Thursday, May 27, 2010

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Life, Art and Drama




The bloom of the azaleas in the background is over now

"Artists are dramatic.  Art is dramatic.  If we artists are not making artistic drama we make personal drama. We tilt at imaginary windmills and demand center stage."   This is how Week 9 in Walking in This World begins.  Discovering a Sense of Camaraderie says, "Keep the drama on the stage."  The author suggests that we need to focus our attention on our relationships and the difficulty that normal people present to us wacky artists.  (Wacky is my word.)  Normal in the sense that they have a regular job and we're doodling and playing with paint all day. (Not me at all.) Wink-Wink.

I guess some artists can get all antsy and up in their own head that we're not normal people because we don't have a 9 to 5 desk job making regular money, we're special after all, we create a drama.  Artists can get more nervous and turn on relationships and it's not reality based drama.  If we don't get to make our art regularly we make trouble.  At least we're still creative, but it's not helpful creativity!  It's an interesting concept!

While reading I take notes like this: "Is this chapter talking to me?" I've been painting fairly regularly with the help of The Artist's Way courses, but haven't in a couple of weeks.  Life happens, things get thrown out of order and art doesn't happen.  Yes, I've tried to stay with it in a way, but not painting.  It's strange that coincidentally there've been weeks of drama floating around.  Nothing important, just stupid things.  So I'm reading this chapter, but I don't think it's really about me.  I'm not all that interested in causing drama or trouble.  I'm a nice, quiet girl.  I read this on page 201:
  "As a rule of thumb, artists should repeat this mantra: Sudden problems in my life usually indicate a need to work on my art."
I'm not a person who likes to be teased and joked about with sideways glances, however good-spirited.  Being a straight, honest, level person, I like a good joke like anyone, but not if it's a back handed compliment with a smirk on the side, however playfully done.  The Mr. loves doing this and not just to me.  He's done it to his mother, brothers, etc. and he thinks he's funny.  They laugh.  I get confused.  I want an apology.  He says it's a joke, I don't think he's funny.  Now he's mad and I'm center stage!  Ugh!

Finding myself alone during the weekend, The Mr. went fishing, Son #2 feeling sick and in bed, I went to my studio and started playing with my beads.  No, I didn't paint.  Hours flew by as I moved the beads together making patterns, admiring the different colors, manipulated colored wire by wrapping large stones.  How can I explain how much better I felt after spending that time with myself? 
"Artists become snappish when they need to make art.  Instead of making art, we make trouble-and we make it because we are bingeing emotionally on NOT making art...We need to go full steam ahead and when we don't we tend to blow off steam by venting inappropriateluy about any number of imaginary ills...our aches and pains becoming the world's pain in the neck."
I don't think I'm snappish and I'm no trouble maker, but I don't want to be messed with either.  I'm just reacting to a stimulus that my personality doesn't agree with.  By reading this chapter I figured that maybe I just have to keep making art so I can more easily deflect the dopey stuff that comes at me.  Process, baby!

Will this be my painting spot for today? 

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Tasks I Forgot About While NOT Walking in This World

Peonies in the front garden this morning

As I think about the week ahead I'm trying to chose some small thing as an artist's date.  Yeah, I'm still reading Walking in This World, but for me they should have titled this book Not Walking in The World in One Easy Step: Don't Bother At All.  Sounds good? 

Before I went on to the next chapter in "Not" Walking, I revisited these suggested tasks to combat the feeling of restlessness.  Sometimes we don't know what we feel like doing, where to go, how to proceed in our creativity and elsewhere.  Nothing feels right and we need to be alert to experience that change.  It's like an itch we can't scratch, but somehow ideas snap up.  Mind you, if we sit in front of the easel and wait to scratch the itch it may never happen.  Art does not exist in a vacuum.  The answer, according to this course, seems to lie in artist's dates where we can get a breath of fresh air and recharge. 

