Friday, January 29, 2010

Photo for Friday

This is a summertime view outside my living room from the place where I sit and knit, read, and just "be", which I call my dream corner.  Enjoy your weekend!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Yes I Can

With yesterday's post in mind about going into the studio for 15 minutes, I did just that.  Luck was with me and the stupid light in the studio was working. 

Going into the studio, I decided to look at the latest cherry blossoms painting I was playing with.  The first one is over and done.  I don't think I can do anything else to it because, firstly, I'm over it, and secondly, I'll just over do it.  I signed it and I'm done. The second watercolor needed a little definition in the flowers and I worked on that until I was done with it, too.  Signed, done.

On my desk is a couple of print-outs of my son playing a traditional Greek bagpipe.  He had a YouTube video of music he was practicing and I just loved the look of it.  To me it was so Rembrandt, all chiaraschuro like.  Bright light against deep darks.  I liked that moody look and printed out some frames, with his permission of course.  I sketched out the basic subject and lines for the background on watercolor paper.  This would probably be a better oil painting than a watercolor, but hey, the watercolors are out so that's what I'm going to use.  If I don't like it, I can paint another one in oils, which I probably will do. 

I didn't want to plunge right in with color just yet.  I need a tube of New Gamboge that I've used before for painting skin color in watercolor.  It's just a nice soft color and adding shadows to it is easy.  So I'm off to Pearl Paint today to see what brands they have in this color.  Forgot about it when I was there last week for the 50% off sale. 

It's amazing how an idea like doing something for only 15 minutes can wake you up and charge the batteries.  I'm going to make this my little Artist's Date for the week. 

You have to take the motivation where you can get it and run!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Art in 15 Minutes

I read a blogpost and a "tweet" yesterday from Alyson Stanfield, author of I'd Rather Be In The Studio and The ArtBiz Blog, that said if an artist cannot commit to hours in the studio at least try to do 15 minutes (here).  That statement speaks volumes to me! 

I can definately do 15 minutes a day!  In fact, whenever I go to my art space to just look at my supplies for a couple of minutes I end up spending hours painting, where I had no intention to do that.  Now, if I could get myself to go to that place every day for just the 15 minutes I'd be on my way!  It could happen.  It has happened. 

Whining about time looks like something I like to do, but I don't like to whine.  I try to keep my whining to myself, but now that I'm blogging about it the cat's out of the bag.  I never thought of myself as a whiner.  That's why I picked up Alyson's book and read The Artist's Way course.  These two books have allowed me to identify the blocks I allow to fall in my way to creativity time, at the very least.  More over, they have led me to make more art these days.  I can finally say to myself, ok, the housework/errands are done or can be done later, now is studio time.

I've learned to be unconciously concious.  Does that make sense?  Aware of my time is maybe a better explaination.  When I allow myself to become distracted by mundane things I'm more aware of it and can turn it around now.  Before I would end up drowning in laundry and letting it happen.  Things have definately improved in that sense.

Ok, I'm off to do my errands.  Be back in 15 minutes!

Monday, January 25, 2010

It Starts Again Tomorrow

My Sunday was really quiet this week.  Even though I was all alone, my family was out of the house, I didn't get much done. 

I wanted to fool around with the new watercolor I started, but I didn't.  I thought I might look at my jewelry supplies and maybe put a few stones and beads together like I did a couple days ago, but I didn't.  I'm not going to beat myself up about it either.

Sometimes it's healthy to do absolutely nothing.  I know I need down time.  Time to let my brain take a break from thinking about things.  Even though I'm writing the Artist's Way Morning Pages every day to get the excess brain junk out, I still need that extra do-nothing time.  I don't know why. 

I'm not saying I sat in a chair and looked at the wall all day long.  Lately I've been reading a really good book and I just had to get to the end.  When I picked it up yesterday I just had to keep reading.  While I was reading I had a banana bread baking in the oven that I assembled before I picked up the book.  The warmth of my kitchen along with the great smell of a tasty quick bread in the oven made a cozy feeling in my house.  While I waited I read my book and had some coffee.  The house was quiet with the others out for the day doing their own thing.  It was a great day and it felt good not to "work". 

