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?

Letting Go and Moving On in Retirement. May It Lead to New Artwork, at Least.

It happened to me, what was unthinkable…..running out of money and resources in retirement; this Boomer who never planned for the future and was blind-sided by job losses and home equity losses, et al, blah blah blah.  Now made the tough decision to sell my cottage on a tree-lined street near my beloved White Rock Lake, and – ohmygod, will rent an apartment for awhile.  Perhaps a long while.  After ten years of ownership, my equity is non-existent due to the housing crash, and this old cottage now needs upkeep and repair I cannot make.  I dreamed of hanging on long enough to get a nice reverse mortgage, but the bathroom floor will have long caved in before that ever happens.

To my chagrin, I find that I qualify for subsidized housing for a one bedroom apartment.  So that’s what I have to do.  The For Sale sign went up in my yard today, and there have been three showings already.

My grandson will move back home with his mom and sisters and her boyfriend, and my son will have to find someone else besides me to stay with.  I’ve done all I can do, and now it is time to let go and move on.  I can’t help but think about everyone who rails against entitlements for the poor and ashamed to admit that in my callous youth, I was a snob.  I wasn’t priviledged,  just ignorant and naive.   I wasn’t smart with money, and I gave most of my inheritance away or made bad investments during the recession.  But I always worked and supported us, and paid my taxes.  Now it’s my turn to hold out my hand for help from the government.  There you have it.

So I made this little sampler cloth that had a horizontal piece up top, and it looked sort of like a pagoda, or perhaps an irregular cross.  I had another piece of brown and cream toile by Laura Ashley and I cut a section out that had a female profile with an outstretched arm on it.  After that, I drew a larger profile beside the printed toile one.  She wanted boots for walking, so a periwinkle pair were stitched and stuffed, trapunto-style.  Hands outstretched, she is garnering the courage to journey forward.

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Paintings by Claudia McGill

Here are photos of little paintings by Claudia McGill, whom I discovered by linking into blogs here on WordPress.  I adore her work!  She is very generous, and had a giveaway on her blog.  In exchange, I sent her a sampling of my work and am tickled to learn that she’s keeping them together like a little art journal.  So cool.

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Claudia McGill original acrylic paintings on canvas panels. displayed temporarily along a kitchen backsplash ledge

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Reception and Gallery Walk at theSmall Gallery and Slant Gallery in Midtown

I took photos of every piece of artwork (well, I think I got it all) that was on display at theSmall Gallery and Slant Gallery recently and will share them with you.  To start, here I am at the Reception attempting a selfie against my cloth head-ladies dolls.

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That wraps up the Midtown gallery tours for April.  If you made it this far into my blog post today, I hope you enjoyed it!

I am musing now…..does it matter where I live as long as I am surrounded by art that sustains me?  I still have friends, family, and a host of folks to admire in social media and the blogesphere.  But….Hopefully a view of leafy green or at least a flowering hanging basket from apartment windows.  Pride, pride go away….give up the dream of home ownership.  If it is a burden, then it is too much for me to handle.  Been there, done that, as we say.  Time to move on.

 

Fiddling Around With Projects to Get Through Hard Times and Good

In light of current events, how can my need for creative expression possibly matter, given the frightening state of affairs in the world?  Is that shallow of me?  I am petrified of the term “shallow”.  It has been used to describe me during my most rebellious periods and haunts me.  I curse myself for my vast amount of shallowness in previous decades and wonder how much remains?  Gawd.  Sadness and Fear drifted in these last couple months more than expected, but also some great joy in family coming together.

Urgent family business requiring three stressful and relatively unpleasant trips Downtown and much paperwork prep, coupled with the sudden and unexpected death by cancer of my beloved cousin Ronald, laid me low a few days.   I started mixing up house paint because my pale blue bedroom was on my nerves.  There were 3 false starts until I finally mixed a pinky-peachy-beige and wanted it up on the wall NOW.   But I stalled out!  I just couldn’t get it done.

