Online Artists’ Challenges Spark Exploring Techniques and New Avenues of Expression

Online challenges are a new passion of mine, having stumbled upon a free one a few months ago….maybe via Instagram?  Somebody’s blog?  I am losing track of how I found – and keep finding, such great talent on the web to learn from, maybe emulate, and share with.  Then of course, you get chummy with the other artists involved in that challenge or class.  You’re hooked.

I found more artists whose work I wanted to see more of, via a big clean-out of my many art books and periodicals.   I will be downsizing even further in the next few months, and I needed the cash, so off to HalfPrice Books I went with a load.  Before letting a good book go, I found it necessary to peruse it thoroughly; keepers were set aside and some pages torn out of various Stampington publications before trashing the rest of the magazine.  Even so, there were plenty of pristine issues intact left to sell.  You can find  ’em at the HPB store on Northwest Highway.

Now I have roughly half the art and decor books I moved in with; which gave me the courage to toss a big trash bag full of fabric scraps.  I’m not done ferreting around in my stash;  I’m determined to be tough.  I’ve had this stuff for many years.  I used to enjoy popping in to the fabric store for the odd remnant but haven’t had that pleasure for a long time, ’cause I just didn’t want to add to my piles.

Last week I let my favorite doll that I made go; and it didn’t hurt as much as I thought it would!  “Beth” is with her new mom now up in Glen Ellyn, IL.   I listed her on Etsy and she wasn’t there for long, so I am encouraged to keep going with dolls and other artwork for sale.  And selling at lower prices than I offered before; I am trying to find that sweet spot between what’s affordable for a buyer and gives me some profit, too.  It’s the sharing of my work, and the recognition, and joy the buyer experiences that mean the most to me now.

I love Instagram for its ability to satisfy my need for instant gratification.  I follow close to 200 artists world-wide now, and have some followers of my own.  It keeps me on the creativity path.  The online challenges have you upload your “homework” onto Instagram, and all the artists in the challenge view and comment on everyone’s work.

Shout out to Tara Leaver, a young abstract painter in Cornwall for her Art Notes news and encouragement!  She has online classes in addition to an occasional free challenge.

Tara Leaver Freedom Through Art

Now for photos of my artwork since last May.

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Playing with Linda Goodwin’s oil pastels

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Black gesso smudge, white charcoal and oil on small canvas paper. I didn’t plan it, I just pulled the imagery out of the black smudge.
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White and Black charcoal
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Still loving learning painting with soft pastels via Gail Sibley’s blog, How To Pastel

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I fell in love with a business card featuring a photo of A Little Company stoneware/porcelain sculpture of these delightful characters
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I wanted to see what would happen if I held two different tip size pens and made a quick sketch of a still life.

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“Beth” doll is ready for mailing to her new mom in IL. I made her wrapping paper out of paper napkins stitched together.
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Little fabric collage, or samplers. Using up favorite scraps, and loving the zen relaxation of making them. Just instinctive; no plan. Addictive. Jude Hill of Spirit Cloth got me onto this.

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Pamela Hastings Book and the little figure I made from one of her patterns
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I wonder if I should quit while I’m a-head?

Time to Try New Things! New Worlds Open Up…..

Discovering the joy of Instagram

Wherein I begin to post all my new (and older) artwork and find a variety of artists and creatives and makers from all over the world, who post their expressions…..and you can communicate with them in real time!  I need more real time!

Genie Geer’s Instagram account

Creatives I am currently following on Instagram

A couple photos of what I’ve been working on.   Or click on the link above to my Instagram account.

I am still a little challenged on uploading photos from my Flickr page to my blog via downloading them first to this Windows PC…..I find Flickr difficult to use and Instagram is my new crush.  I can upload photos from my iPhone to Instagram in a snap, and tell it to share with Facebook and Flickr.  Done and Done.  I haven’t attempted to upload my phone data to this computer yet.  I hope I learn that soon.

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Final version of pastel, “The Dollmaker and Her Doll”
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Final Version, “Imaginary Sam”

On the Bookshelf

I’m always reading / studying several publications at a time.   Sometimes it takes me a few months to finish any one of them.  Who am I kidding.  Sometimes over a year.   As is the case of Proust’s tomes; I love them for their descriptive prose, it’s like looking at a series of beautiful paintings.  I’m a slow reader, maybe because I visualize every little thing.

