Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Bridge Meadows on PBS

Here is the link to the program I wrote about on this blog:
 Bridge Meadows Community on PBS
I'm linking this to my friends at Paint Party Friday.  I'll be back to posting art next week.

Hi friends and blog followers.  I've been absent from blogging a lot longer than I intended, but I was in the
By Lily age 8
midst of two freelance jobs and couldn't really work it into my schedule.  I'm in the process of writing a post about that, meanwhile, I got news today, April 15, that the PBS Newshour will be broadcasting a story on Bridge Meadows, the intergenerational community I live in.  Last month Cat Wise and her cameraman came out and shot a lot of footage of the elders, families and kids here, and interviewed a lot of us, including my husband and me.  So if you watch the Newshour, or even if you don't, tune in tonight and see what intergenerational living is all about.

About two months after I moved here in 2012, I made the following observation on this blog: "I've met many of the elders (there are about 29 of us) -- a wonderful and diverse group of young-at-heart optimists who all feel pretty lucky to be in this intentional community built to support families adopting foster children.
I feel this sense among us that we can help patch up a small tear in society.  

Instead of just being "low-income" seniors, I feel we are now contributing members of society.  It's both a subtle and grand shift in self-perception.  We are now teachers, friends, aunties, grandparents, musicians, neighbors, uncles, writers, counselors -- all more than a statistic or a hard-luck story.  There are so many creatives and support people, it's hard to figure out what my contribution will be -- but whatever it is, I know I'll get plenty of support.  I'm also pretty sure I'm going to learn more from the kids than they'll learn from me.  Plus it's a work in progress, this community.  It only opened in April of 2011, and is only one of 3 in the entire county. That gives it a fresh, shiny sheen of optimism."
Bridge Meadows Neighbors

I'm providing a link to a post I wrote in September about working with one of the boys here on art and repair, called Godzilla's Prosthesis.  He and I are in the process of making a cardboard robot now, so expect more on that soon.  Meanwhile, thanks for reading my blog.


Friday, January 17, 2014

Taking a Break

We all know the saying that when one door closes another opens.  If you spend too much time staring at the closed door, you might never see the open one.  I applied for a grant to create an illustrated book about using public transportation for the past 40 years.  It was rejected.  I decided to keep on schedule and do the project anyway.  I had looked at the grant as a way of validating my work, but really, it's the response I get from the people who read and look at my work that's validating.  Rejections from remote organizations shouldn't have more power over my art than the people who are moved by my work. Thanks ya'll!

I got involved in a graphic art project that has a nice soft schedule to work around my other endeavors.  And then, less than a month after the rejection, I got a writing commission that will pay the exact amount I wanted to get from the grant.  And even though it means spending time doing something besides my book, it's a wonderful project that I'm very excited about.

I'm being vague about things for now, but as they develop further, I'll fill in the details.  The graphic art project involves music and flights of imagination.  The commission involves children, values and dreams.  All of the things that I'm constantly exploring anyway.

Meanwhile, I have to get a new writing schedule in place, so for the next month I probably won't post here.  I hope to be back into blogging by the end of February, but I'll be on Facebook, if you'd like to "friend" me.   Until then, I hope you do something creative every day.  Don't focus anymore on that closed door -- look around for an open one and a new adventure.

And if all else fails, take a nap and dream.  Dreams are shape shifters, sometimes they appear in a guise we don't recognize.  I hope we all keep our eyes -- and vision -- open.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

A Tree Grows in My Journal

One of the things I love about art is that I'll never learn everything about it.  Each day there's a new discovery awaiting me.  Another is that it's taught me to accept my own limitations and the quirks that appear in my drawing and painting.  I practice to master techniques but as I practice, I learn to accept my own lack of mastery, my own signature.  It's quite wonderful when you get to a point where you can accept your weaknesses and go about building on them to create your own style.

One of the frustrations I've had with watercolor is that it has variations -- staining, transparent, granulating, etc.  Granulating was a hard one to understand.  I mixed some pretty mottled washes that deeply irritated me.  I wanted everything to be smooth.  I used smooth paper, continuous lines and strove for tight detail.

Now 3 years into an almost daily drawing and painting practice, I've learned to LOVE the variations and the unpredictability.   (Learning to lift out and smooth edges helped tremendously.)  Now I'm using rough paper and learning how to exploit granular textures.  I got the biggest thrill dropping some granulating colors into wet washes and watch the colors swirl around and mix themselves.  Then, if I mix them before I paint, it's fascinating how they separate as they dry creating an organic texture. 

