Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Imagination is more important than knowledge.
Albert Einstein

I consider myself extremely lucky to have found my passion early on, when I was a child. Only I didn't realize it then.  I would draw draw draw all the time, try to paint, play with paper. In school, I could still listen to my teachers while I doodled all over my notebooks. I was the one on the cheer squad who was in charge of making the posters advertising the week's games.  In college I was even in charge of the bulletin boards all along the main hall.

But I never considered making a living at it, it was just something I did.

Then, I was in England studying. We discussed paintings of Anthony van Dyck and composition and implied line, and were told to go to London to see his Charles I On Horseback in person at the National Gallery. As I stood in front of this huge painting, at least 12 feet tall and 12 feet wide, it took my breath away. Then I felt like crying. Then I knew that I had to do this, study-paint-explore art, for my life 's work.  It was my light bulb moment, or as Oprah would say, my aha moment. (My counselor was a bit panicked when I returned to campus my senior year and told her I wanted to change my major from psychology to art).

Charles I on horseback - Anthony van Dyck

And that's what I've done. Worked all sorts of odd jobs (I'll save that for another day) but making things has been my constant. I've found that I feel at odds if I DON'T do something creative -- paint, draw, cut, glue -- every day.  And I love teaching for this reason -- helping kids (and others) find their passion early on, and explore it. I know many people my age, late 40s, who haven't figured out what their thing is, the thing that makes them excited and happy and curious. I am so very grateful that I found mine early on. Boredom does not exist in my world.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

He expresses himself as no one else scarce begins to do in the language of the art he practices. He is capable of an immense and exquisite correspondence with life.

Henry James, referring to John Singer Sargent

Until I made my first rabbit collage and began selling prints of it, I had no idea how many rabid Rabbit People there are out there. I am now selling 5 different prints of rabbits, from originals I have sold, and have sold many other collages that I haven't made prints of. The rabbits outsell all of the other animals.

A customer on etsy requested that I contact her anytime I do another rabbit piece, so she might have first dibs on it. I have, and she has bought several originals from me, and some rabbit prints and some rabbit notecards. (Excuse the general term "rabbit".  I have been corrected several times, one particular piece is a Rabbit, one is a Bunny, and that one is a Hare.)

On etsy, I have joined many teams, related to things I make and/or processes I use, and yes, I am on the Etsy Rabbits Team.  The customer mentioned before contacted me last week and told me that one of her beloved rabbits passed away over the summer, and could I do a painting of him. Then she told me I must think she's crazy, but she's not, she just loves rabbits. (By the way, National Rabbit Day was in September).

I assured her she isn't crazy, and that, believe me, there are lots of people just like her out there. For example, I am in the middle of working on a group of commissions. Someone wanted to surprise his wife for her birthday and asked if I would do a painting of each of the animals they had had together, but had passed away, as he wanted to line their hallway with the paintings. No cats, no birds, no gerbils. A couple of dogs, and 9 rabbits. Here are some of them:

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The viewer's vision must be changed by a good Realist picture (or any picture). He or she should never be able to look at the subject depicted in the same way again.

Adelle Weber

A few months ago I got word that some of my work is going to be published in a national magazine in January. In mid September I got another email that the shoot for the magazine was the first week in October -- could I send 5 or 6 original pieces, and a 3-4 part step down, along with a 1,000 word article to arrive in their offices by October 1? 

Well, uh, sure...I can do that...(What the heck is a step down??). I called a magazine editor friend, she had no idea. So I forgot my pride and wrote back to the magazine, and got my answer. A step down is a 3-4 step example showing the process where a piece is created. So, in the next week, I had to decide on -- and gather from various places -- 5 or 6 originals to send, a 1,000 word essay, and 3-4 new pieces showing the process...no stress, no problem...

So here's what I came up with. All packed up, sent away, and now I await the return. The next question is, what do I do with the first two pieces???

Tuesday, July 2, 2013


Eat well, kiss well, work ditto and you'll die happy.

Paul Gauguin

Summer is here and my boys are home.
And that means little or no working for me. My two are not the quietly-read-in-the-corner-and-not-make-a-mess kinds of kids. They are the We-want-to-have-a-lemonade-stand-and-need-you-to-make-the-lemonade-and-set-up guys. I'm hands on and hands in. I've been going through the ideas I've ripped out of magazines and culled off Pinterest -- glow in the dark jars from light sticks, chalk shadows, patriotic pretzels, drawing, journaling, etc etc. They abuse and waste my supplies when I attempt a real Art Project, I can't teach them a thing. No respect for their elder.

So I am trying my best to cool my jets and enjoy the summer and not do a bunch of work (until next week, more on that). And apparently patience pays off. Last week I got notice that one of my cards has been featured in Somerset Studio Gallery's Summer 2013 issue (I was also in their last issue). And today, another note from them -- a feature this time in Handcrafted Volume 8!! And I'm scheduled to be  in Cloth, Paper, Scissors in January 2014. Hope my 15 minutes of fame doesn't happen all at once.

2012 Winter issue


I like going from one lighted room to another, such is my brain to me; lighted rooms.
Virginia Woolf

I love the idea of being able to compartmentalize my different activities, I call it the Jeffersonian approach, after TJ (being a Virginian I know all about Thomas Jefferson). I paint a little, exercise a little, read a little, write a little. Doing a little of these things each day makes for a happy and balanced me.