Louise Penny “The Brutal Telling”, #5 in the Chief Inspector Gamache novels.  I love her characters and the Quebec backdrop.

Elisabeth-Louise Vigee-Lebrun “Memoirs of Madame Vigee-Lebrun, Illustrated Edition”.  This is the autobiography of the prolific French artist whose many clients spanning many decades, included Marie Antionette.  She traveled and worked all over Europe until her death in 1842.  Wow!

Barbara Gold’s “Loving Courageously…First Me, Then You, Now Us”.

https://www.amazon.com/Loving-Courageously

She has a YouTube interview, here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TPuEHCeNlNw

Barbara draws on over 35 years of psychotherapy practice to help readers develop a self to love and take good care of as we re-write the script we’ve learned.  Knowing me well, and some of the issues I struggle with, she recommended I read:

“When Food Is Love”, Exploring the Relationship Between Eating and Intimacy”, by Geneen Roth (also on Amazon).  I’m only in the second chapter, but I can tell you that silent tears streamed down my cheeks all through Chapter 1.  Many years ago I had to give up booze and cigarettes and looking for love in all the wrong places.  My son grew up to have serious dependency problems of his own.  No dad around.  Now, I can’t live without artmaking.  And comfort food, primarily Blue Bell Ice Cream.  I wonder if I will cry during chapter 2 of Roth’s book?

Carole Katchen’s “Express Yourself! with Pastel”.  The Art of Carole Katchen

I glommed on to this artist through one of my favorite blogs,  “How To Pastel” by Gail Sibley.   I’m using what I’m learning through Carole and Gail’s techniques to create my own pastel paintings over the last few weeks.  Here’s the link to her blog:

Gail Sibley, pastelist

Pastel Journal, http://www.pasteljournal.com.  The only magazine I subscribe to these days.

And then through all these great learning sources, I can’t forget YouTube, because many generous artists of all genre share their expertise online.  There aren’t enough hours in the day!  Yipee for retirement!  A friend of mine was shocked when she found out how many hours a day I devote to social media plus my artwork.  One wonders how I even have time for ice cream.

Katherine Dunn’s “Creative Illustration Workshop for Mixed Media Artists”.  I found this gem at HalfPrice Books.  I first saw her work in one of Cat Bennett’s books.  There is a whimsy and similarity in their styles, I think.

Katherine Dunn

Cat Bennett

Lastly, two “In Easy Steps” how-to reference books on Windows 10 and Word 2013 because I had to retire my old and small, MacBook.   Because I sometimes get to work with a couple of friends involving using a computer, and they use Windows, and mainly because I could not afford to upgrade my Apple OS, I made the decision to purchase a used, refurbished Toshiba laptop.   And this sucker is big, for ease of use.  This  post is ‘Shiba’s virgin foray into the blogesphere  of Artyology and friends.  I am also using Google Chrome for the first time.  Having a little challenge with curser control.

Stitch with Friends

It was a fun evening at Kelly’s with our friend Linda, and Kelly’s darling dogs, Gypsy and Elsa.   I was really rusty since no actual fiber arts have been accomplished over here lately, just lots of looking at various textile artists’ blogs.  I want to start some more dollmaking with simple patterns, smallish in size, and with some drawing on the fabric plus little “samplers” stitched onto their simple clothes….

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That’s all for now.  I’ve got a buncha blogs to read!

 

Downsizing, Change, Reunions, and new Sketches plus Fiber Art

Months ago, I downsized from a 3 bedroom house to 1 bedroom apartment.  Oh GOD.  Don’t let me use large boxes ever again!  I’m too old for this.  But even so, YES, I will be moving again next year…..to an even smaller apartment in a modest retirement community in Old East Dallas on the edge of Lakewood.  Love that.  Plus, it will be much cheaper, and that’s the whole point of all this Damn Downsizing.

I let go of almost half of what I owned before the move.  Painful at times, yet freeing.  Cousin Julie, who had also just downsized, sent me her copy of “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: the Japanese art of decluttering and organizing” by Marie Kondo.  A revelation.  If the item doesn’t “spark joy” when you touch it, let it go to a new owner who might love it. (or just throw it away).  Serious magic, indeed.  Important to follow the order she prescribes, as your confidence and clarity grows throughout the process.  The only thing I couldn’t do was fold all my blouses/tops for storage in drawers.  I prefer hangers and I’m NOT a young petite person like Ms. Kondo.  You get the idea.

New apartment, “Before”…..

