The Gift of Grace
A Week of Napping
The Anatomy of a Studio Makeover
Phase two of the studio makeover this week!
As you may recall, this process began with my plea for help from organizer extraordinaire, Danielle Kleinrichert. Then a 90 minute phone consult and some homework - purge the studio! For phase one, Danielle began identifying my work zones and categories, while I sorted stuff until what remained were only things which brought me joy. Danielle also identified some immediate, minor changes which would make things more efficient, and those suggestions were implemented right away. Already, there is more joy in the studio!
So phase two was a one hour FaceTime meeting. We measured the spaces (studio and two closets), identified what things need to be close at hand (paints, brushes, glazes, scissors, tape, drying station, etc.) and what things could be further away (shipping supplies, reference material, workshop supplies, inventory and so forth). What amazed me as we worked through this process was Danielle's innate understanding that the visual result was going to be so important to me. She knows I love clean lines and symmetry, along with pops of color.
After this meeting, I received the blueprints for organization systems! And I am SO excited! Some of the little components that are making me smile: magnetic boards with detachable cups for brushes and pens, magnetic strips to hold drying sheets of paper and inspiration images, a board to hold scissors, tapes and tools right within reach, rolling storage carts which fit underneath the shelves to hold my completed paintings, a shipping station within a closet, industrial bookends to keep things tidy on the shelves, shelf separators to vertically store boards, paper, and shipping envelopes, shelf baskets (shelves that are built like baskets) to hold paints....and this is just the first draft! And since all the components are movable and interchangeable, the system appeals to the fickle creator in me, who is never satisfied and is always tweaking things to make them better.
The next phase will be Danielle's visit to my studio this week. We will finalize the blue prints, I will receive my marching orders (list of things to do next) and then the big overhaul and reveal will take place in October. I can hardly wait!
The Magic of Connection
"Marlene's Magic Touch" - mixed media on reclaimed wood, 18" x 6". Ready to hang.
This is the second in a series of pieces on reclaimed wood. I'm really enjoying how rough and grainy the paint can look on this surface, and how unexpectedly delightful some of the results are! My new favorite substrate, even over aquabord. My neighbors will have to get used to me pillaging their bulk trash for unwanted boards. :)
This week I am reading Cure: A Journey Into The Science of Mind Over Body. A fascinating look at how powerful our minds can be. My husband has preached "mind over matter" to me for decades, and I believe there is a lot of truth to that. In this book, I learned that placebos work even if you know they are placebos. I also learned that associating a smell or taste with a medication can, over time, cause your body to respond to the smell or taste alone as if you had taken the medication! And there is some solid science behind these occurrences. Our minds are powerful disseminators of chemicals. Training our minds when to disburse and when not to can change our physiology.
There is another section of the book about the amazing health benefits of social connection. From physical health to longevity to mental health and activity level. There is no medication that beats a serious connection to people, especially close, supportive connections.
This week I've experienced an avalanche of support and connection - phone calls, visits, emails, messages and texts. From people I haven't spoken with in ages, to people I see often. And with each one, I feel better, stronger and more resolved to heal perfectly.
So when I sat down to create a new piece of art this week, the first thing that came to my mind was friend Marlene, who invited me to kvetch with her about accidents and recovery...and then she explained to me what "kvetching" was. Perhaps there isn't a scientific study to support the health benefits of kvetching, but the smile she put on my face sure made me feel great!
The Art of Healing
"Purple Rein" - a private commission. Mixed media on gallery-wrapped canvas, 18" x 24" SOLD
A topsy-turvy week, which included me literally thrown up into the air (only to land on my head), the loss of a dear furry friend, and the joy of being alive, walking and surrounded by love and good mojo.
In the midst of this tailspin, a private commission request from a sweet stranger who connected with a previously sold piece on ArtFinder. When I asked for any specifics she wanted (color palette, themes, props, etc) she responded that she trusted the creator and the magic of the creating...how beautiful! How MAGICAL! How humbling. And a perfect way to move me from the reclining chair to my studio, to pick up the paint and begin re-beginning. As I reassemble and heal the pieces of my body and my spirit, the pieces of this character assembled on the canvas, bringing me joy and a feeling of introspection and completeness.
There is an art to healing. I am learning this as I go along. Push a little, rest a little. Listen a lot. Do less than you think you can, then do more than your body wants to do. Bend the leg further than is comfortable. Get off the leg even if you want to do one more thing first. Turn your head to the left and to the right, even though turning hurts. Then stop turning it and grab the ice pack. Start and stop. Push and pull. These are the mechanics of re-beginning.
