Friday, September 30, 2011

Got it Together? Check!

There's not enough time to do everything I have on my to-do list and the day is not over yet. The workshop weekend is here and what I need to bring is ready. Item by item, I crossed things off my list. I have not been sleeping well, waking at 4:30A.M. every morning, wide eyed and thinking. It's not the workshop, just a sleep cycle changing I guess.

I had my usual Friday of things and there is no way I can paint today. I had the fleeting thought I could play with some beads and cord, but decided there is just no time after my busy morning. After lunch I went back to review what I need for the weekend. Good thing I don't have to pack clothes and get on a plane, I'd be dizzy.

Portfolio? Check. Artist statement? Check. Directions? Check. GPS in the car? Check. My brain? Oops!

Alyson the Art Biz Coach, who is leading the workshop, commented on my post to bring only new, up to date work. That's what I thought, too. What it is that I am working on now rather than three years ago, makes sense.

Taking this workshop at this time is the next step. Everything I've been doing the last few years has led me here. I am thankful to have taken the big step to blogging, facebook and twitter, or I would have to get up to speed with it. I found the Twenty Minute Challenge, and the 100 Paintings Challenge, two great sites that help me build a new body of work and try to find an art habit. Reading the Artist's Way, by Julia Cameron, allowed me to tap into that inner child artist, try to fight off resistance, and rediscover the artist voice. Step by small step.

Friends always said I should have an art show. I always answered that I needed a body of work to show. Yes, college work was great, but people want to see today, not all those many years ago. And anyway, that's not who I am now. Even work from a couple of years back is not me today.

Yesterday I realized I have been blogging since September 16, 2009, and I could not believe it's been that long ago that I got my feet wet here. Who I was then, what kind of art I was making, if at all, compared to today, is like another person, but the same person. Just more awake, aware, in tune.

The rest of my day is not over. I have a kids dance class to teach tonight. After that let's hope I sleep.



Thursday, September 29, 2011

Thought for Thursday

" The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you've got to have a 'What the hell?' attitude." ~Julia Child, chef

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Preparing and Painting

Peppers on a Platter (c)2011Dora Sislian Themelis
 11x16 Watercolor


With the workshop weekend looming, I wanted to spend the day preparing myself and my stuff. We are to bring a portfolio of work. I've been throwing it around in my head which work to bring. The obvious thing would be to show recent pieces. Although I do work in other media, I guess I will bring the watercolors. And maybe my little pen and inks done while waiting at the allergist's office.

I printed out my artist's statement, such as it is. It's for my eyes only, but my eyes are pretty critical. It's a loosey goosey art language statement. In college, art majors needed to take English for Art Majors Only. They expected us to be able to discuss our work to regular people, as well as other artists. We wrote papers reviewing the masters works, museum pieces, and each other's work. It wasn't easy, but helped us to develop an art speak that normal people understood.

Every paper I wrote, my professor would ask if I wrote it. She'd say my language on paper was not the same thing that came out of my mouth. What could I say? I'm from Queens and what comes from my lips is not how I think or write. Ugh.

So yes, artist statement is ready. I also printed out the directions. Believe me, I'm not leaving home without a GPS thing.

I had a small bit of time yesterday and today, before getting involved in other things, to paint. Working from some photos I took a while ago I just went to it. Yes, I said from photos! No pencil, just paint. I didn't get a chance to take a photo at the twenty minute mark and what you see is well past that. I just wanted colors, shapes, and values. I was going to continue to add to the lower left corner, but I think it's balanced just as it is. Heavy with color on the upper right, and void of it at the lower left. Weird composition, but I'm going with it.

Besides, I'm out of time. Tomorrow is another day.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Yet Again, the Operative Word is Yes


I said "Yes" again. Am I becoming braver as I go along? I don't know about brave, but I've been more agreeable to new things. I take long thinking things over though. Then I say yes. Yes to blogging. Yes to social media stuff. Yes to going to the beach alone to paint. Yes to the 100 Paintings Challenge.

The latest Yes is to a weekend workshop a short drive from my area. The Art Biz Coach, Alyson B. Stanfield is coming to Long Island, NY to help artists get their act together business-wise. The host is a group called Women Sharing Art. They are not located in my immediate area so I'm not familiar with them. But I have read Alyson's book I'd Rather Be in The Studio. It covers the business side of things they don't teach you in art school.

Maybe it was last year, I found out a workshop was happening in Pennsylvania. Although do-able driving wise, I didn't try to go. It's a couple hours and I felt uncomfortable going somewhere I'd never driven before, and alone. This time around this is happening not quite an hour from my home, but I still had trepidations.

Would I benefit? As the time came closer I decided that if I could clear my calendar I would go. I did and said Yes. Anything else that pops up now has to wait. I think reading a book for information is great. Attending a class with an instructor in an informal setting with peers is even better.

After submitting my application I received some information on what is needed for the two day workshop. Of course paper and writing implements, but Alyson asked that we bring our portfolio, business cards, and if we have it, our artist statement. Oh boy!