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Where the hell did all this stuff come from?  I am so overwhelmed, it takes me months to get unpacked and re-designed.

So now we come to the “After” pics:

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These books all pertain to art making.  LOVE my new vertical metal “spine” bookshelves.  Cloth dolls and paintings by me.
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Painting by Las Vegas artist Jenn Main circa 2000.  I made a “gallery wall” by the bed using mostly family photos.  I still don’t like the bedroom.  I miss the 2 windows with leafy green views that were in my bedroom in my house.   I also miss the pink bedroom walls my son had painted for me there.
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I used to have 3 tables.  This old beat up vintage one was a gift in the ’70’s from a beloved aunt.  I just can’t part with it.  See the metal cart on wheels?  A recent steal from Tuesday Morning.  It holds the supplies I use the most.  I rounded up all the old photos accumulated pre-smart phone days and stored them in the round turquoise boxes that had been languishing mostly unused, due to their inconvenient roundness.  They are happy now.  I repurposed a canvas art supply tote to hold household tools.
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I repurposed the linen cabinet for art supply storage.  The bottom drawer holds mostly muslin/calico.  It took me months to decide how I wanted to organize everything.  I am unable to just stash things away in order to hide them, which irritated a minimalist numbers-loving friend who tried to help me…in vain.  I had to undo everything she tried to do!  Who says artists aren’t organized?  It just takes me longer to get there.
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This $15 plastic shelf from Lowe’s is perfect for a tiny corner.   Oil painting by my late mom, D.J. Geer, circa 1965.  I covered the front of an old couch pillow with a leopard print remnant.  Origami cranes by grandson Castle Keathley.
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Castle Keathley (the greatest grandson of all time) comes over to hang out.  It feels like home now!
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Another new metal spine bookshelf for my Decor library.  Castle assembled them for me.  I found them via Amazon.  Design Within Reach carries them as well.  A must-have for small spaces.  Artwork and dolls by yours truly.

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See the tall, narrow coffee cups?  With the Dutch canal houses on them?  A serendipitous gift from friends and newlyweds Jennifer and Marcel.  He’s Dutch, she’s a Dallas gal and now she lives in my favorite country, Holland, with Marcel and his two darling daughters.  The coffee cups are from Amsterdam.  They replace my favorite cup which somehow got left behind during my move and for which I grieved, silly as that sounds….my son Eric made the wood plaque for me when we lived in The Lehigh Valley for a few years.  I still miss the snow and the scenic views.

Reunions……

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Jennifer and Marcel with Elise and Melanie.  It was the girls’ first trip to the USA!
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Teenage friends Genie and Barbara reunite at her book launch…that’s Barbara Gold on the right.  She grew up to have a successful private practice as a family therapist and now author!  Loving Courageously:  First Me, Then You, Now Us is available on Amazon.  An easy, entertaining read full of pearls of wisdom and references to pop culture.  Have your highlighter ready.

And my 50th high school reunion was so cool, that none of us got as many photos of each other as we wanted.  I could only stop talking long enough to take a few.

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Linda, Barbara, Ronnie, Anita, and Joel

This formatting is about to kill me.  I can’t figure it out.  Something changed.

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Is this me….or Hillary?  Just after the Election
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I was trying to depict my new Marie Antoinette couch pillow cover

During all this life readjustment, I had cataract surgeries on both eyes.  Long process.  These sketches were all done during that time, and around the presidential election, which was also a cause for my watery, blurry eyes.  And general depression.

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Mom’s antique secretary.  Before she died, she spent many happy hours at it, painting little exquisite pastel landscapes.
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I was playing around with a felt tip calligraphy pen.  These people, in this style, keep showing up.
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Playing around with gouache.  Now I think he reminds me of Pres Obama. 
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“Pink” Decor
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Another stitch project .  Free form cloth hand sewn figure
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Pastel and Micron pen in AquaBee sketchbook
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New Fav magazine

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Fabric remnants gifted by designer Jennifer Mayer
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Multitasking.  Reading Barbara Gold’s Loving Courageously and playing paper dolls.
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I survived downsizing!  With a LOT of help from my friends and family.  And am always happy on an art-day outing!

