Friday, April 30, 2010

Photos for Friday

At 6:00AM it's quiet and dark.  Glints of sunrays are beginning to come through the trees and sparkling on the new leaves.  It's my favorite time of the day.  No one in the world is awake except me and it looks like it's going to be a beautiful day.  Enjoy your weekend!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Thought for Thursday

"Art is the itch we have to scratch, but we're the only ones who can scratch it.  And if we refuse to scratch the surface of our..resistance, if we refuse to allow..creative risk, then you will know us by how close to the cliff we are standing."
~Week 10, Walking in This World, Julia Cameron

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Just a Wild and Crazy Me

Figure, cropped, charcoal on newsprint (c)1976 DST

Who doesn't worry?  Who doesn't feel fear?  Is there anyone who doesn't feel panic once in a while?  Or is it just me?

I'm chugging away reading Walking in This World from the Artist's Way series of courses on creative blocks.  Week 9- Discovering a Sense of Resiliency, talks about creative people being prone to apprehension and skittishness.  Panic is described as an escalating sense of terror that floods and immobilizes by the 'glare of change' as, "How am I going to get there?"  Worry is unfocused anxiety that distracts us from a real fear.  Fear, they go on to say, is not obsessive like worry or escalating like panic, but is reality based and is our ally.

As far as we creative people are concerned, the more active and negative our imagination is, the more creative energy we have.  Well I'll be darned!  If I knew that I guess I would've felt better about being a panicky, worry wart, fearful, superstitious neurotic!  
"Fearful and neurotic people are those with the best imaginations. Worry is the imagination's negative stepsister."
Oh gee, I'm so happy to know that!   So when my mind is racing and talking to me from every where blabbing it's big mouth, my creative juices are actually working?  What a relief!  I thought I was just crazy!

The writing of Morning Pages should work to rid us of negative energy and talk because it siphons off the worry at the start of the day.  In the pages I can name, claim, and dump most of my negative talk, anger, fear about all sorts of things and people.  Dump the stuff in the page, close the book and walk away.    Nausea, asthma attacks, stomach upset are all from worry and we need to recognize it as misplaced creative energy.  Is it possible this book right?  Wow, who knew?

Fear is scary, we think, but what we fail to see is that fear is positive.  "Fear is a blip on the radar screen."  The author suggest we give Fear a pet name.  Ok, now what kind of name can I give my little side-kick?  I'll have to think about that. 

Fears are base on inaccurate info.  When fear kicks in we are supposed to reach for action.  Fear is sending a signal, but what's the signal mean?  Do I need Morse Code to figure it out?  How about when you're in the middle of a full blown panic?  Tell me I can think of what the signal is while I'm waiting for my racing heart to slow down. 

I don't know, but I'm writing it all down in the Pages every morning like clock work.  Well, now I feel really good knowing that all my craziness was just me being such a wildly creative artist! (Hand over mouth, laughing out loud!)

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Just Going with the Flow

The painting dry spell seems to be lifting.  I think we need to just do nothing for a time while the brain resets and inspiration can return.  You know that thing called Life gets in the way and what can you do but sit it out for a bit. 

Some things must be done and other things can be left alone.  Go with the flow and forget it.  I wasn't painting and I wasn't in my usual fist fight with resistance either.  Just chilling, looking at my studio space, organizing stuff, checking out yarn and knitting, drooling over beads and just daydreaming in general.  No commitment to anything.  Maybe that's the trick?

Here's the new studio set up.  I never went to IKEA, although I will eventually get there, but I confiscated a bookshelf from my son's music room for my use in the studio.  I won't tell him if you won't, okay?

 At least I can store some things out in the open now. I'm not done.  That door on the left is a closet I keep older work and other stuff.  I'm planning to paint it inside and add flat files or shelving on one side with horizontal slots for canvases on the other.  It's a thought.  By the way, the light still doesn't work.  I guess it's time to call in the pros.

I started a sketch from this month's photo suggestion at the Virtual pARTy blog.  It's not a great photo composition, but a good starting point for painting ideas.  I missed the deadline to enter on the blog, but I don't care because this has my "thing" working again, and I don't even like horses.  My focus is going to be on the nearest figure and I'm blocking out the rest as shapes and grounding lines. 

