Thursday, December 31, 2009

Thought for Thursday- Happy New Year!

DECIDE that each day will be a good day and that you’ll be in a good mood. That’s right: You can decide. 
DECIDE that you’ll sing, smile, laugh, and dance more often.
DECIDE to make this a rewarding year filled with things and people you love.
~Alyson Stanfield, The ArtBiz Blog

This blog effort has been a fun and rewarding experience.  Thank you all for reading and commenting.  Here's to a happy, healthy, and productive 2010! 

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Whining About Time

"Decide to make the most of the time you have and to stop whining about the time you don't have."  Alyson B. Stanfield, Art Biz Blog

Canoes, 8x10, watercolor (c)2000 DSThemelis

I received an email update from a wonderful site I found a little while back.  Ms. Stanfield is the author of I'd Rather Be in the Studio,(, book/blog that helps artists in marketing their art, social networking, and such.  It's very informative and inspiring. 

For the new year Stanfield sent out an article and podcast titled, Decide What Your Year Will Look Like.  All the to-do's in this article are noteworthy, but this particular one jumped out at me.  I'm always complaining about how much time I don't have to do what I really want to do, but is it true?  Do I really have the time, but allow other things to just drop in my way?  In The Artist's Way course I became aware of doing such a thing by working my way through the twelve weeks.  (I've suspended finishing Week 12 for the holidays.  Convenient? Hmmm...)

Seeing these directives in print makes an impression.  I've printed the list and plan to post it in a place that I can read it every day.  It's good inspiration for a new start to the year.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Studio Spot

While waiting for the new year to come and running around trying to get things done, I've had to avoid the studio.  Last night I did some knitting on one pair of socks, so at least I'm still slightly in the game.  But painting is going to have to wait. I thought I'd give you a little glimpse at my studio space while I'm waiting to get back in it.

For a long time I didn't have any space except the kitchen table.  My father had a nice studio in his basement in our house and I used that space when I was young and living at home.  When I got married it was the kitchen table or even the floor of our living room.  In my house part of our basement was finished, but it wasn't really friendly for art so I used the kitchen table for quick things.  I would do pastels and clean up before the kids came home from school.  When they were babies I didn't want them around the oils and just left it.  Pastels are easier to do with kids around.

Now that I've finished the other side of our basement I took over a little corner.  One of my sons is a musician on the side and we carved out the bigger area for all his instruments and other stuff.  He's married now, but some stuff is still here.  Don't tell him I said this, but I may creep myself in that space little by little.

I have my drawing table in the corner and I've been hanging posters and things that make me feel good around it.  I kept the old kitchen table from our apartment, which came from our house when I was little.  It's on the opposite wall from the desk and I love to sit at it.  I've moved my jewelry stuff there and plan to set up still life arrangements.  It's really cozy to me. 

The closet needs to be organized for flat storage and I need a small bookcase for odd tools, books, and other things.  IKEA may be the destination for that.  Once these holidays are over I'll be back in that space that's all mine.

Monday, December 28, 2009

It's Not Over Yet

I never get the chance to just relax and enjoy the festive season until it's over and this year was no exception.  By the time I'm able to be in the moment, that anticipation has passed and so is the moment! 

We put our tree in the house just before Christmas Eve and it doesn't come down until the Epiphany on January 6.  I'm always surprised when I see a discarded Christmas tree out in the street on December 26 with bits of tinsel clinging to the branches.  Who takes down the tree on Christmas night for the garbage early the next day?  I like having the tree and decorations around to usher in the new year and to celebrate Christ's baptism on the Epiphany.

There's no way I'm getting any where near the art studio this week either.  I don't even have the energy to knit at night on any of my many socks-in-progress.  There's gatherings to attend.  New Year's Eve and my daughter-in-law's birthday are the same day.  New Year's Day we visit my mom.  The weekend will be a short respite until January 6 and another round of parties. There's more celebrating to do and people are already pooped!