 

 

In Order to Execute One Task, I Drift Off Into Another In Search of the Elusive Muse

Evolving Studio Reorganization
A few weeks ago, before launching into some new projects, I decided my living room/studio required another sort and rearrange.  Besides gaining some wiggle room I found an old sketchbook with drawings from my foray into the Sketching in the Gallery events at Dallas Museum of Art in 2001.  I thought I had lost them.  My graphite drawings reminded me how much I used to love using charcoal.  Now I get a thrill knowing I can seal these babies with my new spray fixatives (matte or semi-gloss).

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My tonal drawing of a painting while at Dallas Museum of Art’s Sketching in the Galleries

Before and After

Before and at the Point of Overwhelment:

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And After, At Last:

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Mom painted that Venice scene in 1965.  We hated the bottom half.  I’m collaging on that part.  Mom’s passed on, but I like to think she visits me.

 

Trying New Supplies and Techniques
In response to a call for entries for artworks inspired by the iconic Frida Kahlo at an upcoming curated gallery exhibit at The Bath House at White Rock Lake, I had an idea for a cloth doll posing with some of her (the doll’s, not Frida’s), self portrait sketches (done by yours truly). I wanted to experiment with some of my new art supplies, but it was also important to me that I use fabric, trims, and doll hair already on hand.  And the DOLL selects the materials she wants.

I like to shop online.  I HATE shopping in person.  My vertigo kicks in and I always get a tummy ache.  In a store, decision-making eludes me.  I have been known to leave a store empty-handed.  If I could order groceries online for cheap, I would.  Anyway…..

The drawings are done on four different papers, approx. 5” x 7”, using a variety of tools including chisel tip pens, markers Pigma pen, pastels, acrylic, charcoal.  Why had I been afraid to try new techniques?  That’s an interesting line of thought, I think..  I found I love the soft pastels, especially on this new Yupo ‘paper’.  So slick and smooth!  Spray with fixative and you’re done.

I was uncomfortable using the calligraphy pens and lost control of my marking a few times.  So much so that I cut out the boo-boo and pasted on a new piece of paper, and drew over that.  Ouch. The damn chisel tips bleed when dampened by a dot of Elmer’s.  That would never do with a wash.  I’ll stick with my trusty Micron Pigma Pens.  In the end, none of my sketches remotely resemble Frida, but why quibble over details?   In any case, I changed my mind about using them with my Frida doll entry.  They will turn up in a future project, probably.

Recent sketchbook drawings with new supplies:

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The dreaminess of soft pastel on the slick Yupo paper blew me away

 

Inspiring Studio of Artist/Writer Linda Garten Goodwin
Is it any wonder I like to hang out in my friend’s carefully collected and curated studio space?

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Linda’s self portrait.  The red shoes are just there for eye candy.

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My Frida Sketches

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Charcoal interior in new 12 x 9 Super Deluxe Bee Paper sketchbook

In Order to Execute One Task, I Drift Off Into Another In Search of the Elusive Muse
I was also playing around with piecing small scraps of fabric.  Maybe use some on cloth dolls.  Maybe just see what becomes.  I was stuck in the select-and-pin phase; the thing was getting too big and pissing me off,  when I happened to take a Pinterest break.  A Pinterest “break” usually becomes a BINGE.

Luckily my Textiles-Fiber Arts Pinterest board includes work by Jude Hill and I happened to swoop into her Spirit Cloth blog   .    Serendipity!  She was just starting a new online sharing project and soon I had segued into beginning my first cloth sampler.  I’ll try a nine-patch soon, but it scares me because I have a hard time with measurements and squaring things up.  Don’t know how much of that fear is due to mental block or mental handicap.  **humphf**  But for this first project, I want intuitive design, imperfection, and simple hand stitch.  I love that Jude uses just a few simple but perfect, tiny embroidery stitches.  The folk art feel appealed to me, but with the hope of producing something that is somehow primitive and modern all at once.

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Piecing out of control

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It started off random but now reminds me of a town

 

Meanwhile, My Doll Making Muse Butts In
So OF COURSE this stitch-play led to the dubious decision to stitch my Frida doll BY HAND.  Which I loved doing, but it really slowed me down and I was only 97% finished with her in time to meet a contest photo-entry deadline, so I had to tack her clothes in place, pose and snap the photo, and wait until later to give her rings and embroidered shoes.   I used my new pastels along with pen, fabric paint and spray fixative on her face.  I’m pleased with her hair.  It’s mohair + synthetic doll hair.  She wears new earrings from Kalachandji’s Indian gift shop. She doesn’t look like the real Frida, but she FEELS like her to me.  I enjoyed researching the real Frida Kahlo in any case, and remembered I want to add the movie to my collection someday.

