Friday, September 30, 2016

Courage over Fear...

Artist's block is a famous and utterly common situation faced by nearly all artists at one time, or far more often, in their lifetimes. Fear has been a familiar specter in my life. I grew up being afraid of so many things. It was nature that helped me bridge the gap from being afraid to doing it anyway. Nature is still my "go-to" solution when faced with difficulties. Sitting on the earth, smelling the earth, feeling the ground beneath me, listening to life surrounding me - all these and so much more revitalize my spirit and remind me that life continues to continue.

Last weekend I hit a bump in my road so I grabbed the car keys and took off for Spring Creek, a few miles from my home. Water is especially healing - and not simply because I grew up in Minnesota, the Land of Lakes, a few short blocks from the Mississippi River or because we spent 16 years living on the dikes of the Susquehanna River in upstate Pennsylvania! Water, by it's very nature, is a healing substance. I have many friends that love the ocean, probably because they grew up in New Jersey. For me, the ocean is an awesome but unfamiliar power of healing, majesty, and incredible beauty. I'm simply more comfortable with lakes, rivers, and streams.

So today, as I come face to face with accepting my ridiculous, over-blown fears of failure with regard to watercolor painting, I find myself surrounded by a soft rain and mesmerizing fog. I love the fog, by the way. I only remember one time being really afraid in the fog - I was waiting for the city bus on a busy street and the fog was so dense that sound was muffled, headlights were invisible even up close and personal, and the sense of isolation was impossible to ignore. The bus lumbered to a stop, knowing I'd be there on my way to high school. And the memory slipped into my history, irrevocably placed in a spot I would come to know, love, and respect many times over the course of my life.

Maybe it's today that I "get on the bus" and begin painting in earnest again.

And maybe not... I've used a renewed interest in genealogy this week to divert my energies from art to something more substantial. I do love to research! I loved my 4 years working in the reference library at St. Catherine's University. Research can be SO satisfying. And it's not about me putting color on paper for good or ill results! Researching genealogy is fact-finding, comparing what is found with what is already known/proven/validated, and integrating the new information with the old to create a better portrait of a family member, group, or clan.

As a descendant of several Mayflower passengers, one might think I should have also inherited their wanderlust, their courage, their strong will to go forward to create a new life for themselves... Most of us in our wonderful country have descended from courageous immigrants overcoming fears, losses, tragedies, and history to move on to make a new life for themselves and their families.

Today, I claim the courage of my British, Scottish, Welsh, Austrian, German and Irish ancestors to face my fear of failure and pick up my brushes, put them to paint, add water, and to practice, practice, practice.

May all who read this be inspired to do the same in whatever artistic domain has been alluding them...

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Prepping the Studio

The time has come to shift artistic mediums and to focus on painting once again. While I have loved fiber art and it has comprised the majority of my work since the mid-1990's, my physical inability to draw with the sewing machine brings that chapter to a close. At least for now. I am presently contemplating the option of a shoulder replacement, but that shoulder - even if fixed to perfection - won't be available for sewing until next summer, at the earliest.

So my first love, watercolors, is back on my drawing table. You've witness a few of my attempts this year to renew and refresh myself in this medium. I can certainly admit that I was not overly pleased with those first results! I am, however, a realist. I know that after 20+ years away from painting, it will take many hours/months/years to develop my own style with watercolors, especially at this time in my life.

I'm not even sure what I am aiming for - other than to have the pleasure of losing myself in the creative process once again. I dearly miss the suspension of time/space when I am in the midst of creating. Even if the end product is a failure, the process itself if amazing... I do not have a specific style in mind, nor even a favorite painting surface! There are so many surfaces to choose from! I've invested in some small gesso panels made by DaVinci with what they call a "medium texture." And I have lots of various watercolor papers in many sizes that I've kept collecting over the years.

So, after several days of cleaning, sorting, discarding, replacing, and locating what I need in the studio, it is now ready for me to tackle watercolors once again. To say that I'm a bit nervous is to admit the obvious. Any artist who has switched mediums is familiar with the trepidation of starting over again anew. Yet there is an excitement about it, too. And a welcoming home sort of feeling, perhaps.

