A Date with Andrew Wyeth

It was the perfect autumn day for an art date– sleepy trees tired of being green were changing to gold & scarlet.  We drove to Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, the home of Andrew Wyeth, an influential 20th century American artist.  Art dates, according to Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way, are supposed to be solitary events; however, like any good artist, I know rules are made to be broken 🙂    I shared this art date with my boyfriend, who made the day even more special.

Part of our day was spent at the Kuerner’s Farm, where we literally walked in Andrew Wyeth’s footsteps.  Our tour guide showed us a print of his egg tempera piece titled “Evening at Kuerners”, which depicts the very place where we stood.  Amazing!!!   Just for a moment, we saw the world through his eyes– what he thought was important enough to include in the piece & what he edited out, 3 of the windows in the house that detracted from the overall composition, for example.  I’m reminded that as artists, we don’t have to “capture” our subject; we can “interpret” it… personalize it.  That’s part of the fun of creating art.

While Andrew Wyeth’s art made this date inspirational; it was also made special by the autumn landscape, the mouthwatering mushroom strudel we ate for lunch, & our side trip to the Chadds Ford Winery that fed me– body & soul.  Keep in mind, your art date is meant to nourish you.  Be kind to yourself until our paths meet again.   Take an art date.  Get inspired!!

Evening at Kuerners by Andrew Wyeth

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Reclaiming the Divine

It’s human nature to question, search, & try to connect with something greater than our Selves… call it God, Mother Earth, Great Spirit, or whatever you choose.  We want to know our existence has meaning.  I’m lucky to live in a time & place where I can freely search for meaning in my own life.

For “Reclaiming the Divine”, one of my recent works, I reflected on the earliest religions from around the world, religions that were centered around a female deity, represented by the figure in the middle of my collage shown below.  Ancient people represented the Goddess in a variety of ways from voluptuous earth mother to more birdlike female forms.  They also represented themselves by including human figures or handprints in cave paintings.  I, too, used my handprint  to symbolize the intimate relationship between the individual & the Divine.   However, I put a modern twist on it by including locally found materials and by twisting copper wire around the figure so it appears to rise off the canvas.

Reflecting on ancient beliefs led me to ask questions like… What connects us all?  What do all human beings have in common?  I conclude that each of us laughs, smiles, loves, & wants to be loved.  That’s why connection has such a place of prominence in my art– connection to the earth, the Divine, & one another.

If you have been reading my blogs, you may have noticed a common thread tying them together in a beautiful tapestry that is my personal mantra… Everything is connected.  What we do affects the earth.  What we do affects each other.  I saw a documentary recently in which a female writer & activist said that if we realized our actions affected everything else, we’d act differently.  We’d see that what we do is of great importance.  I hope you feel a connection to something greater than your Self– something formed of love, peace, & light.

Check out the art I have for sale at www.etsy.com/shop/PureSusan

Reclaiming the Divine: detail

Reclaiming the Divine: Everything is connected.

Harvest Celebration

I absolutely love the cool, clear blue mornings of September that herald the coming of Autumn.  With my coffee mug in hand, I wander past my herbs to the vegetable patch & grape vines.  Blisters & sweat that created this garden are all but forgotten as I recall the taste of our first crisp green beans.  I laugh, remembering our pitiful attempt to keep birds off the blueberry bushes.  When I moved here, I prayed… I’ll provide food & protection for wildlife if you bless us all with a bountiful harvest.  Sometimes, it’s equal… sometimes the birds & rabbits get more 🙂  This year, no one went hungry & for that, I’m truly grateful.

September 23rd is the Autumnal Equinox, marking the beginning of harvest celebrations around the world (Mabon, Chuseok, & Thanksgiving to name a few).  As I grow spiritually, it’s difficult to celebrate Thanksgiving as it began around 1620 in the colonies.  Not a proud time in our nation’s history, if you know what I mean.  How can I give thanks in a way that’s meaningful today?

I’m grateful for my boyfriend who toiled in the soil with me,  the animals who pollinate & aerate, the friends & family who share my life, & my ancestors who taught me the basic truth, ‘Everything tastes better fresh from the garden.”  To show my gratitude, I’ll prepare a meal made of local foods, offer my thanks before we eat, & renew my vow to compost & garden organically.

What are you thankful for?  Show your gratitude for the Earth’s bounty by growing something to eat, even if it’s in a pot on a windowsill… no home is too small.  Whatever you do, make your harvest celebration meaningful for you & those you love.  Blessings!

Voice for the Voiceless

Sometimes events are so horrible that the only way to express how I feel about them is through my artwork.  Global warming is one of those catastrophic events.  What humans have done to the earth should be criminal.  I don’t want to preach or go off on an angry tirade because neither approach inspires change.  I think of Ghandi, Martin Luther King Jr, and Jesus… people who spoke of change through nonviolence & love.  I smile thinking of the Beatles lyrics “All you need is love.”
My art, while sometimes inspired by tragedies such as global warming or the BP Oil Disaster, is meant to convey hope & love.  It’s also intended to celebrate the wonderful life on this planet.  Some people hold the view that mankind has “dominion” over the natural world.  What a negative belief that leads to power, violence, control, & death!!  Consider shifting the view to one of mankind’s “stewardship” over the natural world.  This more positive belief leads to compassion, love, nurturing, & continued life.  Let me add my voice to the Beatles & all those who have gone before me… All we need is love.  We’ve got to be stewards of this delicate planet.  Just think what a wonderful world this could be if we each, in our own special way, raised our voices for life & love.