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A trip to Joann for embroidery floss for Frida’s slippers also yielded remnants which I immediately hand stitched onto sofa pillows I was sick of.  Frida doll approves.

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This was my photo entry of my piece for the upcoming curated gallery exhibit at The Bath House
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Frida doll contemplates her image in this moody light-play vignette
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And we are off for delivery to the art gallery!

Color Play
Adult Coloring Books have become so popular, and friend Linda Garten Goodwin and I spent an afternoon at the Bath House at White Rock Lake indulging in a coloring event with folks from the East Dallas Creative Arts Center.  I hope to take a class there someday.  Anyway, while I enjoyed the outing, my colored page SUCKED.  A four year old could have done better.  I was duly humbled.  Linda didn’t like hers either, but I thought she did pretty good considering her advanced age (ha!).  She complained that her hand was cramping up.  Excuses, excuses….

Speaking of child play……So the kids who graduated high school the year before me were in town for their 50th reunion.  Lesley Ivy stayed with Linda and Mr. G, (who live just a couple blocks from me in the White Rock area), and I was lucky to get a play date with her and Linda before Lesley returned to her home in Taos.  (I know, right? Taos.  *sigh*)

We had a sublime lunch at East Dallas’ Kalachandji’s Indian restaurant/gift shop/temple, where you eat outside in a lovely courtyard.  I bought Frida-doll’s earrings there.  Beautiful afternoon with beautiful ladies!

Check out Lesley’s colorful and distinctive murals, mosaics, painted furniture and more, here  Colorwork  I’ll take one of each, please!

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Coloring at The Bath House
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Linda got Colorers’ Cramp
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Courtyard dining
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Stained glass Peacock at the Indian restaurant
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Old High School Friends Lesley Ivy and Linda Garten Goodwin
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Little Ganesh came home with me.  He removes obstacles in our paths.  Seems to be working pretty well.  Nice.

 

Hope Returns and Sharing Maker Inspiration

I continue to rework some older cloth dolls as the mood strikes me.  I am still incubating ideas for new pieces.  Often, before I fall asleep, I rehearse a technique and assemble all the parts completely in my head.  I might even paint a picture (also in my head).  Too bad all the inspired work going on in my head doesn’t actually come to fruition.  Is this normal behavior?

Artists/Makers/Teachers whose work has influenced me lately are:

Claudine Hellmuth – collage

Claudine Hellmuth

Lynne Perrella – collage, mixed media

Lynne Perrella

Thread and Thrift – textile artist, printmaker

Thread and Thrift

The Pale Rook – cloth doll art

The Pale Rook

Paper doll project courtesy The Pale Rook. Lynne Perrella's awesome book Beyond Paper Dolls inspires.
Paper doll project courtesy The Pale Rook. Lynne Perrella’s awesome book Beyond Paper Dolls inspires.
I pasted notes by The Pale Rook on back. I dressed the doll with cut outs from a fashion magazine
I pasted notes by The Pale Rook on back. I dressed the doll with cut outs from a fashion magazine
The Pale Rook paper doll joins other
The Pale Rook paper doll joins other “store-bought” dolls in my very girlie bedroom
Framed Original collage circa 2004 by Claudine Hellmuth
Framed Original collage circa 2004 by Claudine Hellmuth
Phoebe gets a makeover + paperclip
Phoebe gets a makeover + paperclip
clothes are raw-edge and embellished with crude embroidery. And she
clothes are raw-edge and embellished with crude embroidery. And she “borrowed” another doll’s purse.
Back view highlights back of skirt
Back view highlights back of skirt
Marianne's original face circa 1997
Marianne’s original face circa 1997
Makeover includes a chin lift underway (see needle, no, it doesn't hurt)
Makeover includes a chin lift underway (see needle, no, it doesn’t hurt)
I'd forgotten that I had even recycled a failed head, proving women do in fact have eyes in the back of their heads.
I’d forgotten that I had even recycled a failed head, proving women do in fact have eyes in the back of their heads.
“New” Marianne still loves her old dress and boots.
New chin, makeup, hair...
New chin, makeup, hair…

My mom, D.J. Geer, who passed sixteen years ago, would have turned 90 this past July.  She was an artist and especially loved any sort of textile art.  We were playmates.  She loved birds.  When she died, I took her favorite ceramic purchase, a fat budgie. This is my watercolor of it.

