Every now again, one of my doodles becomes the star of a greeting card- or even a zine. I’ve been making my own cards for years now and have found an amazing amount of material by mining my sketchbooks or my doodle journal. Animals, especially cats, are prime subjects but then I’ve also focused on teapots and Isosceles triangles. Anything can be copy in the right context.
Lately, a series of valentines morphed from my sketchbook. I decided to sell them to help fund the native plant garden that I just started in my yard. I took a design from my sketchbook, copied, cleaned it up, photographed it, put it into my graphics program, and then printed them four per sheet of paper. From there I cut them out and glued them onto good quality kraft paper card stock.
See them or even buy them on my Etsy site. You might be too late for next year (even though I can put a note from you inside and send them on) or be uber prepared for next year!
From my journal. After a few years I’ve realized that the “new abnormal” is the new normal. As if the old normal wasn’t challenging enough! Here are my strategies to navigate this ever changing world, subject to change of course.
This is the painting I wake up to in the morning and go to bed to at night. It brings me a sense of peace and order when I look at it.
Why did I paint this?
The migration of birds fascinates me: What inspires them to leave? How do they navigate their journey? How can their tiny bodies withstand travel of thousands of miles of such rigorous travel? Then there’s nature- always an inspiration.
In this painting with a base of sponged, brushed, and stenciled acrylic on a 12 x 12” dimensional artboard, we look down on a flight of white birds over forest. Stenciled ferns are below the abstracted trees. The symbol of a river is collaged on the upper left quadrant and the collaged 4 negative triangles in the lower left quadrant symbolize direction. Most of my collage papers are made up of “failed prints.”I bless my failures as they never fail to add the perfect touch elsewhere. Rain is represented in the upper right quadrant by stamping a painted piece of corrugated cardboard.
To add a little sparkle I added a bit of gold leaf at the top. A stamped Asian symbol on the lower right quadrant adds a zen quality to the piece.
I took a larger cradled artboard, flipped it over, and painted it black. Then I mounted the painting inside of it to add a dimensional frame. This is an intuitive painting meaning I paint by what inspiration shows up at the time. The color palette was inspired by another artist’s work and then I tweaked it to make it my own.
Even when I can’t travel, I look at this painting and I can go somewhere else. I’m so glad no one purchased this at my last studio sale. It is called Spring Migration.
I confessed that I had a burning desire to be excellent, but no faith that I could be”.
Martha said to me, very quietly: “There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. As for you, Agnes, you have so far used about one-third of your talent.”
“But,” I said, “when I see my work I take for granted what other people value in it. I see only its ineptitude, inorganic flaws, and crudities. I am not pleased or satisfied.”
As children, most of us have been told “Don’t color on the walls!”, but it is so satisfying to have such an expanse waiting to be graced with marks made from your small hands.
I did get my chance as an adult. For a number of years I was an artist in residence in an assortment of schools in a three-county area. At times there were opportunities to color on walls creating murals with a cadre of small hands.
Now that I’m retired from all manner of teaching and the monetization of my artwork, I have a chance to color on my own walls. A boarded-up window on the outside of my detached studio building has been calling to me for a makeover. Numerous ideas swirled around my head for months. A cheery window scene was my ultimate goal. I sketched out many thumbnails but nothing seemed totally right. One thing I knew for sure, I was going to paint a black crow on the right side of the piece to disguise a hole that birds had enlarged for a nesting nook. Also I wanted my tuxedo cat, Zander in the picture along with a teapot, cup, and some flowers (I have this thing about teapots). I nixed the sun at the top in favor of a compass, a symbol that shows up frequently in my images.
Ultimately I settled on a basic design, a color scheme, and sketched it out on the wood. Procrastination settled in as perfectionism (fear) took over. Then I decided the worse thing that could happen is I would paint over what I didn’t like. So I got going.
I worked on the mural bit by bit in the cool of the evenings as the heat wave here in Oregon made it unfeasible to work during the day in the hot sun. Eventually, I finished- yesterday! In all I only painted over one vase that was bright orange, changing the color to more of an understated coral.
I love this mural because it is personal to me and adds a happy focal point to an otherwise boring wall My next goal is to doodle all the way up my stairwell. Let’s see how that goes!
“It’s a FOMO thing”, my new 22-year-old teaching teammate responded. I had noticed her phone on top of the copy machine as she was running copies for the day and I asked why she had it always within arm’s reach. “FOMO?” I asked. Close to retirement, I was not literate to millennial buzz words. “Fear of missing out.” She responded, not missing a beat. I remembered that feeling in high school and college but now it meant in a social media sense as well. The whole posting, sharing, liking, commenting, and texting thing was sort of passing me by.