There is a beauty to all of this. Overwhelming support, messages, phone calls, visitors. Good energy and love flowing all around. Connections where there were none. Compassion and community where there were only strangers before. Home-made cookies from youngsters next door, who gladly ate them for me. :) Kindness and generosity. There is no room for self-pity or sadness in this protective cocoon of goodness and love.
Will I get on a bike again? I do not know. Maybe. Or perhaps I'll get a kayak and enjoy the soft waters of the lake behind our home. Maybe my yoga mat will be my new daily companion. I will wait until I heal to decide.
Will we adopt another furry companion? No, not now. This last pooch was our first together as a married couple, and he survived many other pets. He is almost too legendary to replace. And no one could take his place. But there is a heap load of good I can do in helping a local animal shelter. I know our scrappy rescue dog would have wanted that.
Reinventing a Studio - Phase One
This is one of the saddest pictures ever posted on this blog. And yet, it is better than the picture I could have posted yesterday.
A little backstory for you - I live in a beautiful home, uber modern and full of natural light and airy spaces. Except my studio, which is tucked away from the rest of the living space, near a utility sink and with separate entrance for collectors and students. It is dark and feels crowded compared with the rest of the house. I've worked with it for one year to test it thoroughly, but now it is time for a make-over!
The first step was to get some natural light in this space. Every other room in the house has a magnificent skylight nearby. But I didn't want the heat a skylight can bring. So a little research later and a Solatube is on order. (check out Solatubes here.) A cool gizmo that floods the room with light but not heat, and still qualifies for an energy tax credit. Natural light? Check.
Step two was to realize I needed help with organization. What? Yes, I am naturally organized. But I am too close to this mess. I am in it all day and can't see solutions clearly. So I called in an expert. Danielle, of GetNEAT in Charlotte, NC, just happens to be a professional organizer and solution provider who occasionally travels to south Florida. (Check out Danielle and GetNEAT here.) She asked me for a video of my space, because she didn't believe I needed help. Ha ha! She was in for a surprise. My art making and art selling and art shipping and art showing supplies had migrated to four spaces in the house. Clearly, I needed her help.
Yesterday was our first phone consultation. Within 90 minutes of chatting, she suggested several solutions I never imagined but were exactly perfect for my needs. Of course, she gently suggested a purge might be in order. Argh. Artists parting with art supplies is never an easy thing! Like tearing baby kittens away from a four-year-old with a firm grip. But I knew she was right, so I got to work.
Three hours and five huge bags later, I could see the floor in my studio! I found so many things I thought were lost, and discovered so much ephemera that no longer spoke to me - out it went. Now I could say there was no way I had time for this with all that's going on now, but in truth I feel more energized, more organized and more likely to finish my projects now that there is a plan in place.
The next phase will happen in two weeks, with a site visit from Danielle and some blueprints for storage and shelving. The big renovation won't take place until after Ireland, once the Solatube is in place and 30 paintings in 30 days is done. But having a clear vision of what this space will be is a huge relief! I cannot wait to see what this future magical space will inspire...
So what is it about 400, you might be wondering...I'm glad you asked. In the beginning of this journey, I was thrilled to take a workshop with one of my painting idols, Jesse Reno. (Check him out HERE.) To this day, what I learned in that class still influences my approach to painting each piece, but also my approach to art as a discipline. His advice at that time to new painters was to paint 400 pieces, after which you could consider yourself a professional. That's right. 400 paintings.
At the time, the task seemed herculean. But I knew in my bones he was right. And so I started counting. And keeping nerdy spreadsheets. And diligently working toward the 400. This approached helped me develop a daily discipline that has seen me through the ups and downs of painting - the failed experiments, the low mojo days, the inner critic marathons. The number worked like blinders on a horse. 400 kept me going when I felt uninspired. 400 made me show up in my pajamas when I had the flu. 400 dragged me into the studio after a rather severe critique by an esteemed colleague. 400 made me paint when I felt I had nothing to say. And each time I showed up, something magical happened.
As I painted this queen, I realized how instinctive and natural the process has come to feel. How unintimidated I have become. How willing I am to try new things and stretch my goals. How much FUN this is!!! Truly.