Mom's little budgie
Mom’s little budgie

Hey, New York: Hipsters thrive in Texas too!

Jake at Half Price Books in Dallas, TX
Jake at Half Price Books in Dallas, TX

Over the last few months, I have been fortunate to supplement my social security income by typing, and helping edit, a dear friend’s memoir.  It is turning into therapy for us both (besides the obvious learning experience).  In addition, we are working on an art project together; I am scanning and mounting her drawings.  Here’s a little sketch I made of her after a memoir session at my kitchen table:

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April to present was filled with difficulties related to family issues and there were times I couldn’t make much art, or even read blogs; it was a struggle to open my email and Facebook.  Just wanted to sleep round the clock.  My memoir-writing friend has lent me her Inspector Gamache and The Walk novels, as I confessed to only reading my collection of “research” material related to Art or Decor or Fashion.

I needed an escape, and boy do I love Louise Penny’s and Richard Paul Evans’ work now!  I’m an addictive personality and can barely put them down long enough to return to Blogs and Art.  I expect to learn some things about Life and People, and maybe….maybe that will lead to some new Artwork, as well.  Hope returns.

My cottage as viewed thru' neighbor's rose bush
My cottage as viewed thru’ neighbor’s rose bush
More paper doll fun
More paper doll fun

The Boomer Digital Learning Curve + Self-Doubt = Just One More Challenge

Hip hip hurrah!  During Thanksgiving week, a woman in New York purchased one of my paintings from my new Etsy site!  My God, I was so proud and pleased (still am) because this was validation that my art mattered, it spoke to someone besides me, it gave someone so much pleasure to see that they were compelled to buy it.  I’m like a proud parent sending a cherished child into the world.

Even so, a big funk recently overtook me (for days and days), and I began to doubt my ability, my path, and worse:  I felt I didn’t deserve anything good, much less recognition and validation.  Who did I think I was, anyway?  And my gawd, look how old I am!  A retired Boomer, washed-up old hag…..blah blah blah.

In my very long experience with this issue there were too many times I got close to my goal, backed away, gave up.  Pouted and indulged in despair (and things that weren’t very good for my health).  So OK, this time I did dig in to the Blue Bell ice cream a whole lot, but I remembered to turn to my collection of books on creativity for help.  One is Julia Cameron’s ‘The Artist’s Way Trilogy’, and since I do believe we are guided, closed my eyes and let it fall open…..and the page it fell open to featured the section on ‘Creative U-Turns’.  Damn!  Magic, yet again.

And then there’s the what I call The Boomer Digital Learning Curve.  I have been in computer hell for a few days, figuring out  how to make a watermark to apply on my pics of my artwork ‘cuz copyright infringement is a hot topic and maybe, just maybe, some idiot would download one of my pieces and slap it in a frame, bypassing actually purchasing it from me.  I don’t think so!  This means I have been notating all my digital work, uploading new photos to my Etsy shop, and taking some off my Pinterest site, finally realizing Pinterest is not really the best place to post your own work anyway; and on it goes.

Here is my mixed media painting that was my first sale on Etsy:

Ethnic Girl collage in acrylic & tissue paper
Ethnic Girl collage in acrylic & tissue paper

One of the gifties I sent to Cousin Julie in Virginia, is this print of my sketch, “Tablet Guy”.  Julie says her iPad is her ‘constant companion’.  This coming from a lady who, not too long ago, was not eager to tackle the Boomer Digital Learning Curve and now she could probably teach a class on it.

Cousin Julie displays one of her Christmas gifts from me:  a print of my sketch, "Tablet Guy"
Cousin Julie displays one of her Christmas gifts from me: a print of my sketch, “Tablet Guy”

To make my life easier and less angst-full I think I will blog more regularly instead of saving up too much chatter in my head.  I can release it into the blogosphere, thereby freeing more space in the brain for creative thoughts.

Sketchbook drawing of a  cloth doll I made for myself expressing relief that the antidepressant meds had begun to work.
Sketchbook drawing of a cloth doll I made for myself expressing relief that the antidepressant meds had begun to work.

Sometimes It Just All Goes Terribly Wrong. Until You Work Through It.

Well, that’s a bit of an overstatement about my irritations today, but I’m still in a twit over it and needing to just get over myself.  Nothing’s so irritating as knowing just enough about computers and blogs and social media sites and online shops and digital photos and scans ET AL….to just irritate yourself silly.