Here's the list of tasks I forgot about:
  1. Visit a quiet church and sit in the back for a few minutes.  Sitting tucked in a pew brings calm, humility and a sense of faith.
  2. Visit a large plant store or greenspace which can give a sense of another world where plants can show us their secret life.
  3. Visit a forest or a park to sense a difference rhythm of life.
  4. Seek out a fine Oriental carpet store for a sense of the sacred in the patterns.  This will remind us of the beauty in our own life.
  5. Drop in a travel shop for a sense of adventure.  An imaginary trip could be strangely calming. 
I'm going to add one more to this list which is to visit a large book store or the library, two of my favorite places.  The library is even better if it's large, quiet and has stacks I can hide in so I can grab a pile of books and flip through them sitting on the floor. 

Chosing one of these tasks is on my agenda this week.  I'll let you know when it happens...or not.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Sketching While Waiting



I finally found a chiropractor I can live with after trying out the "Rock Star" and some others.  It's not easy to put yourself in the hands of any doctor let alone someone who's going to take your head and twist it around until it pops! 

This chiropractor is a woman and after my intial visit I felt very comfortable with her office, her methods and sensitivities.  No Rah-Rah-Chiropractic going on here, just normal procedures.  She's also involved in kinesiology, or muscle testing, and uses that before deciding how to proceed.  Her office is attached to her house on a main street near where I live.  It's pleasant, cool and quiet, thankfully.  The front office and receptionist is low-key like the doctor herself.  She's a mom too and we can relate.  I told her my issues and she listened.  Not like the other guy who ran people in without asking what their problems were, did some spinal x-ray like thing and said, "Whoa! You've got tons of red alert issues, and you need to come for 65 visits, and please pay for them today, in full!"  Ah, no.

I had to wait a few extra minutes one morning and while I did I decided to take out my little drawing pad to sketch something.  I didn't want to be obvious and sketch the other lady in the waiting room, which I love to do.  In a small room people are pretty aware of each other, not like a big room with lots of patients where I could hide what I was doing.  So I fixed on my hands in my lap holding the pad and rapidograph on top of my handbag.  You know, when no one else is available to pose I'm pretty reliable!  I'm used to posing for me, isn't that nice?  Yeah, you can laugh now, I know it's nutty, but "myself" is always around!

I'm off to have my body twisted and cracked now.  I can't wait!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

A Thought for Thursday

We’re not born with unlimited choices. We can’t be anything we want to be.  We come into this world with a specific, personal destiny.  We have a job to do, a calling to enact, a self to become.  We are who we are from the cradle, and we’re stuck with it.  ~ Stephen Pressfield, The War of Art

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Wordless on Wednesday--Except for Arggggg!



So I complained about my computer yesterday, did that mean other things had to jump on his bandwagon and go crazy too?  I didn't think so, but that's what happened.  Here I was, all into having a great Tuesday and the main drainpipe to the street clogged up.  That is no fun at all, not to mention the clean up.  Argggg!  Is that how I wanted to spend my day?  No, but doesn't it just figure?  I swear, pipes and machines must talk to each other behind my back.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

I Still Hate Computers


Remember when I said I hate computers?  Well I still hate them and especially today!
Something happened and I lost the whole post for today.  I am seething!  I think I gave myself an evil eye or something because I was merrily writing along, happy with my thoughts on whatever when -Wham!- I pressed Save and it wouldn't Save.  Oh yeah.  Nice.  Ever hear of the blue screen of death?  Yes, I had the blue screen of death come up.  Now, instead of my nice lah-dee-dah post about how I love Mondays, yeah I know no one loves Monday but me, I end up with nothing except this photo of my garden this morning.  Yup.  I'm so thrilled.  No I'm not. 

Ok, so, you know what?  I like Tuesdays even better than Mondays, so there!  I was going to post here how I like Mondays because it's the quiet after the weekend storm of activity, to plan or not to plan, how I don't like shopping on Sunday, how stores were never open Sundays even if you needed an onion, and now the whole world is shopping for everything on Sunday!  But now I'm writing that Tuesdays are even better than Monday because Tuesday is all about me!  Hah! 