Another artist already finished her work with the same  idea, which isn't all that unusual.  Each artist has their own vision and techniques making each work different anyway.  I'm interested in the process right now, not the outcome.  Oh, and in case you're wondering, I'm not using the new watercolor paper yet.  I want to, but I'm frugal that way.  I'll finish the old paper before I use the Arches that cost big dollar bills.

 And these are the beads I bought.  Aren't they just amazing?  Well, I fell for the colors and then the shapes, and all kinds of ideas came to my brain.  I'm compelled to arrange them with silver beads, maybe wire wrapping them, I don't know what to do first.  I set up my jewelry stuff on the opposite side of my studio desk on an old kitchen table we had when I was a kid.  Yes, it's still alive and works! 

Keeping my stuff out seems to inspire me.  I could be in that room for a pencil and end up seeing an idea glinting out of the corner of my eye.  Before I know it I'm working on the sketch or the beads. 

The week is new yet, and I have errands to run.  After that my time is my own and  I'll be in my little foggy dreamland.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Remember So It Never Happens Again: April 24, 1915

Every year on April 24, Armenians around the world remember and commemorate the loss of over one million innocent Armenian people living in Ottoman Turkey in the year 1915.  The question of what to do with the Armenian population started many years before 1915. I believe early recorded events were from 1895 and on, 1905, 1906, 1907, 1909 years of mass murders that took place. Muslim Ottoman Turkey was interested in Turkey for the Turks.  Christians living in Turkey, for centuries before the Turks showed up, were considered infidels. 

And every year, people of Armenian descent want one thing: for this act to be recognized as the first genocide of the 20th Century by the United States and countries around the world.  Other countries have formally declared this systematic destruction of a race from their homeland and this massacre, a genocide. 

Year after year, the U.S. government suggests it will do just that, and then pressure from Turkey, an ally, makes the U.S. back down.  If Germany can say that they committed the holocaust and genocide of the Jewish people and move on, why is it such a big problem for Turkey?  It is well known that Adolf Hitler himself pointed to the genocide of the Armenians when he said: 
 "Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?" August 22, 1939
In his campaign speeches before he was elected, President Barak Obama promised he would recognize the atrocities of 1915 as genocide.  Did that happen after his election?  No.  Neither Pres.Clinton nor Bush would stand up to Turkish pressure and use the word "genocide".

 Armenians being marched out of Harput-Red Cross/Burning Tigris

To this day the Turkish government insists this is just a fabricated story by a disgruntled population of people.  They suggest that Armenians murdered Turks at that time. If the harrowing recollections of the people being pulled out of their homes, forced to watch parents beheaded, tortured in many ways, girls being raped, forced to march out into the desert hungry and thirsty, or to be shot en masse and dumped in the rivers are just stories, why would so many grandparents and great-grandparents make this stuff up?  Why?  What would they gain by fabricating atrocities like this?  Where did the photos of the survivors, the piles of bodies, and the  destruction come from?

Henry Morgenthau Sr., U.S. Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire. From his book Ambassador Morgenthau's Story, 1919. He writes:
"When the Turkish authorities gave the orders for these deportations, they were merely giving the death warrant to a whole race; they understood this well, and, in their conversations with me, they made no particular attempt to conceal the fact. . . . I am confident that the whole history of the human race contains no such horrible episode as this. The great massacres and persecutions of the past seem almost insignificant when compared to the sufferings of the Armenian race in 1915." (
My father's parents lived through such things.  I was small when they were alive, but my father told us some of the story of their life in, and escape from, Turkey.  It seems my grandfather was shot in the wrist as a nine year old child, by Turkish soldiers who came through his town of Sis, Turkey.  Much of his life was unknown as it may have been too painful to discuss with his children. 

My grandmother also escaped, with some family members, to Cyprus from the large, cosmopolitan city of Adana, Turkey. The year may have been 1909.  I read a book about the burning of Adana and calculated the age of my grandmother at that time.  During Easter services the parishioners were locked in their church by the Turkish gendarmes and the church was being torched from outside. 