I wrote an artist statement a while ago when I was asked to do the possible book deal thing. I checked Alyson's book for an outline and wrote one up. It probably needs work, but okay. The portfolio is another story. What do I bring? Both old and new work?

Thinking I had Sunday to put this together I started looking through my latest paintings. Well, wouldn't you know the garden guys show up. And they have questions. And instructions. And they want to shoot the breeze. Um, yes, haha, I have stuff to do! Thanks alot, but I'd like to go back to my thing, you go do your thing, and everyone will be happy! No.

What you see is where I am up to..nothing done.



Saturday, September 24, 2011

Friday's Photo on Saturday

Three Beach Shells (c)2011 Dora Sislian Themelis  8x12 Watercolor
Fighting resistance with everything I have this week. Sometimes I win. Sometimes Mr. Resistance wins.
What's with that?

If you give in to it, low motivation can last longer than you would like and that just can't happen anymore. I don't have time to waste, so Mr. Resistance needs to get kicked out the door. He overs stays his not-so-welcome welcome every now and then.

Two of these shells were collected on one of the last great beach days a little while ago. The cracked smaller shell you have seen before. The watercolors were out, the shells and the paper ready, and I had the time so I pushed through the fog to paint. Twenty minutes later and I was done.

I tried to use only as much water as would allow the paints to flow so I could continue and finish without waiting for it to dry. I think I figured out how much water to keep on the brush. I also think I need better brushes. I was using synthetic brushes, but I went back to using sable. I like the way the paint flows and the point might be more pleasing. A visit to the art supply store may be in order, just to get some info.

These shells were similar in color and value so I needed to establish the ground there were sitting on by throwing on some color. I think it adds a little something and perks up the whiteness. You get the idea.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

What is your Creative Code?

Seeing that I've been having a bit of resistance fun with the master, Mr. Resistance, I kicked it up a notch. How? Oh no, not by painting, mind you. By going back to reading my kick-me-in-the-butt creativity books. Well, yes, I finished Artist's Way and it helped immensely. Now it's Twyla Tharp and her book The Creative Habit.

I left it off for a while, having beat Mr. Resistance at his game. Notice I said for a while? Well, art, as life, is a roller coaster with ups and downs. So it is that I'm on the downward slope right now. Painting in fits and starts, as is my habit when it begins. Some days are freer than others and I can get to paint, but only if I'm prepared. Other days who feels like doing anything?

So it's back to the book for me right now. Need a little fire lit under me. Maybe it's the weather?

Chapter 3 is entitled Your Creative DNA. Tharp suggests we all have a "creative code", a kind of creative hard wiring, our own distinct creative personality. Some how we have to tap into that and find what works for us creatively. Are we working hard to be a photographer, but we are really a dancer deep down? It's like that.

"Rare is the painter who is equally adept at miniatures and epic series, or the writer who is at home in both historical sagas and finely observed short stores" writes Tharp. How we artists need to work is inside each of us. Some painters need to see paintings from a distance, others need to see the brush strokes a nose away. Tharp calls this focal length. Each of us "focus best at some specific spot along the spectrum."

Some artists see the big picture. Others like specificity. Tharp explains this by the ancient Greek words Zoe and Bios, both of which mean life, but not the same state of life. She says zoe "is like seeing Earth from space", bios "distinguishes one life from another."

I guess it's a matter of expansive vision or minute detail. How do we see ourselves, our art?

Getting a "handle on that creative identity" is key. Finding out who we really are in terms of our view is how we can channel our artistic drive. Why do we do things the way we do? What story are we telling? What is our weak or strong points? The answers to these questions help us to know who we are, and who we are not.

Tharp points to a lecture she gave where she invited various art students to assemble on the dais. A music student, a painting student, a writer, a dancer. She asked the art student to describe his impressions of the colors the other students expressed by their improvisation skit. He talked about feelings, himself, stories, no colors. Finally she heard him say one color. Suddenly, she stopped the student to tell him she was unconvinced he wanted to paint. He was in "DNA denial", he needed to be a writer!

Well, it's interesting isn't it? We might be really good at painting, but we're really wired to dance, or some other thing.

Sometimes I think I'm not a painter, I should really be a chef or a baker. Then I like to assemble jewelry with beads and other things, and think maybe I am a sculptor. I really like the colors of the beads, arranging them in a pleasing manner, and think I'm still a painter who just needs these other things as a distraction. It's Artist Attention Deficit Disorder. That's what my resistance is all about.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Breaking Resistance Mode in Twenty Minutes

Peach at the Beach (c)2011 Dora Sislian Themelis
7x10 Watercolor


The latest watercolor is finished. You can see how the colors change with the different lighting, but the feeling is the same. Sunny, breezy, comfortable day at the beach. Can you feel it?

The second photo was taken in the afternoon after I painted from my beach photo for twenty minutes. I took the top photo this morning which is more blue with early light, rather than the yellow of late day light. That's what Monet was seeing when he painted his water lily garden and other scenes in all times of the day. Different time of day, different shadows, different color of light, different paintings of the same scene.