Meantime, I’m helping a friend type and edit her memoir which is a fascinating project and we have a lively monthly meeting at my kitchen table.  Soon after Ronnie’s funeral, along comes a wonderful family celebration in Ennis, and I am rejuvenated by reconnecting and meeting some special new people, although cousin Ronald was dearly missed.

All during these difficult 2 months it felt like all my attempts at art making sucked, so I just fiddled around with ideas and snapped pics of the process.  I cheered myself up with a purchase from Etsy artist Monnie Bean Folkart and took pics of him hanging around the house.  He’s paperclay, and upon arrival on my doorstep, told me his name was “Trevor”.

I was so excited that artist, book author,  and blogger Seth Apter included a photo I sent him of one of my artwork displays at home in the Living With Art section of his blog!  ( I am having trouble making “insert link” work, so am inserting this the hard way)

http://thealteredpage.blogspot.com/     Look for Week 12 of Living With Art, artists’ homes on his homepage.

Then Mother’s Day arrived and my son gave me a wonderful gift: He finished painting my bedroom for me!  It’s a much more soothing room now and all the more so because of his hard work.

Click on any of the mis-mash of my images below to enlarge them.

Trevor (paperclay doll by Monnie Bean Folkart) supervises furniture painting
Trevor (paperclay doll by Monnie Bean Folkart) supervises furniture painting
Paint colors test
Paint colors test
My soon-to-be-pink table was on West End Salvage.  My impression of Don....
West End Salvage TV show featured a little vintage Duncan Phyfe table like mine…which I am painting pink.
Project sketches
Project sketches
Trevor ondesk
On my desk: David and Trevor
New loot by Pam Carriker & Seth Apter + cat = good lounging
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My front yard. It’s spring!
Trevor drawing gone wrong
Trevor drawing gone wrong
desk chaos 1
desk chaos 1
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Desk tidy up
Spring studio view
Spring studio view
Vintage teapot + notes on new doll project
Vintage teapot + notes on new doll project
Cloth doll in process of a re-do
Cloth doll in process of a re-do
Playing with mixed media.
Playing with mixed media.
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The cloth doll goes in a whole new direction
Experiment gone wrong: Caran D'Ache watercolor pastels + gouach paint on Lokti paper
Experiment gone wrong: Caran D’Ache watercolor pastels + gouach paint on Lokti paper
Mother's Day Gift: pinky paint job
Mother’s Day Gift: pinky paint job
Planning the bedroom paint job
Planning the bedroom paint job

Making with Humble and Recycled Materials

Over the holidays I obsessed over Santos cage dolls, finding lots of inspiration on Pinterest. My interest comes from my love of art dolls, so my interpretation of a Santos is probably stretching the concept. I began with sketches and then assembled some favorite materials to make her:
* cardboard
* brown paper
* leaves
* strips of photo paper left over from trimmed prints
* masking tape
* black duct tape
* burlap
* gouache paints
* alphabet stamps
* twine

santos sketch 1
Santos sketch 1
santos sketch2
Santos sketch2
santos pieces
Santos pieces
santos assembly
Santos assembly
santos back
Santos back
Isabelle kitty helps paint doll
Isabelle kitty helps paint doll
finished doll full view
finished doll full view
finished santos head and torso
finished Santos head and torso
portrait closeup
portrait closeup

At the same time, a cloth doll I made 20 years ago called to me for repair and resurrection. With her head now firmly secured by adding a ruff and collar of cotton trim and lace, and her old mohair long locks cut off and replaced with dark brown curly yarn, she now reminds me of Lady Cora Grantham on Downton Abbey, albeit dressed more like a 19th century servant than a 20th century aristocrat. Always the kind and hopeful lady of the house.