Somehow my grandmother, her mother and youngest brother, was able to get out and run home, where they found the rest of the family hacked to death and strewn around their garden and home.  One brother was hiding up the family's chimney and dropped down when he realized it wasn't the Turkish soldiers, but his mother in the house.  The mother became blind from her hysteria. 

Before they left their homeland they buried valuables in the enclosed garden, as did many victims of the massacres.  Did they believe they might some day be able to return?  If anyone did return they found Turkish families living in their homes.

 Armenian survivors of the devastation of Adana 1909

These events were rarely discussed.  Too painful to remember or recall.  However, when my grandmother was hospitalized before she passed away, in her haze she thought my father was her youngest brother and recalled to him the day they ran home from the burning church saying,  "Remember Vahan, when they burned the church, how we ran home, how we found the family dead?"  Can you imagine the chill of that moment for my father?

When I was a kid I broke my ankle and visited an orthopedist for treatment.  In the waiting room was an old woman who reminded me of my grandmother.  A lady with similar features, wavy, gray hair, proud stature and attitude.   My mother struck up a conversation with her, and found she was Armenian.  They talked for a while as I listened. 

My eyes strayed to her arms while she spoke because I noticed a line of tattooed numbers on her left forearm.  She saw me notice them and told us that when she was a little girl, the Turkish soldiers came into her town.  They rounded up the male members: rich, poor, old, young, frail, whatever.  They were never seen again, her father and brothers included.  Days later they came for the babies, women and girls, to march them out of the town. 

The Turks decided the way to keep track of them was to tattoo numbers on the arms.  I was shocked.  This poor woman lived with those tattoos, a daily reminder of a horrible past.  Why would she make up a story like that?  Where else would those tattooed numbers come from?  Ladies would never chose to have tattoos in that time.

That the Armenian people are around today is testament to their strength and drive.  They found ways to survive such tragedy to keep their language, heritage and culture alive.  This weekend the Armenian community is holding the annual Genocide commemoration in Times Square, New York, as well as other major cities in the world, with local dignitaries, celebrities, and speeches. Hopefully some day, important people will notice and act.

I told you the Armenian story is one that needs it's own space.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Friday Photos


I'm getting the patio and garden ready for better weather today.  The crab apple tree is in full leaf and flower and the hostas are welcoming the morning sun.  Enjoy your weekend!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Thought for Thursday

"When we acknowledge the right of mystery to intercept and direct us, we acknowledge the larger issue that life is a spiritual dance and that our unseen partner has steps to teach us if we will allow ourselves to be led.  The next time you are restless, remind yourself it is the universe asking 'Shall we dance?'"

~Julia Cameron, Walking in This World

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Piggybacker

In the Mirror Self Portrait ©1977 Dora Sislian Themelis
Oil on canvas

Quite a few posts back, when I was reading The Artist's Way, I wrote about someone who I identified as the Crazymaker, which was a term in that book for a friend who takes up your time and saps your energy for their own gain.  In Week 8 of Walking in This World the author talks about discovering a sense of discernment.  In plainer terms, trying to stay focused on making art not making it, and the difference between opportunity and opportunists.

In this book, the Crazymaker term is applied a little differently as to the opportunists and is called the Piggybacker.  And Wow, is that a true visual!   I knew I had a Crazymaker on my hands, but to think they were also a Piggybacker makes the whole thing more real.  True to the term, this person was an opportunist, riding my wave at every turn.  What I did, they did too. 

If I said it, they said it.  If I tried it, they tried harder. If I went to a place they had to be there.  And everything was their idea.  Even now, that I've stepped back and away, they're still trying to hang on to my coattails.  Someone once said to me "You're the real deal, they're just hanging on that some of it may rub off on them."

The Piggybacker, as described in this chapter, is an opportunist who offers an opportunity by saying "I can help you" instead of  "I need your help."  The better we become as artists, stronger and more visible, these others are that more attracted.  "They divert our creativity to light their own path."  This is so true.

 The problem is they go along undetected, undermining our direction until we finally figure it out.  As in my case I had no clue!  I thought this is a friend I'd known a long time, a fellow artsy type, with which I had similar interests.  Not until lately did I get it that they were hanging on me for their own benefit.  What a dope I was!