For a great blogpost on Christmas, New Year's, and Epiphany customs in Greece see:

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas

And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled 'till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.

 ~Dr. Seuss

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Was it a Simpler Time?

I've been reading in the news and listening to people talk about how simple the Christmas holidays were in the past.  No worries, just gifts and dinner with the family.  A wide-eyed optimism is what they remember, not the hustle and bustle of the shopping for big ticket items or fighting the crowd for the latest toy craze.

If you think about it for a moment, that simpler time was when you were a kid.  What kid is involved in the frenzy?  Not one that I can think of.  For most of us, when you're a kid the world is a pretty small place.  You go from home to school, to an activity and home again.  Are most kids thinking of how to provide for the family?  No.  Is a kid responsible for shopping for the big gift?  No.  Maybe a kid makes cookies with the family or the mom, maybe he or she shops for the little gifts they give and help decorate the tree.  I think most kids are quite oblivious to the whole craziness that their parents are having trying to make the holiday happen. 

As a child, did you really know what was going on in your parent's lives?  Some families make do, some do without.  Some do a bang-up blowout, each depending on their own situation.  Kids grow up and remember the time being simpler.  Well, I think it's because you just didn't know any better.  You're a kid and that's how it's supposed to be if the parents do it right.  Later on you grow up and lament having to do the running, shopping, cooking, cleaning, decorating, wrapping, and worry about paying for all of it.  Suddenly, the times way back when seemed simpler. 

Yeah, it was simpler because you didn't have to do all of the work, you were a kid!  Get it?

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Checking Off the List

The week is moving along quickly as it always does when there's a lot of things to do.  I'm working on the to-do list and thankfully checking things off as I go.   "Making a list and checking it twice" as the Christmas carol goes. 

Since the snow, I think it's a good thing that we are forced to slow down, take stock, reassess, take a breath.  I worked well yesterday and today is going to be a finishing up kind of day. 

Did I say the image of Santa Claus, St. Nicholas, Kris Kringle should've been a woman?  Men can't handle all the things that need to be done for a holiday on schedule, in time, and in one piece!  And clean the house, prepare meals, keep up with laundry and the bills, and feed the fish.  Can they do all that?  I think not.  Do we make ourselves crazy doing all this?  I think yes.

So, I'm off.  Leave a message.  We can talk later, ok?

Monday, December 21, 2009

Down the Rabbit Hole

Since the huge snow fall this weekend suspended my Christmas shopping activities, today had better be the day things get done here!  Painting has been suspended until further notice.

I feel like the character The White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland who kept muttering, "Oh dear! Oh dear! I shall be too late!"  What happened next?  Alice followed that White Rabbit down the rabbit hole. 

If I'm not on it today I'll be next down that rabbit hole!

Getting snowed in has its advantages.  You're stuck in anyway, may as well get things done.  I needed to wrap the gifts I've already bought, put up my tree, bake some cookies and other little things around the house.  What did I do?  We shoveled the two feet of snow at our house for a couple of hours.  By the time I was done with that I was exhausted.  I baked, and burned, some chocolate chip cookies, baked bread and made dinner.  I did some decorating and wrapping.  The tree?  Later today.

Did I say I'm late?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Thought for Thursdays

While I was Christmas shopping yesterday a child was overheard in the aisles saying: "Need cookie now!"  A couple other women and I immediately eyeballed each other. 

I said, "I could use a cookie".  One woman said, "I could have a coffee".  The other said, "I need a drink".

How about you?  Need a cookie,too?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Sketching with Paint

When I first started with watercolors, I really didn't have any idea how to use them.  As I said in a previous post, I took a class my town offered which ended up being a disaster on the one hand, but a chance to try on the other.  The watercolorist who was the instructor, was busy hustling the retirees by adding extra hours to the class, payable to himself, getting paid to frame their work, besides getting paid to teach the class. 