Tomorrow is another day.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Thought for Thursday

"Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former."  
~ Albert Einstein

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Shopping for Motivation

The Pearl Paint Art Supply in my neighborhood is having a sale of 50% off everything in the store.  Are they going out of business?  I asked the sales people, but they said no one told them anything.  Looks like going out to me if they're selling to the bare walls.  That much off is a good sale, even better than buying online which is usually cheaper.  Pearl's prices are high first of all, and lately they were trying to compete with Michael's Crafts, which turned me off.  If I want craft stuff I can go to Michael's.  I want a quality art supplier when it comes to art stuff. 

Well, I picked up a large pastel pad, a couple tubes of MaimieriBlu watercolors, and quite a few half pans of Windsor&Newton watercolors for my travel set.  They had some semi-precious stones I liked and for half price I bought a couple.  I spent enough yesterday.  Paint is expensive.  I need to go back another day to get a Vyco cover for my desk.  Next week is soon enough unless they close the doors tomorrow which didn't look like it was happening.

Feeling empowered after my art supply shopping spree, and relaxed from my little tantrum, I got down to business.  Amazingly, the light was working in my studio yesterday.  I took my purchases to my desk to take inventory of my supplies.  I have some older tubes of watercolor that I need to use up.  I thought I used up my watercolor paper, but forgot about the cherry blossoms work that was still attached to the block.  I'm not sure if I'm done with it, but I took it off the block anyway.  Since it was there, bare, and looking at me I found another photo of the blossoms from the swipe file and there I was penciling it onto the paper.  Soon as I did that and took some pics, I was filling my water cups, dipping the brush and throwing paint on the paper!  Wow, how did that happen?

Knowing myself I stopped before I made a mess of things.  Watercolor is not very forgiving, in my opinion.  I could take it too far, and then that's it!  So I left it and decided to organize my bead supplies.  There I was stringing a couple of bracelets!  I finished one and need some findings for the other, but I worked on two pieces.  I just need to photograph the finished piece and shop online or in person for the needed findings for the second bracelet. 

All in all, yesterday was an amazingly productive day.  I'm still in shock that it all went so well!  I better be careful and not mess up the momentum today.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Next Thing on the List

(I really want to be here)

The thing with To-Do lists is that you need to actually do the things on the list, right?  So how come I have such a long list?  Maybe it's because I'm not getting to anything on this list?  What do you think?  If I'm not working on the list why am I so busy and tired?

Every day that goes by, every week, the same things are still there on my list, waiting. Want an idea of what's on my list?  Ok, here goes:
  • Play in the studio every day for however long
  • Organize studio closet for flat storage and upright canvas
  • Get a CD shelf at IKEA to replace another shelf and move to studio
  • Matte some finished work
  • File paperwork
  • Get a black handbag
  • Make more bracelets for Etsy shop
  • Add more finished work to Etsy shop
  • Plan Artist Dates
  • Remember to take photos while on Artist Date for blog (ugh, keep forgetting)
  • Shread 2007, 08, 09 papers
  • Visit Pearl Paint for 50% off art supplies sale
  • Call cable guy
  • Call dishwasher repair guy
  • Call electrician to fix studio light and other stuff
  • Re-arrange living room furniture, again
  • Do Artist's Way tasks I liked again
  • Remove old carpet from foyer
  • Paint foyer
  • Re-paint bedroom with better color
  • Buy picture frames for favorite photos before my babies have babies
  • Put photos in albums before babies have baby photos
  • Blah blah blah and on, and on, and on. 
There's more, but I'm tired of this list already.  Is it the weather?  Is it my artist's block showing up to hold me back? 

Somehow I need to shake it off, wake up, show up and get on with it.  This is ridiculous.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Done with the Course, on with the Process

I've finally closed the book, so to speak, on The Artist's Way.  I re-read the last chapter, answered the Week 12 questions and the tasks, and did the check-in.  It's been a great motivator and there are things I did during the course that I believe I will continue to do for a long time. 