Since that time I have become a smartphone user. For a while, I dipped my big toe in the world of Instagram and Facebook and I text when needed. As an artist, the word is “document, share, share, share, like, like, like”. But being a person easily distracted and easily overstimulated I backed off the social media thing. As a maker who does not have to make a living from my art, now I keep it to a bare minimum. I am not ”branded” so to speak. The trade-off is enjoying being in the moment.
The FOMO thing came back to me in another incarnation two weeks ago when I was at Craiceann, the weeklong bodhran camp I attended in Ireland (see my previous post). After a full day of classes and activities, I was pretty wiped-out. Being an introvert and in my 60s, I need a lot of recharge time and a good night’s sleep. I knew if I went out to catch the great music at the pubs that started at 9 PM and join in I would be a mess for my classes the next morning. It was difficult knowing what fun I was missing out on, especially hearing about it the next day from my new friends. I decided to compromise, making a deal with myself to go out the last evening for some late night fun.
Herein lies the concept of “JOMO,” the joy of missing out (this word was coined some years after FOMO). When we are so involved with FOMO & social connections we miss out on ourselves. We have no time to reflect, breath, savor, & notice. Those nights I stayed in were so lovely. I wrote in my journal, read, took dreamy walks at sunset and went to bed at a decent hour. I have no regrets. The last night I did go out and had great fun out playing in a pub. I rolled into bed at 3 AM exhausted. That was a great memory too but I suffered for it during my two days of travel time back to Oregon and had horrible jet lag after.
I’m glad I respected myself with a JOMO mindset during my holiday, not missing out on my own well-being (with that one exception). Sometimes missing out can offer the greatest gifts.
You missed out on all the music
Yes, but did you see the patterns of clouds dancing overhead?
You missed out on all the fun
Yes, but did you see the swallows dart about in the evening sky?
The spotted horse grazing peacefully in the paddock?
It’s a risky business calling yourself an artist or a writer. People tend to hold you in higher or lower esteem than you actually deserve. Then there is a matter of assumptions… Attend a social gathering and then introduce yourself as a brain surgeon to one group a people and then a waitress to another. You will be treated accordingly. Thus I prefer to avoid labels entirely preferring when asked what I do using more of these descriptors:
I write, I make art, I play guitar, I sing, I garden, I am recovering from teaching middle school, or whathaveyou. Then there is the added pressure of living up to your label. It’s far more enjoyable to be a verb.
I would rather be a verb than a noun
I would rather emerge, shine, fly, dance
And kick up my heels
Rather than just be a person, place or thing
Let me describe an action, state or occurrence
And wedge myself in the predicate of a sentence
Give me the energy to escape the box with a pretty label
The holidays have gotten pretty simple around here My son is grown and there are no grandkids. We are very modest with our gift giving. Who needs more stuff? I’ve come to value traditions that don’t involve consumerism.
The one thing I have hung onto over many many years is making my own holiday cards. Sometimes they are color copied, some years they are poems I have written. This I got down to the basics with old-fashioned scissors, glue, scraps of paper, stamps, and sequins. I made most of them with a group of my friends (see my previous post) It’s fun just take time out of life and just be crafty.
I’m skipping the holiday letter this year in favor of putting a very short handwritten note with my signature. My card list is relatively small. If I do a few a night all will be out in the mail in a few days to friends and family.
That’s my little gift to others afar from the non-digital world of paper, glue, pen and a bit of love.
It shouldn’t be that difficult. Most people open their eyes, pop out of bed and voila!- on with their day. For me, making the transition from Dreamtime to wakefulness is a sacred ritual. This can sometimes take up to an hour. Even when I was working full-time I always allowed some time for this.
I have a lot of “wild hamsters” that populate my head and if I don’t get them in line my day seems chaotic. First I brew a cup of tea, heat up my “hotties” for my tight back and then meditate for 12 minutes. Once my “spousal equivalent” feeds our two dogs, Bandit (Red Heeler) and Dougan (Golden Retriever) he lifts them up on the bed which is the favorite part of their morning as well. (Nothing like starting the day with four-legged love). Then he crawls back into bed to read the paper.
I spend a few minutes in my planner thinking about my goals for the day or week. On to my journal where I may write anything that’s been lurking in my mind, a poem, or a sketch for some art.
Notice I don’t start the day reading the news. I fail to see the point of starting the day feeling depressed. I can always listen to NPR as I go about my day to stay informed.
Then I am ready to transition from human being to more of a human doing with a foundation of centeredness that I carry with me throughout my day.