What teach the class?  He was totally unethical as I have said.  He only demonstrated watercolor painting, by using other artist's work as a guide for the students.  He didn't teach anything.  Not how to set up the colors, not how to prepare the paper, not how to manipulate the brush or the paint.  Never set up a still life to work from or a model or go outside.   Nothing but demonstrate on other's art. 

When that class was over I continued in my quest with watercolor on my own. At least I had a little idea, but I used these paints as I did oils.  I have learned that it's a totally different medium and it needs a new approach.  That's not to say I haven't applied these paints just like oils, but they don't work the same way.  I can apply watercolor paint as I do the oil, but they get absorbed into the surface differently. 

I found I liked sketching with watercolor from life better than from photos.  I know lately I've been using pictures of what I want to paint.  Sometimes it's unavoidable.  But when I can, I paint straight from the real thing. 

John's Laouto ©2000 Dora Sislian Themelis
The first time I used watercolors to paint a live model I used my son playing his instrument.  It was summer and he was practicing in our patio room.  He planned to be there a while and I ran to get the paints going as long as he didn't mind.  I quickly sketched the general position of his body and the instrument with a pencil then I went in with paint.  The paints that I used for the class were student grade.  If I was using pro paints I may have had a better result, but I thought it was good at the time.  Now that I've been working with better paint I can tell the difference.

Gregory ©2000 Dora Sislian Themelis
I liked working with watercolors and the live model so I did it again with my younger son while he was doing homework in the afternoon.  He sat across from me at the kitchen table and I sketched him with only the paint this time.  Thankfully, that day he sat quietly and he was a fidgety kid! 

I know I'm calling these paintings sketching because I really didn't spend that much time on them.  I sat and quickly painted.  When I was done, the painting was over.  I didn't pencil out the idea and go lightly with the paints for a few days like I did with the cherry blossoms.  I guess each work has it's own energy and style.  Some days a sketch is enough, some times it takes more for the work to end.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Working on the Zen

I'm steadily moving along on the cherry blossoms painting and not pulling my hair out yet!  Little by little, I can see it taking shape.  I guess I'm pleased with the way it's coming along so far since I haven't ditched it by now.

I like the shadows on the flower petals and trying very hard to keep the bright sun light showing.  I hope it will convey that feeling of calm and well being that my friend is looking for.

The paints I'm using are lovely.  After a discussing with another artist, I stayed with the MaimieriBlu watercolor paints and I'm not one bit sorry.  They're velvety and smooth.  The creaminess of the paints as I apply them to the paper helps keep my motivation up.  The colors are very strong and it doesn't take alot to have a good punch.  A touch of the brush to the paint goes a long way. 

That little bird perched on a branch was my attempt at a touch of whimsy!  I saw that photo in my swipe file and thought how charming it would be to have him sitting in the midst of all those blooms.  So there he is.

It's almost done.  The friend I'm painting this for should be happy with it.  And if not, I am so keeping it!

I haven't spent this much time on a painting in quite a while.  Usually I work at a frenzy, moving, standing,

manipulating the paint with my brush.  This time I slowed down.  I still stand and move back to view my work, but it's a comfortable pace.  The energy is there, it's just subdued.

I guess that's what the zen is all about.  What do you think?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Taking a Break to Knit

Sometimes when there are too many things going on at once I find it's hard to slow down.  My to-do list has a to-do list!

The cherry blossoms watercolor painting is moving along smoothly and I've been finding time to get to it almost every day.  I'm afraid I'll over-work it, as I'm known to do.  If that happens there's no going back.  Watercolors are not very forgiving and things could get ugly real fast.

What do I turn to?  Knitting!  Yes, that's right, on with the next project!  Like I don't have enough things going on. 

Knitting is something you do sitting down.  I've knitted standing up, but it's not that comfortable and sometimes the stitches are uneven.  When I have some free time or after dinner in my cozy spot, I sit and I knit.  I started this particular pair of socks on the plane on my trip to Florida in November. 

