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?

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:

Susan thinks001

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 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

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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A Quest for Balance

L&R window 5413castleKindleMorgana designs dollrootbeer fizzies up the nosemocha kit

cube & plotnew dollsAcceptanceSpontaneous

cat and dollC S Julie & GenieBurnout 1IMG_0747artistMChin

Clark 0303spot for artclothDoll made for Hoffman fabric challenge '90sartistZittel 1artistZittel 2artistZittel 3

20s figureface studiesGiacometti

yellow sprayThere was this nice list of links of sites and blogs I dig but couldn’t get everything to load correctly.   Hope I will have that figured out pretty darn soon!  I fear I’ve let too much time go by without a blog post, even if that’s only important to me.  Dust accumulates around the house as experiences roll by and then I feel overwhelmed.  And I wanted to learn to link and add a blog roll; I’m still learning blogging etiquette and technique.  In future, I hope to post twice a month.  Short ones.  With pictures.

This weekend, grandson and his little sister stayed with me.  It could have all gone terribly wrong, as I tend to get a bit stressed and anal, or I could hope to plan the time in such a way so that we would all be pleasantly occupied.  Eleven year old Castle is into Nat Geo, his Kindle Fire, and movies.  Morgana, age 6, is very pink-centric, curious, and energetic.  They have different fathers.

My home is filled with mementos handed down plus all my books, dolls, artwork and supplies; it’s only natural that a little girl would want to touch and know about these treasures.  And what a glorious way to get my dusting done!  Even when Morgana chided me on how thick the dust was, I didn’t mind.  Side by side we “swiffer’d” the whole house as I told her histories of my things.  Castle cooked for us and enjoyed his down time.

A highlight this spring was “Cousin-Sister” Julie’s visit.  When we’re not cracking ourselves up we are discussing serious subjects and marvel that other folks might disagree with our opinions.  Since I couldn’t take time off from my part-time job, Cousin-Sister finished painting my kitchen the mocha shade, and put a lovely light grey paint on my guest room walls.  We power washed my siding and freshened up the golden-orange shutters outside.  She delved into my newest books on decor, and we shopped for new fabric for kitchen window curtains she will make for her townhouse in VA.  Oh!  What a glorious time we had!

Two years ago I almost lost this beloved cottage.  I treasure my 3rd generation White Rock/East Dallas roots.  Julie and I always go visit the family at Grove Hill Cemetery when she’s here. We catch them up on current events and ask for guidance.  This year we felt Nannie was most assuredly there for us. I introduced them to my Cube; they must have been surprised to see I’d finally let go of my little red Chevy.

Change is so hard but often necessary, don’t you agree?

I’m not creatively stuck, I’m just incubating.

I like the idealism of the Green Party candidates

Joe Bonamassa
Joe Bonamassa
"Turn the Page.." artdoll by Jan Byron
“Turn the Page..” artdoll by Jan Byron
Castle, proud owner of Argent Park print by Brad W. Foster
Castle, proud owner of Argent Park print by Brad W. Foster

My background music tonight is:  Joe Bonamassa Live from New York Beacon Theatre

Recently my focus has shifted somewhat from sketch journaling to obsessively feasting my hungry eye on images from my collection of books and periodicals related to mixed media.  All art forms inform one another in my opinion.  I’m still sketching, but not on a daily basis.  So it happens recently that a weekend with grandson Castle coincides with an Art Mart event at White Rock Lake.  And off we go.

While there I found an irresistible art doll by Jan Byron; she and I discussed the dilemma between the urge to keep our inner well-spring of creativity “pure” by avoiding looking at other artists’ work, and the desire to see what they are up to.

I believe that even if we find ourselves strongly influenced by the art around us, a point of view, a technique; nevertheless, we should dive right in to savoring all the inspiration and information available to us (if that is our choice) and not fear being criticized as being unoriginal or derivative in our approach.

But copying someone’s art and claiming it as your own design is not just copyright infringement but unethical as well; not to mention completely unsatisfying.  Anyway that discussion was had all over the web years ago, and everyone understands it.

What is different, and allowed, is interpreting a piece in your own way while giving credit to the other artist for your inspiration.  And anyway, our own style, taste, skill level and emotions and even the angle at which we hold a pen belong solely to us and no matter how hard we might try, we simply cannot make an artdoll look exactly like one made by anyone else.