The three pages of free thought journaling every morning will definately stay.  It's been wonderful to write down the stupid things I think I do, how dopey I think I might be, and be done with it.  And the artist's date is a must-do, whether it's an hour or a whole day thing.  Anything I can do to keep the creativity coming. 

Just showing up at my desk with no agenda has allowed all kinds of ideas to flow.  Once I'm there I start thinking about something and suddenly I find myself painting for hours, where I had no intention to do so.

The Artist's Way has allowed me to be creative in whatever medium I feel like using at the moment.  If I knit I don't feel guilty that I didn't paint.  I know I'm  "doing" anyway.  I'm more comfortable knowing it's the process not the outcome.  Show up and do, rather than think about it and don't.

So the last few days have been a little hectic and I didn't get to paint.  Besides, the light in my studio keeps shutting off for some reason and it's caused me to avoid the space.  I hate sitting at my desk in the middle of something and the light shuts off.  I'll have to get that fixed, but in the meantime I was knitting.  I finished another pair of socks for the online shop, worked a pair for a gift, and started another.  While I knit I think of colors, shapes, textures, ideas, designs, it's great.  Knitting was a mini artist's date with myself and the process of creating.  It's a must.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Photo for Friday

People get so excited to pump their own gas and this is the result!  This customer stepped on the gas pedal and drove in reverse, knocking over the whole pump thing on another customer's car on the opposite side.  Thankfully, nothing blew up!

Just a regular day at the gas station business. 

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Thought for Thursday

"The will to be stupid is a very powerful force, but there are always alternatives."
~Lois Bujold

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Icon Secret

So, as I was saying, I have this icon painting that is pretty old.  When my uncle visited my husband's car repair business with his car, he slipped this icon to him telling him to give it to me.  My father's oldest brother was an artist with wood.  He refinished antique furniture, made his own pieces, violins, really beautiful things.  When my husband and I were getting married, my uncle was going to refinish a Louis XVI chair for us as a gift.  He had three chairs and he was going to use two of them to finish the better of the three.  Well, his wife, my aunt, found them in his workshop at home and threw them out with the trash!  Louis XVI chairs!

I don't know what happened when my uncle found out, but he ended up making us a backgammon board with different natural colored woods, inlaid in the typical design and rubbed to a glossy finish.  It's a beautiful piece, but it's not a Louis XVI chair.

He came to the repair shop with the icon hidden in his coat.  He told my husband not to say anything about it as he slipped him the painting, holding his finger to his lips.  We never discussed the wheres and the whys of how he came to own it.  Not too long afterwards he had passsed away, but thrilled to know I was in possession of this icon.  I do know that he wanted me to paint in the parts that were missing.  How could I do that?  I didn't want to touch it and left it as it was.

At one time my uncle had his own furniture refinishing business, but it didn't work out.  He ended up working in Manhattan at a company called Dalva Brothers where he stayed for a long time.  He had some of his own clients as well and did some work in his home.  Maybe someone gave it to him to finish?  Maybe he found it somewhere in a shop?  I don't know, but I own it now and it's hanging on my wall. 

The icon depicts the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary.  You can see the Angel announcing the news to Mary.  What's interesting about this icon is that God is also depicted, which is very rare, and his word is shown as a dove.  It was painted on a wood surface with some kind of fabric backing and it's curved.  A frame was fashioned to fit around the curve.  It's really beautiful.  A couple of artist friends looked at it once and thought it may be Venetian in style.  Now that I've seen the El Greco and Cretan icon paintings I'm thinking the same thing, but could it be that old?  What to do now? 

This week I plan to do some investigating by looking up someone to bring this icon to evaluate it, possibly at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  It may be the only place I could get an idea without someone trying to steal it from me!  Hey, you never know.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

On a Date with El Greco

Last week I planned a big Artist's Date in NYC.  I visited my sister's apartment to see her Christmas tree before she took it down and since I was there I wanted to go to the El Greco Icon Paintings exhibit at the Onassis Foundation/Cultural Center. 