Here's a tree trunk I did mixing Daniel Smith's Sap Green and Transparent Yellow Oxide.  I painted a very wet wash and it dried like this:

I filled in the ground under the tree with a natural mineral color that Daniel Smith makes -- pigments made from ground stone.  This is Red Fuchsite Genuine.  I love how the sediment from the ground minerals make an earthy texture -- this came out like red sandy soil.
I added an edge of brown ink, then I inked in the tree trunk in black, and resisted the urge to try to mimic any real bark texture, just flowed with the paint.  I painted the background Lapis Lazuli, also from Daniel Smith, for the sky:

I'm much more successful at life long learning if I keep coming back to beginner's mind -- a state of curiosity, wonder and openness.  It's nice to know I can keep growing and never grow bored.

Friday, December 27, 2013

The Sacred Details of Every Day Life

I kept a journal pretty diligently this year.  The only month that I didn't finish a journal was February, the month my mother died.  I kept a small moleskine journal while I was in Memphis for the funeral but I couldn't write or draw much for the rest of the month.  Projects I started -- illustrating a children's story I had written, working on a novel about a girl with epilepsy -- fell by the wayside.  I started out the year with a big plan to get work finished:  things that could be hung on walls and printed in books.  Instead, I mostly worked in my journals.  I wrote and drew in the way that was most natural to me:  vignettes and paragraphs, poems and impulsive drawings. 
In July, I got a smaller journal -- a Stillman Birn watercolor journal that had great paper.  Before I had a big journal for working on at  home and a little Moleskine notebook for carrying everywhere for notes and dashed-off drawings.  With the smaller journal, I didn't need two and I liked that.  I went back to cheaper spiral bound books, but I tried a hard bound one with sketching paper and I liked it, liked working across the spreads and I really liked being able to put the month and year on the spine.  I'm using the Daler Rowney Classic for the next month.  So far it's good.  The paper buckles with a watecolor wash, but the pages flatten back out and it's less expensive than the Stillman & Birn.

This autumn I applied for a grant to help me get an illustrated book printed of stories I've written while riding the bus.  I didn't get the grant, but I'm going ahead with the book.  When I applied for the grant, I figured if I got it, or even a portion of what I asked for, it would be the universe giving the message to go forward with the project.

I had a moment when I got my rejection letter that I felt the universe was telling me to give it up.  I got a lot of rejection this year.  I sent children's stories to 6 different agents and was rejected by them all.  But as I processed the grant rejection, I felt a great weight lifted off of me.  I don't have to follow the guidelines I set up in the grant proposal.  I can let the work evolve however it wants.  I made a budget.  I can re-submit the grant to other organizations.  Or I can work in my low-cost, highly personal way until I get the book exactly as it should be.

And the other rejections were the result of  working on stories for children that I'd been telling and turning them into manuscripts.  So I guess I did more than journal entries after all.

If I go back into the journals, I find that my year has been full of stories, great interactions, color, insight, sorrow, sentimentality and dreams.

I once believed I'd be a published writer by the time I reached the age of 40 and that by the time I was as old as I am now -- 53 -- I'd have a small shelf of printed work to my name.  On the other hand, when I was 16 and having seizures and my muscles were mysteriously atrophying, I was told I might not live until I was thirty.

Now I have a small bookshelf filled with journals that record the confusion, elation and sacred details of everyday life.

A few years ago, I was part of an art co-op where I showed my fabric work.  A young artist asked me if you could make a good living at art.  I had to say no, because chances are, you won't.  But, I said, you can make a good life.

Writing, drawing, self-expression, recording, illuminating, creating -- it's all such a gift.  And it's one I give to myself each time I put a pen to paper -- I am honoring and embracing life so that I never forget the sweetness of it all -- the sad, the bad, the indescribably profound.

Have a great new year!
Self portrait in Walnut Ink, December, 2013

Friday, December 20, 2013

A Flower for Tracey

When I was a girl, I loved to have pen pals.  There was something so magical in getting personal mail from someone some where else in the wide wide world.  I didn't get a lot of pen pals outside the USA because I only understood English.  I didn't get a lot of pen pals, period, because we moved a lot and once I started a letter exchange, it ended with a move.  They weren't the type of moves where we left forwarding addresses -- it was a one step ahead of the eviction sort of thing.

When I was in college, I had a little more stability, living on my own and was able to write long letters to friends and get letters in return. All pen pal relationships and long distance relationships in general tend to fade after awhile.  But it was one of the first things I sought when I got hooked up to email back in the late 90s.

I don't know if I could have imagined how much of the world would be accessible through the internet.  Now I have friends from all over the world whose blogs I can read, who I can follow on facebook, and who make me feel that I am a citizen of the world, and not just a lady with a disability who rarely gets out of her neighborhood.