Sock knitting is addictive.  Once you learn to knit socks you can't stop.  I have three pairs going on at once.  If I get bored with one color of socks I move on to another.  Just thinking about knitting on those socks makes me itchy.  It's a close second to painting, I'll say that.  Knitters talk about "the second sock syndrome", but not me.  If I have three sets in the works I don't get bored enough to give up on knitting up the second sock of the pair. 

Lately I've been getting allergy shots and this sock knitting is my companion.  Once a week I let them stab me with needles and I wait twenty minutes to see if I'll have a reaction.  I mosey on to the waiting room and get cozy with my knitting.  It's a blissful twenty minutes.  The thing is, I'm forced to occupy myself for that time.  I'm not home to do laundry, run errands, paint, I've got to sit there and wait.  People come and go, there I sit knitting.  I'm embarrassed to say I've been so involved in my sock that I've knitted way past the time I should be there. 

Knitting, along with painting, is always on the to-do list.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Photos for Friday

Greek Column ©2000 Dora Sislian Themelis

Delphi ©2000 Dora Sislian Themelis

Small watercolor paintings of various Greek themes.  I love the colors and shapes the brights and shadows make on objects. Enjoy!

Moonlit Calls ©2000 Dora Sislian Themelis
Greek Coffee ©2000 Dora Sislian Themelis

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

But is it "Zen"?

I've been asked to paint cherry blossoms.  Actually I was originally asked to paint them on a bedroom wall in a young friend's home where she wants to have a quiet, meditative corner.  As much as I like to look at murals, I'm kind of uneasy about painting one myself.  It's the idea of putting love into something that someday, someone will eventually marr by throwing a roller of paint on top of it. 

When I was a kid my artist father painted a beautiful Japanese garden scene on the basement walls, all around the whole space, which was also his studio.  It had flowers, cherry blossoms on trees, birds, butterflies here and there, and in the center on the longest wall, a foot-bridge.  He painted it right on the cinderblock walls and we never had the basement finished off with paneling like people do.  It was an oasis of calm and beauty. 

Years later my parents sold the house.  I was horrified that the new owners might very well cover up that mural and the heart that went into it.  What I really wanted to do was throw black paint all over, but I didn't.

I told my friend I'd rather paint on something that is portable.  At least framed art can move with you.  Yes, she wants cherry blossoms to create a sense of calm, "zen" as she called it. 

Combing through my swipe file, I came up with a few photos of cherry blossoms, Asian gardens, Washington D.C. blooms, and had them ready at my desk to work on today.  After dinner I needed a pencil from my desk and took a look at the pics. 

Some how I ended up sitting at my desk sketching out my idea.  Watercolors are calming, I thought, and available.  I dabbed the new brush I just bought in some color, trying to be mindful of areas I wanted to keep bright white.  Methodically, I went around with the brush lightly painting in the background.  By the time I decided to stop it was 8:30PM! 

In the midst of all the holiday hype, Christmas shopping and baking, I'm looking forward to this painting.  I don't know if it's the wash of the colors or the cherry blossoms themselves, but I just might have found zen.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Process Painting

A good lesson I learned from The Artist's Way was that it's acceptable to go into the studio with no idea what will happen once I get there, if anything.  I used to think I had to have a plan, execute that plan, and end up with a pleasing outcome.  Honestly, I think I set myself up for failure with that thought because I'd end up doing everything else except go to my desk.  In my head I rebelled against it because I just wanted to fool around with the paint, doodle, and do "nothing".  Now I know I'm better off doing "nothing" and maybe I'll come out with "something".  I know, wacky artist in the house!

The thing is when I doodled and did what I thought was nothing, I'd be happier.  It was fun and didn't feel like working.  That's one thing about doing The Artist's Way course is it makes you become aware and steers you towards the process of art which could lead to exciting ideas.  It makes you feel like playing again another day and see what happens next.

I've been playing with watercolors for a while so they're readily available to me.  I love oil painting, but since I cleaned my palette a few years ago I haven't been able to start up again.  I bought a couple of small stretched canvases recently so maybe something will happen with them soon.  For now, it's watercolor.  I just thought I'd see how the paint reacts with different brushes, wet paper or dry, what will happen to the paint when I add one color next to previously applied colors.  Playing with the medium to see how controllable, or not, it is.