I know I'm supposed to go on these artist dates all alone, but I'll plan another one like that.  This was different because we were together anyway so it made sense to go together.  The Onassis Center is on Fifth Avenue and 51st Street, right smack in the tourist areas.  Nearby is Rockefeller Center, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bergdorf-Goodman, and many of the designer stores like Gucci, and the lot.  Of course a pair of on-sale Manolo Blahnik shoes from Bergdorf's found their way into a shopping bag and followed me out the door, but we won't go there for now.

The El Greco exhibit wasn't all El Greco, but a view of the context of artists and style of icon painting that he emerged from.  The Greek island of Crete, where the artist was born, in the 1200's was a Venetian territory and the artists developed icons in the Byzantine style as well as adopting a Late Gothic style since Crete was a multicultural society at that time.  Artists such as Bellini, Raphael, and Titan were influences on these icon painters.  At this time, Crete was overflowing in the number of churches and there was a great need for this work. The artists moved between Constantinople, Crete and Venice as apprentices, Domenikos Theotokopoulos among them at about 1563, when he became a master icon painter.

As a Greek Orthodox christian, to me these were not only paintings, but icons of the saints of our church.  The exhibition space was large and dimly lit and I wanted to venerate each icon as we viewed them.  Of course, the paintings stand alone as art pieces.  We were able to look at the work up close enough to see the brush strokes.  These are very old paintings, many of them having been repaired over the years from many causes.  The artists painted on treated wood and the icons were hanging in churches, monasteries, and I'm sure, not under the best conditions.  At least now they are being preserved.  Some works were wall size pieces, and many were smaller sized.

By the time El Greco ("The Greek") developed his signature style of painting he was living in Venice, around 1568, where he became an apprentice once again studying Western European art in the Venetian style.  He was living in Toledo, Spain by 1576, where he spend the rest of his life.  The elongated figures and chiaraschuro, that represents his final style is totally different than that of his Cretan icons and is very well depicted in this exhibition.

While viewing this exhibit I was reminded of an icon I have at home.  It was given to me by my uncle who was an antique furniture restorer.  Where he got this icon I'll never know, but it has these same Venetian influences!  So now I'm on a quest to find out more about it.  Tomorrow photos!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Willy the Whale for the Weekend

On Friday nights I teach little kids how to dance traditional Greek line dancing at my church.  This is my second year.  I've been director for the program for a number of years and my oldest son has been teaching since he was 15 years old.  He's too humble to say it, but he really knows his stuff as far as Greek music and dance.  My two sons, my sister and I, have been dancing with a performing group since about 1995 so I know a few things.  But dancing a dance and teaching a dance are very different.  It's not easy to break down a dance into steps with words, right/left/left/right, slow, quick quick. 

When I needed a teacher for the Friday night class and couldn't find someone, I took the class myself.  I live nearby, the kids are beginners, I figured I could handle ten kids.  It's been alot of fun and hard work.  I like it because it keeps me out of my head!

Doesn't George look proud of Willy?

This past Friday was particularly fun for me.  One student, George, brought a stuffed whale to the dance class.  It seems the whale comes from the student's second grade classroom and each child has the chance to bring home "Willy for the weekend". 

I remember the time my youngest son brought home a gerbil and kept it in his bedroom.  He wanted to watch it and play with it during the day, but the rodent was asleep.  At night the thing was awake playing on it's wheel, eating, rummaging through the wood chips, and keeping my son awake with it's little noises.  And it smelled.  So congratulations to that smart teacher who had the idea for kids to bring home a stuffed animal to entertain!  George has to write about the activities he does with the whale for school on Monday.

Willy leads the dance line

George's mom asked if it was okay to allow the whale to participate in the dance class.  I think she might have been apprehensive of how I would react.  Well, I was all up for that!  I immediately gave "Willy" a name tag and put him in the line-up. The mom and I took photos while the kids held its flippers.  We made "Willy" lead the dance line, too.  Mom took a picture of "Willy" checking out my CD choices. 

When class was over they put "Willy" back in his carry-case/shopping bag to have the rest of his weekend adventure at George's house! 

I think I had a better time with "Willy" than George and the other kids had!  I was so excited that I couldn't wait to come home from the class to write this post and share.