I have a continuous education thing going on by studying blogs on art, writing, history and child development.  It's pretty amazing on the intellectual side, but on the social side, its a blast.  I have met the most creative and generous souls through blogs.

This year I was asked by a another artist to join a blog hop called the Paint Party Friday.  Each Friday, we all post links to our blogs at the site and then visit the other posted blogs.  There are about 100 or so artist who post, so I was in over my head.  I can rarely visit all the blogs and I only get to post about once a month when I have enough time to take the Paint Party Art Tour.

It's been a major inspiration and also a very humbling sort of experience.  We hear so much about strife and conflict in the world, but when you actually start talking to people and sharing art with them, you almost get a glimpse of paradise.

Even though I don't get to visit all the blogs and art sites, there are a few artists I try not to miss.  One of them is the blog of Tracey Fletcher King, an artist and illustrator from Australia, who does my favorite style of realism with ink and watercolor.  She does wonderful illustrations of her everyday life, her edibles, flowers, and whatever strikes her fancy.  Her colors are bright and her lines lively.  One of her specialty's is tea cups and she paints the most graceful cups -- little vessels of delight you just want to pull out of the computer screen and hold in your hand.

And she's a great writer.  Not just in the sense that she can describe thing beautifully, but in that she has a wicked and contagious sense of humor that never fails to leave me laughing.  I know that at least once a week, no matter how bleak my life seems or how bad I feel, I can read a Tracey post and whatever load I'm hauling seems to lighten and often float away.

Earlier this year, Tracey posted that she had breast cancer.  All through her treatment, she has kept her blog readers in her thoughts, shared her treatments and shedding hair stories with us, and generally continued to  to lighten the hearts of her readers, even as she was going through an ordeal that would keep many of us curled up in a ball in bed, refusing to speak to anyone.  And she's still doing it!

I think she's a shining example of how writing and art heal the spirit, even if the body is going through all the stages of illness it must go through in this mortal and brutal world.  I know it's what has helped me stay sane through many hard struggles with health and life -- or it's made me enjoy my insanity more.

I've long been preaching that the arts heal -- and not just creating them.  Looking and listening have enormous healing power.  When I am too tired or in pain to create, I make myself look at beautiful creations and read wonderful stories.  It does my soul good to know that people are taking the time to make things for the express purpose of making me feel better.

And so for Tracey, as part of the Paint Party Friday Surprise Tea Party For Tracey, I have made this Flower Girl.  Just a little trifle of blooming happiness that can't begin to tell of all the happiness Tracey's planted in my heart.

Monday, November 25, 2013

My Mistakes - Poem in a Box

I've always loved matchboxes. The way they slide open appeals to the child in me. I've also always loved poetry.  I can't remember a time when there wasn't poetry in my life -- from nursery rhymes to songs on the radio to the Norton Anthology of Poetry to the daily writer's almanac.

Lately, I've been writing a some simple rhymes. 

Today I thought of one:


some were big

some were small

some I never recovered from

at all

some were old

some were new

but after each one

I grew and grew

I still make them every day

still I cry still I pay

I know this will always be

The mistakes I make are what makes me

I also emptied a matchbox after lighting a candle and I had a big pile of failed watercolors.  All of that combined to make this little book box:


All contents
Front of Mistakes (all pieces of failed paintings)
Back of Mistakes
It's quite fun to read it and see the back of each little scrap of torn up painting. I tried to keep all the images simple and I included a few mistakes.

What do you do with your mistakes?

If you're interested in this little box of mistakes, it's for sale in my Etsy Shop for $10.  sold! :)

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

A Small Book of Cats

You may have noticed I've been posting a lot of cat drawings on my facebook page lately.  The drawings were practice for a little book I made for a friend's birthday present.  I got this little Moleskine booklet envelope at Powells some time ago.
It was so cool, but I never could think of who or what to write in it, until I started missing my friend and her long tailed orange cat.  It's been delivered. My friend loves it, her cat is unimpressed.  Here's a look at it:

Front Envelope

Back Envelope

Envelope open

Front of book-An Oligarchy of Orange (Oh, oh) And the happiest homes where women dance they shall attract beloved orange cats -- Bastet

1st spread-Sacrificial Offerings are NOT optional

2nd spread - you know you can't resist us

3rd Spread - Cat Chaos Theory

Last Page - You will never be alone

I found out I rather liked drawing cats, so I will probably continue to do so.

Thanks to all those who made suggestion and gave feedback on earlier drawings.  You're the cat's pajamas!

I'm linking this to the Paint Party Friday site. See a lot of creative stuff then go make some art today.