Lady Cora cloth doll
Lady Cora cloth doll

Another project is my first collage in many years. As leaves fell from my tropical plant, I painted the backs with leftover black house paint. I tore strips from one of many copies of Mom’s poetry and pasted them onto a black painted canvas board; they overpowered so I tore most off; added the leaves, burlap and fabric, masking tape; wrapped with twine and sealed all with gloss medium. The twine doubles as hangers.

painting leaves
painting leaves
horizontal hang
horizontal hang
vertical display
vertical display

Finally, a little cardboard plaque with one of my scanned sketchbook drawings of a still life with owl pasted on, little patches of burlap, and hung by attaching a wire to top. I enjoy ripping off the brown paper on the cardboard to expose the corrugated ridged bits.

still life on corrugated cardboard
still life on corrugated cardboard

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.
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Stuff going wrong all around the house.
PinkCloudGroup
A big doodle became a group of people in need of a “Pink Cloud”
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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:

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When my Dutch friends in The Hague remodeled their home, they sent me this enchanted pic
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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.

The Big Leap ~ or, How to Change Your Life just short of having a nervous breakdown

Apparently, I like change as evidenced by recent events.  Of course it is hard, but worth the challenges and serendipitous happenings.  Last year I was stuck trying to rearrange my studio; but when my son moved in 6 months ago, my studio space (almost effortlessly) moved to the living room area which is a much better location anyway!

Last November, I had the honor of participating as a vendor in the winter Art Mart Underground at Bath House Cultural Center on White Rock Lake here in Dallas.  The weather was unexpectedly frigid with ice storms causing hundreds of shoppers to stay home.  But a thrilling experience nevertheless.

After 3 straight years (no paid time off) at a fast paced high pressure low wage customer service call center, where constant policy and data changes and criticism was the norm, I recently no winfound it necessary to bail out.  Family and friends are encouraging me to press on with my Aryology project.  So, I’m opening an Etsy store soon.

almost overwhelmed
almost overwhelmed
a hot mess in the studio
a hot mess in the studio
New reads
New reads
this studio reorganization works
this studio reorganization works
I painted the hallway orange
I painted the hallway orange
We customize Linda's cloth doll
We customize Linda’s cloth doll

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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Before & After & During

As one thing leads to another, I can’t help sort of drifting from one project to another.  The behind the scenes stuff is too irritating to mention.

cardboard &burlap

NewGuy came together from assorted body parts,  pants made from linen napkin, Tshirt knit remnant & a hat recently rejected from Nikol's doll.
NewGuy came together from assorted body parts, pants made from linen napkin, Tshirt knit remnant & a hat recently rejected from Nikol’s doll.

 

early springmore remnant rollsArtyology Spoonflower fabrc

silky remnants
silky remnants

 

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Have I become bipolar or just slammed by a killer case of ennui?

Seems like April was jammin’ after I recovered from a nasty case of poison ivy in March, and  I was practically manic with gifts from the Universe: everything just seemed to flow.  You know how that is.  I’d been reading my usual stack of books on spirituality and creativity and my energy level was higher than usual.  I painted my kitchen Ben Moore Jade Green and tricked it out with an old pink plastic chandelier I’d stashed in a drawer years ago; finally painted that ugly subfloor in the adjoining den a glossy white.  Met up with friends at their show & sale at the Dallas Bath House Cultural Center Art Mart; got sage advice from friend Loretta in upstate NY about blogging & marketing.  Kept applying for jobs, hoping to land one before UI benefits run out.  Started my blog and scanned all my current journal-sketches.

Got an abscessed gum and crashed.  Got that fixed.  There went all “discretionary funds” for awhile.  Ouch.  So this week has been a total bust except for the sublime weekend spent with my darling 9 year old grandson, Castle.  Still, I felt totally slammed and wondered why.

I really prefer the times when I feel that I’m in that state of allowing Source to flow in and through me and I’m sort of skipping around with multiple tools and expressions of my and others’ limitless creativity just exploding around us!  Silly woman.  It’s just not indefinitely sustainable, and the upsides of ennui are 1) it’s so freakin’ dramatic, and 2) it’s not indefinitely sustainable either.