 George takes Willy home

Friday, January 8, 2010

Photos for Friday

Fifth Ave and 57th Street, NYC

Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree and Skating Rink

A huge tree all lit up

Waiting for the Zamboni so they could skate

The figure of Prometheus at Rockefeller Center Rink

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Thought for Thursday

"Any time three New Yorkers get into a cab without an argument, a bank has just been robbed."

Phyllis Diller, comedian

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Non-Resolution

Yesterday I said I'm not much into making new year resolutions, but a rather long to-do list.  While browsing around various artist's facebook fan pages, blogs, etc. I came across an artist who feels the same way as I do.  However, her philosophy toward resolutions is quite different than most people.  I wish I had bookmarked her blog post to give her credit, but I didn't and I can't remember who she was now.  Rats!

This artist said she was making a non-resolution!  I thought that was interesting take so I read on.  Her non-resolution was to not apologize for her art.  She decided that she would not apologize for the time she spends, or the colors she will use, and not for the size or shape of the surface, or the medium, or the style in which she feels like expressing herself in any work.

I get that.  How many times do we finish a work, to later say: But it's too small, it's too big, it could've had more blue here, green there, I should have worked more realistically, or more abstract?  And then other people chime in with their ideas, comments, and criticisms about our art.

Someone once told me, "No judgement, no criticism", about things I did that I thought were stupid.  Ok, so I thought this or that about a thing I did or didn't do.  It's done, it couldn't be helped, just move on.  Seems to be a good idea aimed at our art making.  We have an idea and try it out on paper or canvas.  We work on it until we think we're done.  Then we step back and take a look.  Sometimes we're pleased and other times we're disgusted!  Well then, do we rip ourselves to shreads or give pats on the back?  It shouldn't matter what the outcome is, but rather we were in the moment creating, working on the process, in the "doing". 

So commend yourself for just showing up and don't apologize for any of it.  I like that idea.

1/7/10 Note: Since writing this post I found the blog post that inspired me:

Monday, January 4, 2010

To-Do in the New Year

I'm so thankful the holiday season is over.  Now it's time to get back in business.  Every weekend I look forward to Monday so I can start my week.  Each time I said that this week, the people around me kept groaning.  OK, so they have to go to a job on Monday, but so do I.  So my job is at home, so what?  It's still a job.  I still wake up at 6A.M. to get the day started.  There's alot to do, and I'm a morning person so that's the time when I feel my best.  By two in the afternoon I start to poop out. 

I'm not big on resolutions, but I have a to-do list that needs attention.  The one big thing I need to do is show up in the studio every day.  To show up and be present with no agenda other than to play at being creative.  By working with The Artist's Way I learned to just do something, one action, towards artful activity.  Even clearing the desk in my studio is "doing".  Writing the Morning Pages every day is "doing".  Inspiration seems to come with "doing" the smallest things.

Another item on my list is to plan the weekly artist's date, as well as a daily artist's time-out.  The time-out phrase is my idea.  The Artist's Way suggests a weekly date out alone as well as small daily pockets of time for a little artist's moment, but I'm going to call it a time-out.  I can barely get myself on a full blown date once a week, but scheduling a small fun thing during a break in the day would work. I'll see how it goes.  I'm planning a visit to NYC this week. There's an exhibition, The Origins of El Greco: Icon Painting in Venetian Crete at the Onassis Foundation in midtown Manhattan and I may go take a look as my first artist's date in the new year.  The visit alone is an artist's date even if I don't get to the exhibit.

I want to do the tasks I didn't get to in The Artist's Way course.  One task was to put music on and doodle in a sketchbook, but I never did it.  During my shopping travels I picked up a mini sketchpad . I'll have it in my handbag for doodling when I find myself somewhere with nothing to do.  I filled my rapidograph with ink and I'll pop it in my bag along with the pad!   I love pen and ink so I'm just going to have it ready to go.

I'm looking forward to a productive year and my mantra will be: It's the process, stupid.

For more info on the exhibit of painter Domenikos Theotokopoulos, El Greco see:
The Origins of El Greco

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