On Tuesday I get to do whatever I feel like doing because the errands are done from Monday.  I can paint if I want, or I can do an artist date.  I can shop for beads and make some jewelry or I might knit.  Tuesday is mine!  I win! 

Oops, I better keep it quiet or I might not be able to post this either.  Darn computer!


Sunday, May 16, 2010

Adventure in NYC

At peek at lovely Grammercy Park through the wrought iron fence

Visiting New York City is always an adventure.  Not that I'm so into having adventures, on the contrary.  However, any time I visit, there's some little thing that makes my trip adventurous.  It helps that my sister lives there.  She's the instigator.  Ok, I can be my own instigator, I'm just blaming this one on her.  That's fair, right? 

This visit was to help my sister move some boxes of books and other stuff from her office.  Just a couple of boxes, but heavy and bulky to carry down elevators, out the building and into my truck.  The craziness of parking in NY is another adventure, and a story for another day.  Lucky for us there was a religious holiday being celebrated and alternate-side-of-the-street parking was not in effect, halleluia!  That meant I could park on the street instead of in a parking lot where I might pay big dollar bills for that truck!

After we loaded the truck, with the help of the wonderful security guard who did the heavy lifting, we were free.  First lunch at a nearby diner for great burgers and later a little poking around a thrift shop.  My sister's office is downtown Manhattan in the '20's on the east side of the island.  Plenty of shops, restaurants, cafes, schools, a busy neighborhood.  We walked around thinking of where to go, what to do, when we ended up walking toward Irving Place and the Gramercy Park section of the city and it was just beautiful.

Talk about hidden areas of beauty in NYC and this has to be one of them.  Not to mention it's inaccessable to the regular person on the street!  We saw a fence and gates, tried the gate but it was locked.  So we walked around one side thinking the opening should be there, but nope, another locked gate. Around and around we went.  Not one gate opened!  Each gate had a shiny lock on it.  A sign said "Close the gate when leaving the park."  I told my sister "I bet you need a key to get in!"  I was right!  People were coming out of the park with a key on a lanyard!  I had never seen that before.  How interesting!  So we drooled at the pretty two acre park from behind the tall wrought iron fence.  Area residents are the only people allowed to use the park.  Some were walking, some were jogging around, kids were playing in the grass under the tall trees and amid mature rododendrons and azaleas.  It was an oasis in the middle of the big city.

The area at one time was a swamp.  The neighborhood was developed around 1831and is considered to be one of the first planned communities.  The well kept apartments were brownstones and carriage houses designed in 1883 and the 1905.  The central statue in the park is a sculpture of the area's most famous resident, Edwin Booth, who was the brother of John Wilkes Booth who assassinated President Abraham Lincoln.  The area had been part of the Underground Railroad before the Civil War, one building was a Quaker Meeting House, and a flower shop was a front for a speakeasy during Prohibition.  Even President Theodore Roosevelt had a home here.  So much history in two acres! 

Since we couldn't sit in the park we decided to return to my sister's apartment to relax before planning where to have dinner.  When we were ready we got ourselves on the York Avenue bus for a ride crosstown to the west side where we had dinner at a Greek restaurant called Uncle Nick's.  That girl drags me all over Manhattan!  I said it was adventure, right?


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Thought for Thursday

"All artists need a room of their own" ~ Virginia Woolf

I Hate Computers, Sometimes

Yeah, yeah, I know, I should be finished with this Artist's Way stuff already.  Slowly, slowly, I continue on.  Well, it's interesting stuff and helping me to be creative more ofter and feel good about it, but it's  s  l  o  w. And it's slow, because I'm so slow on the uptake here.  Ok, give me a break.  I'm getting there. 