Everything can't be so easily compartmentalized, however. For example, when my boys come home from school I want to give them my undivided attention, especially when they are doing their homework. I want to be In The Now with them. Here's where the dilemma comes in: shouldn't I model correct behavior and work on some of my home-work while they work on theirs, to keep them focused, and model Working Behavior? And doesn't it make sense for me to Get Some Things Done while being at one with them, like working on my etsy shop or website? I do this administrative work sometimes, but then get fussy with them when they "interrupt" me with their reading and addition problems, focus gone. Be a good mom, susannah, be in the moment. Flip through recipes or something.

This Jeffersonian ideal of time management is an ideal, not a reality. There are always things on my to do list that don't get done, and who wants perfection anyway? Perfection is boring, might as well roll over and die. It seems to me that the quote I keep seeing on Pinterest for example, is that you spend your time doing what's most important to you. And the reality of how I spend my day is this: tend to the children, paint, play with paper, eat with my family, read. Sometimes exercise. Lots of times garden, rarely clean up the basement.

And try to send a handwritten note to someone. To make them feel special.

Monday, February 18, 2013

One of the advantages of being disorderly is that one is constantly making exciting discoveries.
A.A. Milne

brushes full of glue from working on some collages.

I LOVE magazines. Nothing makes me happier than going to Barnes and Noble, getting a coffee, and checking out what's new. And I usually end up taking $50 or so in magazines home with me. Which is sort of difficult since I already have about 25 subscriptions. I've always been like this. My mother used to make me clean through the stacks in my room because she was afraid all that paper would start a fire.

One type of magazine that is enormously popular right now is the "artist studios" spread, like Somerset Studios, and Cloth, Paper, Scissors Studios. and there are several magazines just about organizing. I look at these studio pics and wonder, when and where in the world do these people work? Everything is way too clean and, "tidy". Where's the clutter? Where are the clippings and scraps and sketches and spills?  The magazine people need to come see my Working Studio with its paint spilled rug, paper pieces, cups of glue water, old tubes of paint, deserted coffee cups, candy wrappers, stinky paint water. Welcome to MY world! I know there are plenty of creative people out there who like to stay clean and organized, but surely not EVERY studio photographed isn't of this ilk.

My studio--organized really well according to my system, is in a constant state of flux, partly because I work with paper AND paint AND prints AND also teach up there. Plus I always have several projects going at once, so I don't waste my time while waiting for one painting to dry. Below is a shot from December, this stuff is for some paper projects I was working on. Fun, huh?

So now I'm rearranging again, tweaking, finding ways to work more efficiently. I love painting right in front of the windows with natural light coming in. My thing now is to work as much as I can standing up; I heard this really interesting health article on NPR about how much better it is for you (here is the link: http://www.npr.org/2012/05/09/152336802/stand-up-walk-around-even-just-for-20-minutes), and I can't stop thinking about it. After a few weeks of doing this my back wasn't hurting anymore.

Anyway, I welcome visitors! Just don't trip on the glue gun.

Monday, January 14, 2013

The work of art which I do not make, none other will ever make.
Simone Weil

I have this quote painted on the wall of my art studio, and remind my students, young and old, to think about this.
I am teaching in three dementia areas of a long term care facility nearby. I knew I'd like it a lot after helping care for my dad during his illness, and from many visits to my grandmother (the one who liked paper) who lived in one for ten years. Maybe it's the in and out of (consciousness) unexpectedly that pleases me, off in daydream world whenever it's pleasing. Why be so serious all the time? Why not live in a creative imagination?.

One of the areas, of the early onset stage dementia, has not been a huge success in art class attendance. I think it's because these residents are not locked in, and can take full advantage of the outside world as well as the world in their facility, which has a ton of offerings. But for some reason, they still have not lost their fears about taking an art class, "But, I'm not an artist" is the main barrier. The group one step lower than them has lost most of their inhibitions and are open and willing to try everything I suggest. Twice a week I have at least 5 residents join me. So I practiced some of my husband's professional marketing skills and decided that we needed some "rebranding" in the more resistant group. I sent out a newsletter offering a 6 week "Handmade Holiday Workshop" in November to make simple ornaments, decorations, and gifts they could share with others. I ended up having 9 students per session! And they have been so pleased with what they've done. I'm now planning our 6 week "Handmade Valentine Workshop", due to start this week. Just don't call it an art class.

Thursday, January 3, 2013


I would like to do whatever it is that presses the essence from the hour.
Mary Oliver

This is my busiest time of the year: teaching, preparing for shows, completing commissions, and making my own gifts also. I left for thanksgiving in Texas at 6 am last week after doing three shows in the three days prior. So I guess it's no surprise that a week later I am in bed with pneumonia.

I'm usually pretty careful not to let myself get rundown since I am dealing with a chronic illness that flares up during times of stress (read: excitement, I.e. holidays). But somehow this year I have let exercise, rest, healthy eating, and stress get the better of me. So, this unexpected time in bed to read magazines and think is entirely unexpected. And a little bit welcome. Ideas have begun to flow. I'm starting to sort out the big picture. Remind myself to work smarter, not harder.

While in Texas I went to an Archivers store for the first time, holy cannoli! A paper wonderland! I went a little crazy to say the least. Found some paper I have been hoarding as its discontinued, as well as another version of it in another color, and this sort of periwinkle with light blue sparkly polka dots (definitely near the top of my all time favorite things: sparkly polka dots).  Got inspired by these colors for a new animal collage. The solid papers are also flocked, ie, they have a fuzzy texture.

Have also been thinking a lot about my color collages of a few January's ago (more on January projects later), and I need to revisit those, more pieces based on color, but more linear, more paper, more words.

some of my supplies, mid-project...