  Unfortunately I’ve barely scratched the surface.  While there is some extremely good work coming out of this class, I have nothing I’m willing to show. Ah, comparison is a thief, isn’t it?!

Carla Sonheim’s Gelli Plate Printmaking:  I devoured this one!  Carla is a fantastic teacher and her videos are top-notch.  The class is absolutely full of yumminess and has given me some great new tools for my art arsenal – below is a piece inspired by this wonderful class.

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Mary Ann Moss – Sewn:  Just signed up for this one and it doesn’t start until July 4, so hoping I can get caught up on the rest of my e-homework before jumping into pattern exploration with MAM.  Have LOVED every class she has taught and have so admired her pattern studies over the last year or so.  I’m really looking forward to this as purely playtime!

Last, but not least, Andrea Scher – Start a Foolish Project:  I’m still wavering on signing up for this one and, judging from my list above, may need to work on finishing some other stuff before I jump into something completely new!  But it really is tickling me and, being a Mondo Beyondo alum, I have no doubt it will be full to overflowing with goodness!

I think one of the biggest struggles I have as an artist is focusing on my actual work… soooo many distractions – online and off!  I’m trying to develop and maintain some practices to help me with this – one is The Artist’s Way.  I’ve had the book for years and have read the introductory pages over and over, but have never really been able to sink into it.  Last month, my daughter and I made a pact to work through it and I’m proud to say I have now advanced to Chapter 1!!  Julia Cameron is world-renowned for helping artists to unblock and focus on what they do best.

Photo Makeover!

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I’m a bit of a worrier – okay, more than a bit.  I worry over things that have happened, things that might happen, things I need to MAKE happen… but, one less thing I have to worry about now is a nice backdrop for my shop and gallery photos.

Over the course of the last year, I’ve studied a lot of different perspectives on how best to display art for online sales venues – some of the things that repeat often…

  1. Shoot in natural light – early morning or late evening.
  2. Use a tripod and the lowest possible ISO setting to get the sharpest images.
  3. Use the right white balance – most cameras allow you to balance for the light you’re using (sunshine, shade, clouds).
  4. Show how items are actually used – artwork hanging on a wall, organizational tools sitting on a table or desk, wearables on a person.
  5. And (the one that’s been plaguing me most) present an uncluttered and cohesive style for your shop, including consistent colors, lighting, backdrops, and props. As someone who loves color, there is not a single white wall in my entire house and, since everything I create is super-high color, I’ve always felt a white wall would show it off best.

I’ve been eyeing a piece of leftover beadboard in our garage for some time now and, after a quick Google search yielded a great freestanding wall design, I sweet-talked Hubby into making me one! My spanking new wall measures 3 ft. wide by 5 ft. tall and is light-weight enough that I can move it wherever I need it for the best lighting.  My plan is to use it both for hanging artwork and for things that rest on a table in front of the wall.  I can also drape a piece of fabric over it for a slightly different look – I’m thinking a white matelasse bedspread or a simple fabric pattern in white tones.

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I have no doubt that there are other things I need to address, but this will finally help me start creating the clean/unified shots I’ve been pining over. Now for a marathon photo shoot!!  Watch the shop here to see how the photo transformation progresses.

Home Sweet Home

Azalea Festival - April in Muskogee, Oklahoma

Azalea Festival – April in Muskogee, Oklahoma

Well, here I go again with the “furniture” rearranging.  My first husband used to tease that he dare not go to sleep lest he wake and trip over the couch.  Ah well, I like to keep things new!

red dirt and woody trails

red dirt and woody trails

As you’ve no doubt discovered, my home page here on onejanuaryday.com is now a gallery of current and past artwork.  The way I get things to appear in said gallery is to blog about them, so you’ll be seeing a series of blog posts over the coming days that highlight some of my latest work.  As always, if you’re interested in something, be sure to check my Etsy store at http://onejanuaryday.etsy.com.  If you don’t see it in the store, contact me through the “about.me” link in the sidebar.

Redbuds and Bradfords in the spring

Redbuds…

I’ve made the blog somewhat secondary on the site but will still be posting (just click the “blog” link in the menu up top) and keeping you up to date on life and art and what-not.  This change shouldn’t impact your feeds if you’re a subscriber, but if it does, please give me a shout and I will figure out/share the correct link (sorry, feeling my way through the dark a little on this one).

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and Bradfords in the spring

In other news, we’re still safe from the tornado rampage that’s been plaguing the state so badly this spring. It’s the worst in my memory, but I’m still happy to report we have not had to go to the cellar (though I did take time to clean out the dust and spider webs last week – just in case).  It’s funny, when I was little, it seems like we went to the cellar just about every time it stormed, but that was WAY before things like Doppler which can give us 15-20 minutes advance warning.  I read an article this morning by a long-time Okie talking about why we endure the tornado threat and found myself nodding and remembering some of my own reasons for loving this place in the middle – the photos I’ve included with this post illustrate a few of the highlights.

Family, of course!

Family, of course!

I’ve traveled many different places over the course of my life and all have one threat or another.  It’s like anything really – you have to take the bad in order to have the good and there is so much goodness here.  To be honest, I’ve only ever lived in two other states – Texas for a short time in my teens and Louisiana for a slightly longer time at the beginning of my first marriage.  Both were southern states that bore many similarities to Oklahoma – but the saying “no place like home” has always rung true for me.  As much as I love to wander, I’m always happiest right here at home (look out for the couch 🙂 ).

Loving the Oily Fur

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One of the biggest gifts I gave myself this vacation was a technology break.

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I love technology – happily refer to myself as a geek/gadget girl, but since adding iPhone to my life a few years ago, I think I’ve become far TOO attached to my tech.  On a normal pre-vacation day, I would wake up and check email and Facebook, get lost in my blog reader or Pinterest, and find myself still lounging in bed at 10am, with 50% or less left on my charge from the night before!

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Canyon Ranch boasts a cell-free campus, at least in public areas, and I took it to heart by vowing not to even open email, Facebook, Pinterest and the like.  Instead, I spent all that extra time getting outside, taking classes, resting/reading, listening, experiencing each moment.  I really let myself settle into days that stretched wide and long, days that seemed to let me fit in everything I intended and much that just happened to present itself.

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This morning, I caught myself mindlessly watching YouTube videos at 9am and promised to recommit to a goal of minimizing my tech time.  As an artist with many long-distance friends/relations, it’s important to me to remain connected; but, I also know it’s important for my peace of mind to be UNconnected a larger percent of the time.

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So my goals are to 1) limit my posting to one thing per day – one blog, Facebook update, Instagram photo, OR Pinterest pin; 2) limit my online time to less than one hour per day; and 3) opt out of anything that doesn’t truly fit my values and interests.  Instead I’m going to pick up the pen a little more (literally) – explore ALL the ways I might share my voice in more tangible ways.

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I think the thing that came back to me this trip is how much I need to sink my elbows into the earnest work, to love again the “oily fur” of my life as Mary Oliver describes in this favorite poem…

“You never know
the body of night opens like a river,
it drifts upward like white smoke,
like so many wrappings of mist.

And on the hillside two deer are walking along just as though this wasn’t the owned, tilled earth of today, but the past.

I did not see them the next day or the next,
but in my minds eye –
there they are, in the long grass, like two sisters.

This is the earnest work.  Each of us is given only so many mornings to do it –
to look around and love
the oily fur of our lives,
the hoof and the grass stained muzzle.
Days I don’t do this – I feel the terror of idleness.”

~Mary Oliver