Monday, January 30, 2017

Recovering Beautifully!

These past two weeks plus a few days has been a relatively quiet time for me - unless you count Facebook and the news. I've spent a great deal of time resting, as might be expected, some time in therapy as prescribed, but a nice amount of time perusing through some watercolor books that I purchased used prior to the surgery - so I'd have some inspiration to return to watercolor ASAP!

I bought three of the SPLASH series of watercolor books and went through each one taking down notes that I want to instill in my subconscious as well as consciousness. One thing that kept being stressed in many different ways is the act of disciplining oneself to DO ART. I used to be fairly disciplined - especially prior to semi-annual exhibits in which I participated for 15 or so years in upstate Pennsylvania.

When we moved to New Jersey, back in 1990, I was immediately faced with the fact that my watercolors were primarily country themed, appropriate to upstate PA. Not so appropriate to the NJ suburbs between NYC and Philly! Seascapes were popular there, of course, as well as many different styles of modern art. So I chose to go modern in a different media - fiber art. Thus the next 15+ years were spent working with fiber art creating wall pieces for home, office, business. Mind you, fiber art really does not sell all that well yet it takes much more time, effort, equipment, and fabric/yarn/threads/batting/backing and so much more to create.

So when it came time to retire, we both leaned towards returning to Pennsylvania to a quieter life-style, country living, less stressful driving, plus the benefit of being near one of our children as we age. We now live in central PA near Penn State University so we have the best of two worlds - country living but wonderful educational and arts events that match well enough to city living for our tastes.

With my shoulder deteriorating rapidly, it was also a time when I had to give up drawing with the sewing machine on fabric - a beloved pass time and an integral part of my fiber art creations. If you've been reading my blog for awhile, you know that I've also been doing bird portraits in acrylics on canvas - a fun thing for a niche market, to be sure. But my love of the transparent watercolor media remains part of my essence. I've only dabbled in it during the past 2-3 years or so, instead focusing primarily on the bird portraits, since they are popular in this area.

It remains to be seen where I will go with all of this - suffice it to say that I want to work in watercolor but my fears get in the way. I've been disappointed with my efforts so far, partly because I know how well I USED to paint and I also know what I'd LIKE to paint. And my recent efforts do not match either of those expectations.

So it is that self-discipline must be my driving force if I truly want to paint in watercolor. Yes, the new paints, brushes, papers, and techniques now used in watercolor are quite different from what I'm accustomed to. But that is also exciting with all the new possibilities. I certainly do NOT want to paint the same old way I did back in the 1980's. They were nice enough - realistic and precise, but totally lacking much in the way of my feeling for the subject matter. They were fairly accurate representations of what I was seeing, but they did not reflect anything profound about of my love of nature, animals, birds, etc. Anyone can paint pretty pictures if they practice long enough. I want to paint beautiful images that combine what I see with my spirit's connection to what I am painting. I have done a few pieces - mostly back in the 1980's - that were moving in this direction. I have a sense of where I will be going when I begin painting again more seriously.

Meanwhile, I'm reading other watercolor books, filling my mind with something other than politics - something to nurture my soul, my art, my personal life. We all need to nurture ourselves to move forward in our own lives, particularly now in a time of challenges, division, and even crisis. Some of us will opening resist. Others will balance out the movers and doers with the arts and contemplative spirituality. And some of us will do both.

Off to more reading, thinking, writing, planning, and so much more...

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Total Reverse Shoulder Replacement Scheduled for Tomorrow!

Today is the final day before my total reverse left shoulder replacement. I've spent it, thus far, preparing my studio for my 3 week absence and our living room for my 3 week residential stay! Fortunately, a friend of a dear friend has loaned us her electric relaxing chair - somewhere for me to sleep for as long as I'm not allowed to lie down. My arm will be in a sling and supported by a pillow, if the directions are correct. The chair works smoothly from a hand-held device that reminds me of a remote control unit. And there's even a small pocket to put the control in when I'm not using it - so I won't lose it and be unable to change the chair position! I can easily envision hilarious film clips of folks stuck in such a chair with a sling and spilled drink on top of wet book along side a table full of drawing supplies - should I even feel like drawing while I'm somewhat limited in motion!

A total reverse shoulder replacement involves putting the new titanium ball where the socket now is, and the new socket where the collapsed head of my humerus bone now is. At least that's how I understand it!

I have no idea when I'll be back to write - I can certainly type one-handed, but prefer using both ever since my high school typing class. And I'll be able to read the blogs of others while I'm recuperating. Wishing you all creative moments, joy, and good will as we slip back and forth between winter and spring!

Sunday, January 08, 2017

Completed: Two More Bird Portraits

As I continue to prepare for the upcoming surgery, there were two bird portraits that needed to be completed, plus several others that required signatures prior to going out tomorrow to State College Framing and Gallery Shop for exhibition. The gallery has requested 7 bird portraits, so they are now packed in bubble-wrap and nestled safely in a box. I'll be bringing the two frames that were removed from the birds that sold last time around while there. The shop can put them on the two - the Downy Woodpecker and the Rose-breasted Grosbeak. That will dress them up and show them off a bit!

Meanwhile, here are some photos from today's painting session.

Here is the last version before making corrections today:

Below, I decided to remove the wing on the left side and also the foot that is on the tree. If you click on the image, you'll be able to see that foot penciled in. It seemed to distracting to the composition, so I eliminated it.