Flattering, persuasive and dangerous, they can choke us like weeds do flowers.  They would say "This will only take a minute" and their minute could take forever to detox from, which costs us our creative focus.  Done!  As open souls as some of us artists are, well me anyway, if we agree with the crazy Piggybacker we could fall into something we didn't bargain for! 

Real opportunity feels good, feels special and right.  Opportunists come with pressure and impulsiveness.  How true!  I know because I lived it.

You can't understand how free I feel that I've unshackled myself from that oppression. The only thing I feel now is stupid that I allowed that to contine.  Since leaving that angst behind I've moved so far forward it shocks me.  But how and why did I stay friends with the Piggybacker for so long?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Rock Star Doctor Much?

I'm sitting at the computer searching for a new chiropractor.  It's tedious work to sift through all the information that's out there.  Most of the info is more like no info, you get that?  There's the doctor's name and contact information on a listing and when I click through to a website there's very little there.  Or, there's too much there. 

The guy I made an appointment with last week was into building up his business more than the health side, although he seemed excited about the health benefits of it.  I sat through the initial consultation and thermal spinal scan, which took forever, after waiting in that awful waiting area with a million people for an hour, only to find out that I had to return the next day.  They do an informal 2 hour info/lecture on this guy's chiropractic method, among other things they do, and after that's over you get to see the results of the consultation.  Well, after the first visit, when the secretary told me I had to return for this lecture and bring a family member because it was "very, very important", I stopped dead in my tracks.  She told me this while I was putting on my jakcet and I froze, arm in mid-sleeve with a look on my face that said, "What?"  Hey, I've been to chiropractors before and never had to sit through an info-mercial about it!  Give me a freaking break, here!  I just want an adjustment and go home, thank you!

I know about of the benefits of chiropractic since I've had a couple of really good ones help me with my herniated disc and related pain.  My first doctor passed away, the other really good one is in Manhattan, too much trouble to visit a couple times a week. Besides spinal manipulation, I use something called Emotional Freedom Technique, or EFT for short, which releases negative energy by tapping on acupunture pressure points and saying affirmations.  Works really well.  The NYC doctor used Applied Kineseology which is a muscle testing technique to find weaknesses in the body.  Why have surgery if all this information is out there, and it works?

Well, this guy must think he's a rock star or something, the way he lectured the 8 people at this meeting, for almost 2 hours!  I've got things to do, mister!  My eyes were rolling around in my head. I thought this was totally disrespectful of my own time.  It was such a heavy sales pitch, like Rah Rah Chiropractic! Yayyyyy!  Everyone in the room was clapping when he was done, but me.

Afterwards I waited in the hallway.  Too noisy, hot, and whatever in that waiting room.  The guy was ready and I saw him in one of the many treatment rooms.  He started going over my chart.  Well, I had to tell him what I thought of his waiting room, #1, and then his sale pitch, #2.  I explained I am well aware of the various techniques and how they can help keep us in good health.  I told him I do EFT, guided imagery, etc.  Anyway, bottom line, he says I need 65 visits, twice a week, paid up front!  Yikes!  Um, I don't think so.  Why dump such a huge chunk of change in this guy's hands?  What if he goes under for some reason?  What if I can't continue?  There were so many things wrong about this.  I told him I had to sleep on it.  He was shocked!  He didn't know what to do to keep me coming back to his practice.  Ok, so the adjustment I finally had was really good and lasted until the next day, but to pay over $4000 to him then and there?  Uh-uh.

So, here I am Googling through info.  Do I have to make appointments with every chiropractor in my area to see who is normal and not a rock star?  This is going to take time.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Marching in the Greek Independence Day Parade in NYC

Culture and ethnicity play a large role in my every day life.  Somehow my Greek and Armenian heritage influences my cooking and food choices, how I think and what activities I do, the colors of my surroundings, and possibly the colors and subjects I chose to paint. 

Each of us has an inherited background that makes us who we are, no matter what country we, or our ancestors, hail from.  We all carry those genes with us.  To some people, nationality is just something in our past, but to many people it's life today.