I was tweaking my blog you see, and sorta crashed my PC.  I still have my MacBook which needs a new OS (since it is going on 8 years old) so I’m plugging away on it right now.  I do love it, bless its tiny screen, but I also love my BIG monitor PC.  OK.

Poking around in my photo files, I found some pics that illustrated what I thought were Projects Gone Terribly Wrong.  I’m wondering if I can rescue a couple of them because in retrospect, they don’t appear as horrid to me know as they did back then.  I can crop and digitally correct some scans, and I can paint all around and over the oil.  Unless I just decide to start on Something Else Entirely.

Neighbor let this tree die.
I LOVED this tree in the neighbor’s yard. Then she let it DIE.
Obsessed with PINK couches; tried to paint one + adding collage
Obsessed with PINK couches; tried to paint one + adding collage
lampshade momPoetry
I used part of a page of Mom’s poetry for the lampshade
couch goingWrong
Then I stopped working on it because I thought it sucked.
LittleFkrs
Stuff going wrong all around the house.
PinkCloudGroup
A big doodle became a group of people in need of a “Pink Cloud”
PinkSofa
The weird pink couch obsession, again.

But Oh Boy! Here’s some Things I REALLY Like; pics from friends, the neighborhood, famous artists, and my own scribbles as well:

latesunLR
When my Dutch friends in The Hague remodeled their home, they sent me this enchanted pic
snow&bluehs
Yes, it does snow in Dallas. My backyard
OldTowne Alexandria bookshop
When visiting my cousin in Alexandria, VA – the coolest bookshop in Old Towne
A favorite artist, Pierre Lesieur
A favorite artist, Pierre Lesieur

p liesure violet couch

rumi
As I imagined Rumi

I’m really getting in the mood to make some simple cloth dolls.  I had forgotten about this little drawing, and maybe she has surfaced at just the right time.  Yes, most definitely. mostBasicForm

Feelin’ better already.  Funny how that works.

Mixing it up with sketch, stitch, and paint

Commissioned work scares the hell out of me.  And not because I am afraid the piece won’t turn out well, but because some of the magic of spontaneity may not find its way in, that even one limitation to the work’s intuitive process (some specific requirement as requested by the commissioner) will limit me in such a way that I become very uncomfortable.  Never mind that the buyer’s ideas may make my artwork even better, perish the thought!  Clearly, I have control and ego issues.

But I love it when someone likes a finished piece so much he/she must have it, and when this occurs, nothing could be sweeter.  You feel as if you have truly communicated your intention as told to you by the artwork itself.

The photos show recent sketches and a couple of cloth dolls – I’m calling them BodyParts Dolls, as I continue to assemble, or in some cases, disassemble dolls; changing hair, making new clothing bits, faces, hats…..

I continue to draw and paint, usually drifting from one project to another.  That’s a great benefit of having let my “studio” space be the very same as my “living area”.   Can’t separate them.

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A Metaphor For Life: “You Just Have To Fool With It”

Disclaimer:  Today’s blog is very ego-centric.  As I watched devastating events unfold this summer related to natural – and unnatural – disasters around the world, I felt more and more powerless.  I can’t control any of that.  But I can control some things about me.

This summer I was so fortunate to rejoin America’s work force, albeit at the least rate of pay since what I earned as a secretary in the ‘70s, and I remain astounded that this is the case for so many of us in this economy.  Misery loves company and yes, I am happy that we are in this boat together, and grateful for my new job.  And I wonder, are we “the underemployed”?  Financials aside, in my case, No!

The skills I have acquired over the last couple of years as a customer service representative along with learning even more complex duties associated with customer care in my current position, are far more challenging and rewarding than any tasks I ever performed as a secretary or assistant years ago.  Now that I am older, my work ethic and attitude have improved; I take nothing for granted.  As I navigate what for me is a steep learning curve in my current position, I find it is helpful to follow the advice of Karon, my supervisor, “You just have to fool with it”.

In July I crashed and burned over a combination of let-downs:  I had suddenly stopped working daily in my sketch journal, I was overwhelmed with adjusting to my new schedule, and dealing head-on with some financial challenges; plus anxiety and excitement over my 45th high school reunion just about did me in.  The post-reunion depression stunned me.  Let’s face it: I was expecting the 18 year old me to walk into a room full of 18 year old classmates.  I didn’t recognize most of them; hell, I don’t even recognize me.   I couldn’t hear, my legs ached from standing, and I felt very out-of-body.  And it gets worse from there!  I proceed to measure my success by theirs; OMG, I’m a blimp and a failure!  Loser!