Beach at Dusk ©2000 Dora Sislian Themelis
11x14 Watercolor

With no agenda, painting was a pleasure.  I let the watercolors dry and went back to look at what I painted.  When I saw some little idea of a landscape I went in with more paint and pulled out small ideas of the sand, shore and dunes.  I painted beach fencing with small brush strokes and defined the beach a bit. 

It was a good session in the studio.  If I had thought ahead what I was going to do there I might not have felt so comfortable.  Lesson learned: process, play.

Monday, December 7, 2009

I'm a Slacker!

Yeah, okay, I said I was at the end of The Artist's Way, but I'm not done with it.  Totally, not done with the course in Week 12.  How can I be done if I didn't do the tasks?  I'm a slacker!  Is there a good reason why I can't get it together over here, or what?  Okay, so I'm in a pouty, stomping my foot mood. Blah.  Didn't do the tasks, didn't have the artist date, didn't paint.  I did do Morning Pages every day.  I fooled around with some beads and made a new bracelet, but that's not what I wanted to do this week.  Now Christmas is coming and I barely did anything about that!  I need to make a list, but I already have a list and I can't stick to it!  I'll end up with a list of lists!  I need to take a deep breath, in, hold, and out.

How do you handle it when you have so many things to do and can't get to any of them?  I get one thing done and forget the other.  I do the other, and forget the next.  I make one necessary phone call and don't have time for the other call.  And then I forget to make the other call all together.  This is bad!  Am I ever going to be free of these "things" and just spend the day painting?  Nah, don't think so.

I remember my last semester in college when we didn't need to be in class to paint.  We were to have a meeting with the professor once a month for a critique of the work we were doing at home or where ever we were painting.  Weeks were passing and I felt like I had all the time in the world.  I was doing everything but painting,  Daydreaming of painting was more like what I was doing.  Thinking about what I wanted to paint while the time passed.  What else was I doing?  I don't even know.  Other things were happening, I was at home as a commuter student, so--I don't know!  It's a blank. 

Then one day I received a postcard about when the meeting with the professor would take place.  It was going to be that week. Yikes!  I had nothing!  I knew what I was supposed to be working on and decided in a flash to get to it.  My prof had previously told me to paint bigger!  I tend to paint big in too small a space.  Every time I painted bigger he'd say, Paint Bigger!  So I got out the roll of canvas I had, kicked it out on the floor of my basement and where it stopped I cut it.  I painted and painted, all day and into the night.  Five feet high by nine feet long later I was done!  Did I say I work well under pressure?  Well I do.  Doesn't mean it's a good thing.

Who could stretch such a big canvas in a small space?  I painted it flat, rolled up the damp oil painting, and threw it in my car to take it to my class.  Well, the professor was thrilled with my BIG work.  Eventually, I painted four more like that.  They were color studies and as I went on to each I used the minimum of colors to get the same effect.  They were beautiful.  But did I have to be shocked into doing what I needed to do?  What's with that?  I worked as if someone was chasing me with a lit torch.  It's too stressful and panicky.

Color Study 1, oil on canvas  36x36  ©1977 Dora Sislian Themelis

I'm trying to avoid that kind of panic in my life.  But I don't think I'm going to change much.  Someone once asked me what I was like years ago and what made me think I was going to be much different now?  I guess I'm still the same person, but I'd like to think I could change a couple of things, right?

Friday, December 4, 2009

Photos for Friday

After Rain ©)2009 Dora Sislian Themelis

While having a shoe shopping adventure in NYC this past June, a wild wind and rain storm was going on outside.  When it was over, the clouds, low in the sky, looked like cotton balls tinged with the hues of the setting sun.  I just felt like a last look at warm weather before the winter really sets in here.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Drums and Drawing

Teacher ©Dora Sislian Themelis
When my sons were younger they had the opportunity to attend a class to learn to play an ethnic drum called the doumbek.  The doumbek has origins in Greece and the Middle Eastern world.  My oldest was, and still is, very musical and plays a variety of traditional Greek instruments. 