Second and third generations of Greek, and Armenian, Americans are holding fast to their culture, jumping in it full body-they speak the language, they dance the traditional dances to the original music and instruments, revel in the newest music in the hotspots of today, eat and cook the foods, totally embracing the culture and living the life. 

We try as best we can to visit the country of our parents, grandparents, and our great-grandparents birth and immerse ourselves in that world.  It's cool to be us.  I'll tell you about the Greek side for now.  The Armenians have a whole other story that needs it's own space.

A proud part of the Greek heritage is attending or marching in the Greek Independence Day parade in cities where there are large concentrations of Greeks like New York, where if you want to do something Greek you can do it any day of the week!  The war for Greek independence began March 25, 1821 when the Greeks organized to revolt from the 400 years of occupation and oppression by the barbarous Ottoman Turks.  An influential Greek writer and intellectual, Rigas Feraios, wrote a poem about national pride with the often quoted line:
"Better one hour of free life, than forty years of slavery and prison"
It's a proud moment in Greek history and every year we celebrate with various gatherings and events.  This past Sunday was the largest parade in the US on New York's Fifth Avenue.  I've marched in this parade since I was a little kid attending Greek afternoon language school, a must for kids of Greek descent.  When my kids were small we marched, even had one of them in a stroller (maybe that was a no-no, but I did it anyway!)  Lately, as members of a dance group we get to march in different authentic costumes.  I love it! 

We march early in the parade in the first of three battalions of participants, from 64th Street to The Metropolitan Museum of Art at 79th Street.  Most of the Greek churches and schools participate, along with national societies from every region of Greece, university student's societies, youth and fraternal organizations.  The whole community comes out for this event and the past three years it has been televised.

The Grand Marshalls of this year's event was a popular NY TV newsman Ernie Anastos and United States Marine Corps Reserves Colonel Matthew Bogdanos. Many other New York dignitaries start off the parade  marching and later sit in the reviewing stands to watch. 

Politicians, our mayor, the Archbishop of the Greek Orthodox Church, and other invited guests attend.  The highlight of the parade, for me anyway, are the Evzones who are the national guards of Greece.  They stand guard in Athens at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and they march with pride and flourish.  Each soldier stands over six feet tall and they're dressed in the traditional Evzone uniforms, carrying their rifles, it's just amazing to see them marching in file, coming down the avenue every year.

There were hundreds of people, but I did see some friends in the crowds while I was marching.  My kids were marching with a different group this year and I missed seeing them because we were stationed ahead of them, darn! 

Here I am in full costume with my sister, ready and waiting to go!  I'm wearing the bridal dress of the nomads of Greece, who were know as the Sarakatsani.  My sis is wearing a costume from the Peloponese peninsula.  Cool, right?

It was a sunny, but windy cold day on Sunday, but I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I can't wait to do it again!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Why Argue With Life? He Ain't Listening

Did you ever get one of those days where everything you wanted to get done just doesn't?  How about a couple of weeks of those kinds of days, all strung together?  Welcome to my world.  Somehow, every day that I've planned to do my thing, something else comes up to squash that lovely plan.  Every day!  It's very annoying.  Bad enough I have my daily fist fight with resistance, now I have to wade through life to get to the other side.

Yes, Life has a way of getting in my way.  Remember that to-do list I had?  Well it's still full of things I want to do.  The universe decided every day, for the last couple weeks, that it's not my day for anything I want to work on.  Nope! 

"Forget that silly list", Life said.  "Today your lower back is going to go out!  There will be no time for painting when you need to find a chiropractor!  Forget about it!  And that little trip to IKEA you keep wanting to take?  Not today!  Today you will spend 2 hours in that chiropractor's dark, warm, noisy waiting room with a million other yapping people who are also waiting.  Isn't that better than painting in that no-light studio of yours or trying to organize it?  Why, the time you would spend trying to decide what to paint will be put to better use in that doctor's office, right?  Of course it would, now go."

I could blow my whole day doing some thing I didn't plan on because Life said so.  Who could argue with Life?  When Life tells me to do this because that just isn't happening, I just go along with it because I'm like that.  Why fight it? 