My computer is not co-operating today.  I'm sitting at my desk waiting for it to move along, like me I guess.  I was trying to comment on another blog and the computer wouldn't let me.  How many times did I have to enter the stupid password so the comment would post?  Ack!  So while I was waiting I was tweeting how annoyed I was.  Yes, I'm Miss Social Media now.  And since I couldn't post my comment fast enough I went over to facebook to look at that.  Finally I decided I've had enough, closed down the computer and turned it on again, only to find out that I needed some new add-on or I won't be able to comment on anything!  Fun!  Turn it on, turn it off, re-start, slap the monitor, let's go already!  Do I need this?  All I want to do is make my little connections, laugh a little bit, update some stuff, write my post and be outta here!!!  Is that possible?  Huh?

No, the computer says.  You must close down and restart to resume.  Oh lucky me.  I'm thrilled to pieces.  I do it and here I am, late to my own party.  I like getting things done early.  I like waking up early and getting on with my thing.  But today it's not happening.  Nope!  My morning is wasting away.

I wanted to write about what I read in Walking in This World.  If I could only finish this and be doing what the book says, but I'm not finished and I'm still not doing everything.  I guess it's no big deal, who's going to give me an "F"?  Maybe me.  I can't get out and walk no matter what the book says.  And the Artist's date thing?  Can you call a trip to the nearest Marshall's discount store an Artist's Date?  How about food shopping?  I don't think that's what they meant.

The section I wanted to discuss was about insecurity.  The author writes that sometimes we don't think we're as good as we are, or as the next guy, and it could make us hostile.  We can become overwhelmed with our state of creativity, but the Universe is not.  There is always endless supplies Plan B. As an artist, we're encouraged to like ourselves just the way we are.  I guess there's hope for me after all.  When we're insecure we end up with self-pity, and that's not great to wallow in.  Feeling pity, or sorry for one's self is a little like a self-inflicted drama, poor me thing.  It's frustrating.  As I read I agreed that "self-pity is born of fatigue and a rest or a nap is beneficial daydreaming." 

After this long, slow morning with the idiot box I'm playing with I could use a bit of creative daydreaming.  I'll see you all later, I've got things to do!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Painting is Better Than Math


When I was in high school I was all about art.  What a great time it was!  No responsibilities to anything but my school work and my art.  Painting was it for me.  I was horrible at math, loved English, history and French. Definitely hated gym class. Bleh! 

One painting class was right before geometry and I had to bring my wet paintings with me.  Of course, the math teacher was not impressed.  She wanted me to be good at math which I just was never going to be, sorry.  This teacher complained to my parents at conferences that if I could spend more time studying math instead of painting pictures I'd be good at it.  The truth was, and is, that my brain is not wired for math.  Ok now we use calculators, but I still don't know what answer I'm supposed to come up with, no matter how hard I try.  I would go for extra help after school to try to get math to work for me.  The teacher was so helpful and I'd seem to get it, but when class time came-whoosh!-right out of my head.  What else could I do?  I felt sorry for the teacher, she just didn't understand why she couldn't get it in my brain. 

In art class I was a star! Yup! Our school won awards because of my work. The year I was editor of the art/literary magazine it won awards and I designed the yearbook cover for my senior year.  No, I was not popular, except if someone said Art, then yeah, they knew who I was.  One time I was up to my elbows in silkscreen ink and was going to miss the next class.  I ran there, my arms all purple, and told the teacher I needed to skip her class.  She didn't mind, she knew me well.  But once I didn't run there to say I was full of paint and she put me down as cutting out.  What?  Me?  Cutting class to me was when kids hid behind the school building to smoke, or whatever.  I was painting!

Stuck for motivation, I needed an idea for my next project.  I was complaining to my mom what to paint, what to paint?  She was reading a Women's Day magazine and suddenly ripped out a page, threw it at me and said "Here. Go paint this!" It was winter and the ad she tossed at me was an actor dressed like Scrooge.  Well, ok, I might as well try that. 

At school we were using gessoed masonite-cheap school!  So I sketched the portrait on it, nice and big, and went at it with oil paints.  My only hang up was the cotton candy-like eyebrows.  I just couldn't figure out what to do, but my father made a suggestion to use a big brush and blot on the paint in the shadows then detail the highlights.  And voila!  His idea clicked in my head and that's all I needed to finish the work and it came out great.  My whole school knew Scrooge.  I used it for my college audition and the professors liked it too.