Below, the completed painting, which I think is more successful than the earlier version.

Here are a few others recently completed and requiring a signature. So far, the Red-Winged Blackbird is my favorite of this bunch.

The Kestrel and the mad Carolina Wren

Red-Winged Blackbird in the wind

Friday, January 06, 2017

Getting Ready for Surgery...

In our efforts to make things as smooth as possible, especially for Frank, while I'm laid up recovering, we are doing all sorts of odd things. Today, Frank picked up a month's worth of dog food for Spunky, plus her allergy meds, from the vet. Spunky has chronic pancreatitis and is on a strict diet necessitating food from the vet. Having it on hand so Frank doesn't need to run any unnecessary errands while caring for me makes things a tad easier for him.

I also went on-line to order some odd products that are hard to find in our local stores. Some of it is dog medication, some of it is for us. I also ordered a few historical fiction novels for reading when I'm stuck in a chair with a sling for 3+ weeks. And, I couldn't resist ordering some watercolor books, while I was at it. The SPLASH series of watercolors is terrific for bringing to the pubic wonderful watercolorists who are developing a new or unusual style/supplies/etc. They encourage others to experiment with new media, new styles, new approaches, new compositions or subject matter from different perspectives. I ordered SPLASH 2; 5, 15 & 16 - mostly used, but in good condition. The books are edited by Rachel Rubin Wolf. You can find a list of her books here.

I've been squirreling away novels for a few months, ever since I finally decided to have this surgery. So now I have a large selection from which to choose my reading material - from Reader's Digest shorties to serious WWII novels to southern US historical novels to light hearted romances. I'm discovering that my right hand is not liking so much time on the computer...or my iPad. So I won't be doing to much of either - despite my desire to stay informed! My right hand is my painting hand and I value it highly. Risk taking is silly, at my age anyway.

And I've already make appointments with my physical therapist, who will be coming to our home twice a week for 3 months to get my new joint and atrophied muscles back in good working order. It would have been good had I been informed 10 years ago that my problem was not simply aging and arthritis, but a totally degenerated bone that would do nothing but continue to cause problems - which arthritis also does, I realize. However, the total reverse shoulder replacement surgery was only initially used starting about 5 years ago - and my doctor says the recovery time is much less and that all pain will cease with this surgery (after the recovery period, of course).

And now you know more than you wanted to, right? It LOOKS like it will be ghastly and painful. And, I suspect, it will be both those first weeks. Inserting foreign objects into the body is not a happy adjustment for said body. But I trust my surgeon and Spirit.

All will be what it will be.

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Just a FEW Christmas Photos...

Here we are with our great-grandchildren (identical twins) now aged 4 1/2 years old. Amazing how time flies.

And here are the two little Christmas Elves on Christmas morning prior to handing out the gifts.

And finally, here is our Spunky puppy - she loves her Christmas stocking and she loves unwrapping her treats that are inside the stocking. The second photo shows her disappointment that she didn't get anything else!!!

I hope you and yours had a wonderful celebration this holiday season as well!

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Upcoming Shoulder Surgery

I do hope you had a wonderful holiday season. We had grandchildren arrive and stay for several days, plus a grandchild with her twin daughters come and stay a few days. It was a glorious week of family celebration!

Meanwhile, our tree is down and holiday decorations have moved back to the cellar for another year. All in preparation for an upcoming surgery. For many years I have had severe shoulder and arm pain. We now know it is caused by a condition known as AVN:

"Avascular necrosis (AVN) (also known as osteonecrosis, bone necrosis, bone infarction, aseptic necrosis, and ischemic necrosis) is a condition in which the bone "dies" as a result of a loss of circulation to an area of bone tissue."

The head of the humerous (shoulder ball of ball joint) has collapsed (probably due to an unknown injury at some time during my life). Thus I cannot move the arm easily or without muscle pain. This condition is why I have been unable to continue my art quilting - and I dearly LOVE to draw with my sewing machine. However, my shoulder joint is simply unable to support the movements required in smooth machine quilting.

The repair of my shoulder involves a "reverse shoulder replacement" - meaning they will be putting the ball of the joint where the cup now is, and the cup where the humeral head has collapsed. At least that is how I understand it... A 3D printed image of my diseased joint is being created so the doctor makes the perfect sized parts to replace the problem parts. Such new ideas in medicine continue to amaze me!

And so it is that I have turned to painting birds in acrylics and portraits and animals in watercolor. I am right handed and the problem shoulder is my left - thus using my right hand for painting is unaffected (unless you count arthritis!). As I age, like all others, I have made adaptions for the limitations that my body puts upon me by the aging process and/or diseases. I am delighted to return to painting, and actually have sold more paintings than art quilts over the years, so I will see the positive in all of this and move on with life.

Surgery is scheduled for Friday, January 13th, which I consider to be a good luck day. Meanwhile, I'll be getting things ready to make it easier for Frank to manage the household tasks and our dog without my help for at least several weeks. We've been generously loaned a wonderful electric chair that will offer me a comfortable place to sleep while I'm still wearing a sling (3 weeks minimum). They even delivered it to our home today, with the help of my honey and our son-in-law, Steve. So far, I find the chair a perfect fit - the woman who used it before me is about my same height - we are short gals and require chairs that don't leave us with our legs protruding straight out from the chair!!!

More as life continues...