And I was thrilled to see that Jan had wisely kept her pricing more in line with what a great piece deserves to sell for, rather than lowering them into a level that is competitive with a retail chain store gift department just because of the economy.    Good art of any genre is worth the price, pride and delight the buyer feels while gasping, “I own this!  OMG I just bought a OOAK (one of a kind) artwork!  I deserve this for (insert any rationalization here)” “ Happy Birthday Me!”

So, I treated my grandson Castle to an awesome print by Brad W. Foster, whose work we fell hard for that day.  As for me, I went home with art doll “Turn the Page…” by Jan Byron.  I plan on making myself an art doll for my birthday coming up.  I wonder what it will look like?

Check out Brad’s and Jan’s sites:

www.jabberwockygraphix.com

www.artbroad.com

I Only Procrastinate on the Good Stuff

There was so much going on since my last post, I didn’t think I had produced any artwork.  So glad I was wrong.  Lost track of time, too, as I transitioned in my job to a new and much better schedule; finally got approval on a mortgage modification, connected with former co-workers, old school friends, and family I had lost track of; mourned the loss of two of them to cancer and another to a ripe old age, a grand patriarch celebrated by his loved ones.  My son’s illness hangs on, and there is nothing I can do about it (after many years of trying).

Hello to Mary Korfanty, the strongest and bravest woman I know!  To Helaina Meara’s spirit: do you know I think of you often with fond memories?  Hey cousin Vickie!  I hope I really do get to visit you and Bill in Germany before you move back stateside.  So cool to discover you are a talented stained glass artist!   Jim G from BA, I consider emailing you and lose my nerve.

When Cousin-Sister Julie comes to visit, I am looking forward to taking her on a jaunt in my new Nissan Cube.  Almost waited too long to replace my old beloved Chevy.  I am looking forward to rendezvouz with my artsy friends here in Dallas, and online, and with precious grandson, Castle, and to the autumn and winter season.   I am looking forward to getting Medicare.  I am looking forward.

The Sketchbook Project 2012 World Tour for Brooklyn Art Library

click on my Gallery page to view some of my latest work

I’ve got too much to say, since I waited so long to finalize this post.  So today, I won’t say much.  Just that I’ve been paying attention to world events, the circus that is the Republican primary (could Rick Perry possibly embarrass us Texans any more?!  Bad enough he won the last gubernatorial race); concentrating on my job and polishing my CSR skills;  hanging out with artist and friends, even if some of it occurs via the internet.  Sometimes Castle, my 10 year old grandson comes to visit.  He’s so cool (of course).  I finally got a kitty cat for my dog Ziggy; a sweet little adult Calico from the SPCA.

But mostly I’ve been growing my hair and changing my style, ‘cuz I am intent on looking more like the old hippie artist that I used to be and am circling around to becoming again.  Recently trying to eat more organically and cutting wheat and gluten out of my diet.  I feel much better already.

A big focus has been completing my entry for The Sketchbook Project 2012 World Tour for the Art House and Brooklyn Art Library.   Monday I’ll mail my book on to New York City, and it will be a little like sending a piece of me out into the world, knowing it will be happy in the company of thousands of others, off to tour the world beginning in April.  Bon voyage, little drawings!  I’ll miss you! Have fun, and don’t forget to write!

For more info, visit http://www.thesketchbookproject.com.

 

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.

I wish we could bring almost all of our troops home and turn ’em loose to rebuild our broken parts.

I had added The Hurt Locker to my DVD queue again and received it just in time to savor over this weekend, after having spent lots of time watching the TV coverage of our astonishing kill of Bin Laden.  You might not think an old hippie like me (“peace, ‘yall”) would go in for that sort of thing, but I am quite happy about the event and super-proud of our brave troops.  And I stay mesmerized by the movie, The Hurt Locker, because it reaches me on different levels: the mom, the daughter, the survivor of fallout from the Viet Nam war at the hands of a broken Vet; the peace-nik, the blood thirsty revenge wanting citizen who will never forget where she was on the morning of September 11, 2001; the war-weary voter who wanted change.

I worry about how our men and women will be able to adjust to life back in the States, and I thought, since we have so much devastation and poverty and unemployment and drugs and homelessness and crime, can we create opportunities for our returning warriors, and ourselves by rebuilding all our broken parts right here in America?

In the meantime, I had been trying to catch the fleeting, tender, pitiful and brave, little grin on Eldridge’s face in Hurt Locker, as he struggled to clean blood from  “the dead guy” off the ammo with his spit, as James patiently, reassuringly, coaxed him along.  It broke my heart.  I’ll probably watch the movie another 2-3 times before I ship it back in favor of some lighter entertainment….