When my kids were little they were afraid of it because they said the eyes were following them around.  My friends ask me if I still have Scrooge.  Well yeah, my mom has it hanging in her dining room!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Out in the Garden with Arches and Me


Inspired by the photos of the azaleas and the beautiful weather a few days ago, I went into the garden to fool around with my paints.  My back yard garden is really shady.  It only gets direct sunlight in one little corner by the entrance gate and it's a great spot when other flowers are in bloom.  In the summer that corner is sweltering hot.  I just can't sit there too long and the shady areas are a blessing!  The other day the shady parts were freezing cold and this sunny corner was perfect for me to spend some time.  Until I figured all that out took time too!  But I was determined to be outside in the weather and paint.

The Arches paper was calling my name when I went to the studio to get the paints and brushes.  So I decided Why not?  I'll play with the new paper and see what it does.  I must say it was lovely to work on.  The paper took the paint well and I could use a lot of water if I wanted.  I'm sure that I'm going to enjoy working with Arches paper when I plan the next work.  I've been using Maimeri Blu watercolor paints and I found that some of the colors are different than other companies.  The alizarin crimson is not as deep as the Windsor Newton I've used and neither is the Burnt Sienna.  Those are two favorites I seem to go for and these aren't the same.  The salesperson at the art supply shop said they may be hues of the colors so I bought them last trip.

Anyway, the point is I went out and painted with no agenda other than to paint.  The process was the focus.  And let me tell you, I was out there painting away, going for colors, not thinking where I was, who I was, or why.  It was as if nothing existed but the sun, the paper, the paint and me.  Can I say Heaven?  Yes.  I had no idea what was happening in the world and it was divine.  I was totally out of my head and on vacation!

The azaleas were fully in bloom, the shadows the tall trees made were deep and dark.  The sunny spot I was in reflected off the grass near my feet.  I didn't know what to paint first so I just threw paint where I felt it should go.  A monarch butterfly came by and landed on the hosta nearest to me and I drew it in. 

It was really an amazing afternoon in the garden painting away, no matter what the outcome.  I can't wait to do that again!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Pomp and Circumstance

No photos for Friday this time!  And I don't have alot of time to yap either.  Today my youngest son is graduating from college and you can't imagine how proud we are of him.  We are expected to be at his campus early today for the Commencement ceremony and the handing out of the degrees.  The program ends later this afternoon after which we are all going out for a celebratory dinner.  I'm bringing a banana because who knows when I'll get to eat something!  I'm famous for bringing bananas everywhere.  Why not?  They're neat, portable and tasty!  What's not to like?

Son #2 had learning disabilities, namely auditory processing disorders that hampered his language learning skills.  He's really smart and when he was little, look out if he saw us do something, he'd be able to do the same thing.  He didn't get facial clues, couldn't focus, tried so hard to tell us things, had his own words, and took euphemisms literally like "I have butterflies in my stomach", he thought you meant it for real!  He was labeled learning disabled in kindergarten after a horrible six months with a real witch for a teacher, I'm not kidding either.  School administrators and the teacher wanted him on Ritalin, which does nothing for auditory processing issues, to which I said No Way.  I wasn't popular with them to say the least.  I had to become his advocate and fight for him.  They moved him into a small class with physically disabled kids, which was no fun for me, or him.  But that's what was available and I must say it helped slow down the pressure and put a cap on his frustration.

By the time he moved up to middle school he was mainstreamed.  By high school he was on his own and doing excellent work independently.  He applied and was accepted to a couple of colleges in our area.   When he was in kindergarten the principal told me not to worry, while I was in tears, that most kids do very well and go to college.  I didn't believe her, but here we are ready to attend that graduation!