This drum was the first instrument he showed an interest in as my Armenian father owned one.  He'd let my son play and he was pretty good at it for a kid.  The younger son is also musical, but he just liked to fool around, not serious about it at all.  They both have that creative gene, right-brain thing, though.

Teacher in Color
©Dora Sislian Themelis
Since they were kids, I had to drive them to the class, which was almost thirty minutes from our house.  Well, I decided that if I'm driving, I'm taking drawing tools with me.  No sense having all that action and not get it on paper.  Unfortunately, the first time I drove my kids to the lesson I forgot my sketchbook and pencils.  I found a lined notebook paper, grabbed a pen and just started doodling.  I could kick myself because the doodle I drew of one of the students came out great and she wanted it for herself! 

Drum Lesson ©Dora Sislian Themelis
The next week I came prepared.  I brought my sketchbook, pencils, and some Nu-Pastels.  It was a very exciting drawing adventure.  There was music, action, and the students were of different ages and personas.  Drawing moving people isn't easy.  I had to decide the general direction of the pose and work from there. 

Helen ©Dora Sislian Themelis
Hands and bodies kept moving, heads were bobbing, feet tapping to the beats, stopping and starting.  Nothing like the short poses in life drawing class with a model who stands still for a few minutes and then changes the pose.  This movement was non-stop.  But it was great to be caught up in the moment with the drum beats blasting.  Very energetic.

The teacher, the students and some observers were my models each week.  While the others had their doumbek lesson, I was having my own lesson in observing and drawing the moving figure.  It was a great time.

Doumbek Class ©Dora Sislian Themelis

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

At the End

Day's End, Watercolor on paper, 11x14"
(c)2008 Dora Sislian Themelis

Here I am at the last week in The Artist's Way 12 week course.  And I'm not happy about it.  I enjoyed reading each chapter and trying to do all the tasks.  I looked forward to writing the three Morning Pages of long-hand, stream of consciousness thoughts.  I had started a journal anyway, but this gave my writing a purpose and a direction.  Never mind that I called myself stupid, you idiot, and jerk most days in those pages.  The writing habit emptied my brain of nonsense and helped keep a tidy space all up in there! 

The weekly tasks were difficult for me to keep up with though.  I plan go back to various weeks and complete them.  I know they were there to help, but somehow I managed to avoid many tasks.  I don't know why.  Did I resist doing them?  It seems it's normal for creative people to throw obstacles in our own path because doing the task is scary.  Moving ahead puts us off sometimes, so we resist.

 Anyway, I'm thinking I won't really be done with the course just yet.  And the Artist's Date.  Time to play all by myself!  That was an absolute pleasure when I pinned myself self down to indulge in it.  At each week's end was a check-in that asked if we did the Morning Pages every day, did we do the self-pampering Artist's Date, if so, what?  These two things will have to become a "must do". 

At a gathering this weekend someone asked me what I did.  I said I was an artist and talked about my paintings and handmade items.  The woman I was speaking to was awestruck and began planning for me to show at some venue.  I found myself saying Yes!  I gave out my handy business card.  I was so ready!  The Artist's Way talks about synchronicity and there it was.  Things were just falling into place as if it were meant to be.  Before reading this book I may not have been so bold or so ready.

If I stick with it, art will easily become a larger part of my day, every day.  Art as process, art as play.  The course says creativity requires faith, which means we give up control.  But giving up control is scary and we resist.  The resistance is the block on the path to creativity.  That quiet internal Yes! is what leads us on the right path.  So I'm sticking with the Artist's Way plan and I'm just going to keep on saying Yes!

The Latest Work With Permission

©Dora Sislian Themelis, 11x14 Watercolor, Patmos Sunset Available for purchase The latest work is from another person's photograph...