Resistance is alot like Life, but I'm doing my best to spar with that creep by keeping a window of creativity open, however teeny weeny.  But big shot that Life is, there's no messing with that guy.  Life is bigger than all of us put together.  When he talks, people listen!  So, okay, I do what he says, when he says it, and how he says to do it, whatever it is.  Find a chiropractor!  Yes, sir.  Attend that event!  Done.  Go to this wake today, and that wake tomorrow!  Yup.  After you do that other silly little thing you want to do for two minutes, run that big errand, now!  Aye aye sir! 

Can anyone tell Life "You're not the boss of me"?  Life gives a holler and the blog is posted later than I want, too!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Thought for Thursday

"Sometimes when I get up in the morning, I feel very peculiar. I feel like I've just got to bite a cat! I feel like if I don't bite a cat before sundown, I'll go crazy! But then I just take a deep breath and forget about it. That's what is known as real maturity."

~Snoopy, the beagle from Peanuts

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Finish Something...Tomorrow

Since I went on hiatus for the Easter holiday I haven't been able to start a new project.  Here and there I found some time to knit at least.  And even that has been hit and miss.  I was excited when I bought Arches watercolor paper to try, but I'm looking for the next thing to paint so I can work with it.  Nah!  Resistance is peeking at me from around the corner, again.  A tough cookie, that resistance.

Yesterday I went to my studio just to look at it.  I decided to rearrange my desk and worktable, again.  Flopping the areas to be a little more Feng Shui this time.  I don't like working with my back to the door, but then I like being able to see out the window too.  Having my back to the door felt worse than not seeing outside so I moved my desk.  Now if someone is coming toward my space I'm aware.  My table is under the window and that felt comfortable.  That darn light has been out now for a couple of weeks.  Watch when I get someone in to fix it, it will light up!  The light and I have a love/hate relationship. 

Before, light on

After, light off (darn light)

Something about rearranging the space made me feel good.  I know I've said it before, but it's true that cleaning and straightening gets the creativity going.  I don't know why, but it does.  So I'm feelilng kind of good about doing some painting again.

I read Week 7 in Walking in This World this week and it made me feel like I was on the right track.  The last section in Discovering a Sense of Momentum was entitled Finish Something.  Don't we all have half done things hanging around?  At least I do. 

Whether it's photos that need to be in a book, or artwork left undone, there's always something that needs finishing.  The author, Julia Cameron, writes that to keep the creativity flowing we need to finish things we've left off. 

It can be as mundane as cleaning the medicine cabinet or straightening up a room.  She calls it a small pat on the back and a shove forward to moving our creative energy along.  Mend the socks.  Hang the curtains you bought.  Sort your CD collection.  Those things half done help us to drag our feet.  Finish things and the universe increases our efforts behind our back. 

I have been trying to get that studio in order since I carved out that space for myself.  Reading this chapter gave me the incentive to keep going.  I planned to visit IKEA for some much needed storage for the studio.  With the push from rearranging the room the day has come and it's...tomorrow!  Today is just too busy with some other things I need to do.  But tomorrow is D-Day and I'm really excited about it.

The chapter ends with this: "Finish something-anything!..It's an inner order: 'Now, start something' finishing something says."  Here I go!

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Read-Aloud

On Friday morning I had the opportunity to read to a class of elementary school students in the town where we have a service station business.  In Merrick, NY, the schools host a Read-Aloud with various members of the community.  In fact, the Supervisor of the Town of Hempstead in Nassau County, New York, Kate Murray, was a reader! 

The mayor and some representatives of Congress who live in the area were invited as well, but they sent someone from their offices, so I was surprised to see the actual Town Supervisor there.  Some parents, firemen and policemen, library people, and business owners also participated in this event.  Of course, the husband was busy running the business, so I was elected to go.

We met at 8:30AM in the school library where we received the book we were to read.  The school set up coffee, bagels and such as refreshments, which of course I was definitely partaking of.  Need that coffee in the morning! 

All the readers took a big group photograph for the local newspapers before going to our classrooms. Two students from each class came to get us by holding a cut-out hand on a stick with the name of their reader hand printed on it.  I was whisked away by two, adorable first grade girls!