So today I feel like I've graduated - ready to head out into the world (literally! Ireland is coming!) and see what the 400 has prepared me to do. But in the meantime, you can bet I will be working on the next 400.
Wednesday and Strange
"Henry the Hornbill" - watercolor on paper, 14" x 10". Ready to frame.
This guy was a blast to paint. One of those characters who looks wild and wacky in real life, and doesn't need much help from me to look quirky and whimsical. And why is it the guys always get the beautiful eyelashes? If I were a female hornbill, this gentleman would be tops on my dance card. Henry arrived in all his weird wonderfulness on a very strange day in our neighborhood.
Our residents here have a cyber connection on NextDoor.com. This is a great way to post neighborhood news: things for sale, lost pets, warnings about odd characters milling about and such. Late yesterday, there was a post about a police presence and CSI van in our neighborhood park. The park runs along with lake, complete with a walking trail, playground, tennis courts and picnic facilities, along with some large and beautiful shade trees. A wholesome family place, complete with burrowing owls, nesting Egyptian geese and, of course, Muscovy ducks. When my dad was living with us, the park benches were the halfway point in our nightly walk, where dad could sit for a few minutes and rest in the shade.
So when this alert came up, I figured the police were on a dinner break or something (there are a lot of municipal workers who take breaks in the shade of the park. It's that lovely!) and I didn't worry too much.
Until my husband and I went for our evening walk. Imagine our surprise to see crime scene tape, four police cars and a CSI van surrounding a truck in the park. Something was clearly amiss. Neighbors had gathered across the street, so it was easy to get the scoop. Inside the truck were two bodies - a man and a dog. Both were unidentified. No details on the hows and whys, but there was speculation that they may have been residents of the neighborhood.
Now this is not the kind of thing I would normally write about, but then again this sort of thing isn't usually (or EVER) going on right around the corner. So, of course, I was wondering...what does a hornbill have to do with the situation in our park?
No surprise here -the hornbill is a symbol of protection! It is also a symbol of using your neighbors for your benefit, without taking advantage of them (like getting information from neighbors?) The hornbill also symbolizes protecting your children, breaking out of difficult situations and pecking your way through obstacles.
So Henry with the long eyelashes was completed on a day where protection felt prudent, connecting with neighbors was an advantage, and likely everyone had a close eye on their children. Who needs a guard dog when Henry is around?
Rainy Days and Sundays
"Queen of Hearts" - mixed media on cradled board, 6" x 12" x 1.25". Ready for hanging.
It is a rainy holiday weekend here in south Florida. The perfect time to play in the studio! And I had royal company...
This lady is strong willed. She required over a month of painting, revisions, mulling over and painting again. At one point I nearly abandoned her and covered the board in gesso. But something (or someone!) made me try one more time. Today was the turning point. Her personality came through and all tension was resolved. I sighed with relief even as she commanded me to take her picture and start a blog post. :)
She feels like an archetypal figure to me. Strong, capable, determined and intelligent. So that got me wondering...what does the "queen of hearts" mean in symbolism?
"The Royal Queen of Hearts signifies your inner sense of the dramatic, emotional power, and need in self-expression. When you combine your cerebral talents with hard work and creativity, you can unlock this outstanding potential and achieve success" (seven reflections.com). OOOOOH! The trifecta! Thought, physicality and creativity.
Of course, the best known queen of hearts resides in Alice in Wonderland. And she is a nasty piece of work! But I decided to look further anyway.
The queen archetype in general captures the power of femininity. This is something we don't often connect with as modern women, and perhaps warrants further exploration. There is strength in our womanhood - strength in being mothers, daughters, wives, sisters, women. The power of the queen bee ruling over a busy hive of activity, as most of us do in our day-to-day lives. Gracious and loving, wise and just. This is the positive aspect of the queen archetype, and perhaps represents how we operate when we are balanced in our own lives and our personal needs are met.
"The negative aspect of the queen archetype is shown in Lewis Carol’s depiction of the queen in Alice in wonderland. She is dominating, ruthless, given to emotional hysteria and moods, needing everyone to placate her and obey. If not, off with their head!" (dreamhawk.com) Callous and self-serving, vengeful and cruel. This takes the queen archetype to the negative extreme, but perhaps a version of this lady is what we become when we are off balance - tired, hungry, overworked, stressed out.
As I look at my little queen and reflect on these words, I can see she is the positive aspect of the queen archetype, but there is a reminder in her countenance to take care of ourselves in order to remain our royal best.