And here’s the kicker: if it really isn’t what’s on the outside that counts, but what lies within, I am screwed!  I’m not even that nice!  Despite my girth I am vain, egotistical, temperamental.  I’m selfish and self-centered and jealously guard my solitude.  I don’t always play well with others.   So, I am an artist, at last.  I pass the personality test.

I have an “Ah-ha!” moment watching Stacy & Clinton on What Not To Wear describe the shape of an outfit making a plus size gal “look like an ice cream cone”.  Time to rethink my wardrobe.  Acknowledging that I swoon over the floaty, printed, femme shapes of some of today’s fashions helps me make a shift inside and out.  A sense of excitement and anticipation stirs me.  I recall that these bespoke elements have never gone out of style, and I have always felt my best when sashaying around in them.   I dressed that way a lot in the 70’s (when I was an artist) and in the 90’s (when I was an artist) and now that I’ve discovered my art again, it’s time to change my look.  Indeed, you just have to fool with it.

How this artist regains hope and inspiration

Notes about my cherished books and climbing out of the abyss.

If I were a good student and steward of all the literature I’ve been devouring over the last few years related to opening up to spirituality and creativity and Source, I would trust that a few simple and gentle steps could help me climb out of the abyss I fell into a few weeks ago.  I did get jolted out of it when I was rightly guided, – no coincidence – and that’s kinda why I started this illustrated blog.

So, one day recently when I was sick of my malaise but still mired in it, I started to reach for one of my fav magazines or books about decor/design but “something” directed my hand back to a volume I hadn’t finished working in: Julia Cameron’s The Complete Artist’s Way trilogy including The Artist’s Way, Walking in This World, and Finding Water.  I had left off reading a few months ago at Week 6 in Finding Water.

Amazed at first to discover that these chapters dealt with navigating through those inexplicable periods of depression that steal over many of us, then more excited as I read on because the strong urge to pick up this particular book, picking it up where I’d left off at the precise place where I meet myself now, is exactly what I needed  (and exactly the confirmation (not coincidence, mind you) that the Universe sends you when you can’t seem to muster up some faith and trust that you will get through this, whatever “this” you are going through.

Last night I was thinking about the people along the Mississippi River, and others recently who have lost everything due to Mother Nature’s recent devastation on them, and what would I grab if I had some warning to evacuate my home?  This works like counting sheep to get to sleep because I ticked off virtually all my belongings plus dog Ziggy before I drifted off.

Here’s a fairly comprehensive list of my favorite reading material (and eye candy) that I just couldn’t leave behind:

▪ Creating a Life Worth Living by Carol Lloyd

▪ The 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women; Gail McMeekin

▪ Writing Down the Bones; Natalie Goldberg

▪ A New Earth, and The Power of Now; Eckhart Tolle

▪ The Seat of the Soul by Gary Zukov

▪ The Law of Attraction and other books by Abraham-Hicks

▪ The Art of Happiness by HH Dalai Lama

▪ The Complete Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron

▪ The Confident Creative; Cat Bennett

▪ All of Danny Gregory’s books about sketchbooks: Creative Matters, Creative License, and An Illustrated Life

▪ Living the Creative Life and Creative Time & Space, both by Rice (say “Ree-sa”) Freeman-Zachary

…..& a couple dozen exquisite tomes by today’s popular designers, stylists, photographers and bloggers of lifestyle & fashion: (I eliminated first names cuz this list is getting really long)  Chalmers & Hanan, Bauwers & Campbell, Bartolucci & Kurzaj; Lemieux, Becker, Copestick & Treloar; Gillingham-Ryan, Williams, Line, Sorrell; Bird, Tryde & Newdick; plus those little Taschen books…and Selby, Rodic, Schuman, Larocca & Chessum. *whew*

…..and of course, books about my fav artists and oh, a few books on actual art-making plus a slew of magazines (beloved Domino mags and House & Garden have their very own stacks).  And oh, yeah, binders of tear sheets, a couple devoted to decor and a couple just for art-making inspiration.

I am never, ever, bored.  A little down in the dumps from time to time, but never bored.  That reminds me: I miss artist Jane Cather’s website and blog, where has she gone?  Her work always inspires me.  It’s a blessed thing to be inspired.