The book I read was titled Charlie The Caterpillar, by Dom DeLuise. I had no idea this comedian wrote books for children and was surprised at how I enjoyed reading it and looking at the illustrations.  Dom DeLuise's writing style sounded just like him, a typical New Yorker, sort of like me!  The story was about the ugly caterpillar no one else wanted to play with.  The rabbits, mice, and other animals kept telling Charlie, Now giddattahere willya!  I read that line with my best NY accent!

It was fun reading to the class.  Later they asked me questions about  myself, who I was, where I lived, what I did.  We talked about the meaning of the story, how it's hard to fit in sometimes and it feels bad.  The kids were so serious!  Before it was time for me to leave I asked the teacher to take a picture of me with the class.  I explained that I write a blog and they were going to be a part of it.
Brave me.

The teacher had a welcome sign for me where all the students signed their names.  It was my gift for coming to read.  Of course, the teacher was not as brave as I was and hid behind the poster!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Art of Self Promotion, with Help

Night Self Portrait, Oil on canvas ©1977 Dora Sislian Themelis

The process of self promotion for artist's these days is involved.  I guess any kind of promotion takes time and effort if you really want to get somewhere.  Whether someone wants to find job, get elected to office, meet new friends or find a mate, all the information I have come across says to get yourself out there.  And where is "there"?

For some of us the hardest thing to do is go to the studio to get some creative work done, let alone promote it.  Once we've developed a body of work I think it's easier to feel some detachment from it to sell it.  I know that the portrait of my son and his Greek bagpipe will never be sold because it's too personal to let it go to a stranger. 

In a way I wish I had painted someone else so that I wouldn't feel uncomfortable selling it.  That doesn't mean I'm attached to some other recent work. They can go!  

Besides networking online through all the social media and this blog, I'm thinking about having a small gallery show eventually.  A local church has gallery space that many artists use and the fee for its use is a small percentage of sales.  They offer postcards as advertising and invitations, and I have a nice long list of people I know through my travels that I can invite.  It's totally doable, but I need to have work I'm willing to sell.  That means doing.  It's not going to happen all by itself, right? 

A helpful book I've been reading is I'd Rather be in the Studio, by Alyson B. Stanfield.  She is an art career coach I bumped into on facebook and she has great information on promoting one's art career.  From reading her book I was inspired to throw myself into all the social media stuff and work it.  Little did I know I would really enjoy doing it!  She wrote in her book: don't ask why, just do it, and I did. 

Stanfield hosts various classes online through her website and in person workshops.  She's holding a workshop in Pennsylvania May 11-12 and if I lived closer I'd check it out.  On her website Alyson is hosting an online Blog Triage class, but I think the class is already full.  I believe it's great to be able to have coaching like this because most of us artists are not business minded.  We may not know how to go about getting our product "out there" other than hooking up with a gallery and have them take all the profits, if there are any when they're done with you. 

On Stanfield's suggestions I had business cards made.  I carry them around in case I find an opportunity to hand them out.  During Christmas shopping I struck up a conversation with another shopper about the items for sale and how expensive they were.  This shopper remarked on my scarf and said how much she liked it. 

When I told her I'm an artist and I knit it myself she flipped!  She said, "You probably don't have any cards with you."  Ah, but I did.  I whipped out my business cards and handed two to her.  She was thrilled to meet an artist on the check-out line in Macy's! 

Self-promotion for artists is possible and doable if you are willing to suck it up and forge ahead.  I know some of us are intimidated by the business end of art, but it's not all that bad.  We just have to be ready with work, keep our eyes open for opportunities to show it, be open to talking to people, and have our information at hand if asked for it, like me.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Not Now...What a Concept!

In the Mirror - Self Portrait, Oil on canvas (c)1977 DST

I found some time to read Week 6- Discovering a Sense of Boundaries in Walking in This World, even with the whole Easter/Lent thing.  Only one day did I completely forget the morning pages.  I know this course advocates taking a daily walk, but I'm not doing it.  It's not winter any more, the weather has become beautiful, and I still haven't walked.  I'll get there, eventually.  But I feel the need to keep studying so that's what I continue to do.  