Watercolor was my first love - Some 60 years ago when I walked into my first HS art class and saw just what one could DO with simple water, paints and paper - I was enthralled. I was in a small Catholic girls school taught by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet. My art teacher for those 4 wonderful years of art classes was Sr. Rose Aurelia, CSJ. She was already elderly but she was a joyful child whenever she painted. And she painted all the time! While we plodded along learning how to cut stencils or do calligraphy or draw the ever-present still life set-ups around the room, Sister was at her desk painting in watercolor.

Every spring, she painted daffodils and lilacs. I've never yet seen lilacs painted with such ease and clarity and liveliness as Sr. Rose Aurelia could paint them. Every year, bouquets of lilacs appeared in our classroom - but only seniors were allowed to paint them. Seniors also spent weeks working on their own perspective of the Cathedral of St. Paul as seen from our 4th floor classroom windows. I could hardly WAIT until I was a senior and could try my hand at painting those two subjects. My older sister had already done a wonderful rendition of the Cathedral - I only hoped I could do as well.

As so many other younger siblings have often felt less talented/able/creative/whatever, than their elder siblings, I was sadly disappointed in my results. I never did like my version of the Cathedral. And, sadly, I don't even recall painting lilacs that year!

Anyway, yesterday, to feed my soul, I went to the Spring Creek Park in Houseerville, PA - a hop, skip and jump from our house. I spent some time just listening to the water flow. Always refreshing for me.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Thoughts on Facebook and Blogging

Facebook is quite amazing, isn't it?

I've been Facebooking for many years - and Blogging for even longer (11 years and counting). Facebook, at first, was a great way to stay connected to my kids and grandkids... but now, only one of the three of them posts much on FB anymore. One is way too busy in his final year of college as a double major science whiz. The other one is a busy mom of 4 year old twins and she barely has time to eat, let alone sleep or doing anything on FB! The one who does post on FB is the manager of an organic farm affiliated with St. Joseph's University near Portland, Maine. I love her posts - lots of photos of fresh product, baby animals ever growing up, and all the labor intensive work that goes into farming. I've even painted (and posted) some from her photographs of sheep.

Over the years, my Facebooking revolved more around reading about fellow artists and photographers. It's been a great way to keep up with the swiftly changing world of art supplies, techniques, and styles as well as stay connected to artists whose work I admire.

And yes, I can & do keep in touch with family - near and far, via Facebook. And I'm able to keep up with some genealogical sites, too - which is cool as well as informative.

But more and more, I'm noticing that Facebook is fading in relevance, for me, for my family, and for my friends. And the politics of the past few years has definitely influenced, and for me, contaminated the air waves, the posts, the sharings, the photos, etc. I'm dreadfully tired of seeing that same face making with nasty expressions in so many places. Not to mention that catching up on Facebook these days takes a LOT of time!

I'm realizing that I am missing the thoughtful posts that blogging offers. While there's not the same back and forth dialoging that FB instantly provides, blogging is an opportunity for a more in-depth approach to whatever is on one's mind. Neither is fool-proof, of course. Lies and half-truths will abound. Opinions will rise to the foreground, but with blogging, there is the time/space required for more thoughtful consideration of whatever the topic. And fewer off-the-cuff responses that often miss the point of the conversation.

Finding blogs with detailed before, during, and after photos and explanations, particularly of art projects - this is delightful! It's even better when the artist provides a commentary about why they are choosing to do what they do when they do it, as well as HOW they do it. I guess that's what makes really great teachers, those who can share the internal processes as well as the external ones that lead from a concept through experimentation and into a completed work of art.

What I have lost is the "how to" find blogs that would interest me. There used to be a great way to be in a blog chain of sorts, to link up with other sites along the same line, to explore those writing about similar topics. I can't remember what it was - and that was years ago, anyway.

If anyone out there is listening/reading, would you offer your ideas and suggestions as to how to find other like-minded bloggers posting about their creative processes in watercolor, pastels, photography? Of nature, beauty, life and more? I'd love to learn more and to find the niche where I may fit in and learn from and share with others via blogging vs. Facebooking.


Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Fibers Unlimited Artists

(Click on photo to enlarge)

Here are the wonderful members of Fibers Unlimited, to which I belong. They are, from Left to Right:
Polly Miller, Tina Aumiller, MaryLou Pepe, Pat Dolan, Irmgard Lee, Nancy Silverman, and Janet Lindsay.

The photo was taken my MaryLou's husband, Peter, at our opening reception, Foxdale Village, State College, PA on August 21st. The exhibit will remain up through Monday, October 10th, Columbus Day and is open to the public.