He is graduating with a degree in Health Care and Public Management, whatever that is.  Monday is his first day at a job in his field.  We're thrilled and excited for him and wish him the best of everything life has to offer.  It's been an amazing ride!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Thursday Thought

It is good taste, and good taste alone, that possesses the power to sterilize and is always the first handicap to any creative functioning.

~Salvador Dali, Artist

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Wordless on Wednesday, Sort of


These are the azaleas in my backyard garden, Monet style- the top at 9AM and the bottom photos at 4PM.  When they bloom it's an amazing sight to see.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Gone Like the Summer Wind


Pop Posing for his Portrait

Honestly, I can't remember what year I painted my father in this small watercolor.  I know we were on a family vacation at an upstate NY resort he liked to visit.  I had just started using watercolor paints after taking that horrible class. 

I brought my supplies along and painted who ever was sitting at the pool.  When we were young my pop would pose for portrait assignments for school projects.  He'd put on a far away gaze as if looking out into the world.  He would do that for a casual photo too, unless he was in a fun mood, when he'd make a silly face by crossing his eyes and sticking his tongue out to the side.

Today marks five years that he's gone from us and I just needed to remember him here.  Five years, and it hurts like it happened yesterday.  He was very intense person and artist.  He loved all his family very deeply and had a strong art/music influence on us, his kids and grandkids.  As a huge Frank Sinatra fan and collector, we heard Sinatra in our house so often that my sister and I could sing in Frank's style!  Frank's music is piped in every department store I go to and when I hear him I say "Hi Pop!"  Here's to you, Pop.

Frank Sinatra, 1966
Songwriters Bradtke, Hans-Mercer, Johnny Meier, Heinz

The summer wind, came blowin' in, from across the sea
It lingered there, to touch your hair and walk with me
All summer long, we sang a song and strolled on golden sand
Two sweethearts, and the summer wind

Like painted kites, those days and nights, went flyin' by
The world was new, beneath a blue umbrella sky
Then softer than a piper man, one day it called to you
And I lost you to the summer wind

The autumn wind, and the winter wind, have come and gone
And still the days, those lonely days, go on and on
And guess who sighs his lullabies, through nights that never end
My fickle friend, the summer wind




Monday, May 3, 2010

Back in the Saddle Again

©2010 Dora Sislian Themelis

Last week I mentioned that I missed the deadline for the Virtual pARTy painting entry.  Not a problem, no biggie, no hassle, no judgement, no criticism.  I was cool with that.  I just decided to paint the photo that was offered anyway, remembering the process was important, not the deadline or the result.  Cool as a cucumber.  I went ahead except for a little thinking first. 

I'm itching to try out the new watercolor paper I bought after you wonderful, helpful readers made suggestions, but I didn't.  Being a practical person, I bought a good size block of Arches paper rather than a tiny one to try.  I'd rather spend money on a good sized 12x16 block rather than a smaller size paper and feel frustrated by the constraints of the size.  

I tend to paint big no matter what size surface I'm using.  I still have more of the other paper and it seems to me to be a waste if I start using the new paper, fall in love maybe, and then I'm stuck with paper I might not want to use again.  The paper I have is a weird size too and didn't pay attention to that until I wanted to matte a few things. 

Before I sketched this horse photo onto the old paper I took some time to figure out what size I might want to end up with.  When matting and framing it's much easier to work with stock sizes.  So when I decided to think about my frame edge and paint within that area, with the idea that a matte, or frame, could butt into my composition.  Ahh!  The brain is working!

With the frame edge penciled off, I went ahead to composition, eliminated too many subjects from the original photo.  I like to leave some areas flat as a part of the composition.  Then there are colors in this photo I wouldn't normally use, so I enjoyed playing with them.  Orange is not my favorite, but I think I was able to use it my way by mixing in other colors my brain tends to go for anyway.  It's good to distract that pesky brain because when it's working it shuts up.

Am I finished?  Not sure.  I'll look at it later and see if I want to play with it more or move on.  So for now I'm back in the "saddle."  I crack myself up!