This chapter talked about the practice of containment, finding the right "mirror", and keeping creativity safe.  Not easy.  Keep ideas to yourself instead of talking to just anyone about the work we're doing.  Talking to the wrong people uses our creative power and it may not be appropriate to discuss work with just anyone.  Our ideas are valuable and if you show a project too early or hear the wrong comments, we may ditch it.  Art needs a place to live, a safe container, a roof and walls for privacy, so shut the F up about what you're working on.  Basically, that was the idea.

Besides containing our ideas, we need to protect those fledgling ideas from the outside world.  People, activities, to-do lists, can be overstimulating and the result is stress from sensory overload.  Bells were going off while I read this.  

How many times do you get a chance to read in print what was happening to you in real life?  Like I said in that previous post, Bingo! Again and again!  We need to find a way to cope with the "ceaseless inflow and outflow of distractions, distress, attention and emotional involvement" of people, places, things.  This is so true. There was way too much chaos and static in my environment and my head.  

The chapter goes on to say that artists are generous people, but we can be susceptible to others' pain and need. We can try to pull away, but feel guilty and risk our "creative energy to ebb out of our life and into theirs"!  Is this a Wow moment or what?  "This creates exhaustion, irritation and rage."  I could relate. Whether aware of it or not this shut down my own art working.

Setting boundaries is the focus.  Contain and protect ideas and creative energy.  Dump the bad stuff and the hangers on.  Get a secretary to shield time and space like executives do.  Well, I don't think I'm getting a secretary any time soon, although it sounds great.  I've stepped away, but if I knew then what I know now I may have protected my sanity, my art and just said "Not now".

Monday, April 5, 2010

More Yarn to the Rescue, or Should I Just Return?

Searching for the right color of turquoise, and to keep myself from losing my connection with creativity by not giving in to resistance, I will be up to my eyeballs in various shades of different yarns if I don't get results, soon.  That first order was more green than blue.  This second stab is more blue than green.  When will it end?

Could it be this computer monitor that's throwing me off?  Okay, so I will admit, again, that I don't want to visit the local yarn shop to browse in person because I hate the clerks there.  They are so nasty I don't understand how they stay in business.  Why are yarn shop proprietors so nasty?  You would think they'd be happy to have knitters or crocheters come through the door at all, and be smiley and helpful!  No, not here.  They scowl a half-hearted hello as a greeting and look down their nose at you if you ask questions about their uber-expensive yarn.  Not a fun experience by any means, so I avoid them at all costs.

Shopping online is faster, cheaper and you don't have to deal with yarn snobs.  All the info is right there: gauge, yarn content, needle size, washing instructions, yardage. The only things you cannot do is feel it, smell it, or see it with the naked eye.  Oh yes, smell is a factor with wool, it could stink!  Yes you want the yarn to have a certain tactile quality depending on the item of your project.  And the color could be crucial, or not. Returns are usually easy and may cost the price of shipping and I can deal with that. At the local shop they only offer exchanges for returns, not cash back.  But how much is the price of nastiness? No thanks!

The first yarn order of greener turquoise was not the gauge I needed for the project, but I love it so I'm keeping it for something else.  It's a superwash wool yarn which means it can go in the washing machine, but it may have to air dry.  That means a longer drying time.  Problem or not?  The second order of bluer turquoise has everything I want in a washable and dry-able yarn, but the color might be off and as I tried making a swatch for gauge it was sticking on my needles.  Is that a problem with pima cotton or just me?  I have questions.  Return or keep?

Should I bite the bullet, cover my eyes, hold my nose, be brave, throw myself in the lion's den by going to the nearby yarn shop and asking my questions?  I'm shaking just thinking about it.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Photos for Friday, and a Recipe

Here are some photos of my labor on Thursday: traditional Greek sweet Easter bread called tsoureki, and red dyed eggs.  A photo I took of my red fingers came out blurry so I didn't include it.  No matter how many times I washed my hands, the dye would not come off.  I have included a link to a tsoureki recipe and information, but it's not the one I use.  They suggest twelve eggs!  I don't think so.

I wish everyone a blessed Easter or Passover.  Kali Anastasti! (Anticipate a good resurrection).

New Work

New Greek island harbor watercolor painting All the trouble started when I decided to switch blogging platforms from Blogger to Wordpre...