I wonder if Monet painted for only twenty minutes at a time. Makes sense if he did, because if he didn't and painted on one work all day, the light would be different as the day passed and I know he has many works of the same scenes. I will have to look into it.

Anyway, I enjoy working quickly, when I do paint. Lately I've been in resistance mode and twenty minutes has been helping break that cycle quicker than usual.

As far as my subjects, I think it's interesting to mix objects that would not normally live together in real life life fruit and sea shells. These were nice shells too. Great shapes and colors to keep it fresh.

If the momentum keeps up it will be a good thing. However, the weather here has turned cooler and it's not conducive to beach going. Beach weather is on it's way out, but memories of a great beach day will have to suffice.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The days leading up to and following September 11 continue to be difficult. Ten years have passed and I am not completely sure that horrible feeling will ever go away. Every year I watch the memorial commemoration on television to hear the bell toll for each plane hitting the buildings, each tower falling, and to listen to the names of the lost. It's sad and it's meant to be sad. I hope the day never becomes a national holiday because people will make it a celebration, a BBQ, a vacation day, or eventually move it to make a three day weekend. No thank you.

So I've put off posting here because I wanted to avoid it, but obviously I can't. 

Having the day to myself, I decided it was a beach day. I planned to paint, but I forgot to bring clean water. No problem, I took photos and sketched out my idea. I'll paint it later, maybe.

When I was ready to leave two army helicopters flew very low over the beach. One was a regular helicopter, the other was a troop transport. I was too surprised to get the camera out for a close up, and man, was it close. They hugged the shore as they flew over. By the time they were far away I jumped for the camera. What was that all about?


I drove out of the parking lot and onto the exit when I noticed a long line of American flags lining a path through the dunes. In the distance on the beach were steel replicas of the twin towers. Then I remembered there was a memorial commemoration at Pt. Lookout on September 11. Some families and first responders came here rather than go to Ground Zero. It was beautiful and sad.



Friday, September 9, 2011

Photos for Friday - an Artist's Creation is Loved

Design by Dora Sislian Themelis
I was lucky enough to find and purchase these wonderful hand made lampwork beads from a fellow Etsy shop owner. Carol over at Fire in Ice Lampwork Beads makes these beads that say something to me. When I saw them I had to have them. Her work is amazing, you should visit her shop.


Not knowing what I was going to do with them, I just bought them and crossed my fingers I would think of something interesting to make. Since I've been playing with knotted cotton cord and bead bracelets, I thought the large holes would make threading them easier. Ideas were coming to me when I mixed them together with beads I already had.


I am so happy with the outcome I just might keep this piece for myself. Mixed together with iridescent ceramic Mykonos beads, they give the piece just the right glow. After I took photos of the finished piece I sent them to Carol with a message showing her how the beads look and I think she was pleased.

A while ago I sold a watercolor painting to a friend. That was exciting enough, but when she later took a photo of the painting framed and hung in it's place of honor, I was thrilled. It's a special feeling when the creator of an object can see that their piece is loved.

So, I went over to Carol's Etsy shop and bought another set of great beads. I can't wait to get them!

Oh, and by the way...




Thursday, September 8, 2011

Thought for Thursday

"Do not, on a rainy day, ask your child what he feels like doing, because I assure you that what he feels like doing, you won't feel like watching." ~Fran Lebowitz

Monday, September 5, 2011

Back in the Saddle Again

Peach Pebble Pepper (c)2011 Dora Sislian Themelis
Watercolor 9x12 Lanaquarelle
So you see, a little moping around can sometimes lead to good things. Write it and it will come, sort of. I was out of it, but it pulled me back in. There's only so long a slump can last. Mr. Resistance, I am rid of you for the time being.

Shhhhh. I don't want him to hear me too loudly for fear he'll show up and bother me again.

As I was saying. The veggie haul was "fruitful" and ended up being quite productive. I don't know what it was that lured me to paint. The shapes of the produce, the colors, the combinations looking very interesting? What?

I felt bad I ate my still-life subject at the beach that day of the earthquake. Maybe that was it? The peaches in the veggie haul were really pretty. I don't know, but I found myself reaching for the peach, then I grabbed an interesting looking pepper, and one of those pebbles I was painting a while ago.

After arranging these items in a way that felt good to me, I filled my water contained and started in on this. No pencil sketching, just drawing in the items in watercolor paint. I must admit that when I work this way I sometimes fail to place the painting in the center of the paper. I'll fix that with a matte when the time comes.

For now I did it. A breakthrough, and the best part is I painted for only twenty minutes. Just enough time to get it together and back on track.

"Back in the saddle again,
Out where a friend is a friend.
Where the longhorn cattle feed, 
On the lowly gypsum weed,
Back in the saddle again."

by Gene Autry, songwriter 

Friday, September 2, 2011

Thursday, September 1, 2011