Polar Bear Family: Like every good mother, this polar bear mama just wants the best for her children.

Baby Seal: It's time for a new era built on love & stewardship for the earth.

Head, Heart, & Hands

The Susquehanna Waldorf School has, as part of their mission statement, “cultivate a love of learning, imagination, reverence, & compassion for others by educating the whole child– head, heart, & hands.”  What a beautiful phrase… head, heart, & hands.  It aligns with the physical, spiritual, & mental aspects of our whole person.  In one word… BALANCE.  Don’t we need that for healthy, inspired living?

If I am physically exhausted, I do things involving my mind or my heart such as reading or creating art.  If I’m mentally worn out, I balance that with activities that are more physical or spiritual in nature.  When my heart is aching, I go for a walk in nature with my dogs & boyfriend or challenge myself mentally.  I’m at a point in life where I can sense imbalance & try to right it.  Too much focus on head, heart, or hands can be alleviated by switching focus onto one of the other two.

The wonderful thing about creating art is that it is an activity that combines all three when done well.  Look at Antique Iris shown below.  My head made the decisions regarding composition & symmetry.  My hands constructed the piece out of handmade paper, batik fabric, & paint.  My heart chose the subject, the colors, & the mood of the piece.  My art balances me.  What do you do to regain balance?

Antique Iris- Head, heart, & hands combined to make this piece. A symbol of balance.

Hummingbird & Toad

It sounds like the beginning of a children’s story, “Hummingbird & Toad…” but it’s not.  Hummingbird & toad are two animals who visited my garden this morning, brightening the day even more than the sunshine.  Kneeling in the damp soil, I reached for a weed that suddenly moved on its own!  Peering closer, I watched a small brown toad watching me from under the leaves.  He hopped from a spot close to my gloved hand to a more protected spot under an evergreen shrub.  If I hadn’t been fully in the moment, I would have missed his surprise visit.  (Sometimes I get brief glimpses of greater truths, like the importance of being present in life.)  Finished with our gardening, I spied from my vantage point in our hammock,  a little emerald green hummingbird sipping nectar from my zinnias.  She loved every blossom, flitting from a lemon yellow flower to a deep fuchsia one.  How happy she was!

Hummingbird, a symbol of boundless joy & the sweetness of life, reminds me that emotions are choices.  To many, toad (or frog) symbolizes transformation & an emotional  connection to the water, which can be stagnant & dirty or clear & flowing.  I pause, considering where I am emotionally.  I can choose to sink in the muck of a stressful week or look at the beauty in my life & focus on the positive.  I choose beauty.

I have yet to bring Hummingbird or Toad into my artwork but here is one of my zinnia collages.  I hope it brings a smile to your heart.

Check out the art I have for sale at www.etsy.com/shop/PureSusan

Zinnias on Plaid- Zinnias dancing in my flowerbed. The bits of mirror help you see yourself dancing there, too.

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Sketch a Day Update

I don’t know about you but I never had much success with New Year’s Resolutions.  Promises to exercise, cut back on chocolate, or be more patient were always broken within days.  I’ll be honest, I don’t respond well to “You have to…”  or “You must…”.  The Sketch a Day goal I set for myself is quickly becoming that.  It turned something pleasurable into an assignment.   I’m an artist because I have a need to express myself creatively from a place of passion & joy.  If the work sells, that’s fabulous; however, I’m no longer a commercial artist & don’t want to create art unless it is meaningful.  Admittedly, creative people must practice their craft to maintain their skills but they (we) also create from a place of desire, even desperation at times.  We dance because the music moves us.  We write poetry because it urges our hearts to put pen to paper.  We paint because the subject cries out to be expressed on canvas.

As I savor this unexpected day off due to torrential rain & flooding, I will make a big pot of coffee & spend time in my studio, playing with the art supplies I buy but don’t use often enough.  My boyfriend’s advice this morning was, “Have an art day.  Experiment; destroy a canvas if you want.”  How cool is that!  I hope that when your plans change unexpectedly, you see the potential gift in the disruption of your routine.  What would you do with the gift of time?

Please send the people of Pennsylvania positive thoughts & healing energy as many of us recover from this disaster.

There’s No Place Like Home

Dorothy told Auntie Em “There’s no place like home”, at the end of The Wizard of Oz.  She experienced all sorts of scary, wondrous adventures before realizing that all she needed was in her own backyard. I had to experience the deaths of my grandparents to realize the same thing.   Their home in central Pennsylvania was the place where I was warm, safe, & unconditionally loved.  I could play with my dolls in the playhouse my grandfather built, daydream about life out west as I read Little House on the Prairie under the maple tree, and pretend to scuba dive with sharks in the small pool out back.  Their loss caused a great black chasm to spread inside of me.  Where would I go & what would I do without my special place?

I don’t remember saying it, but I must have asked that question out loud at my grandfather’s funeral because a relative responded, “You need to find another special place.”  What?!  How?!  He made it sound so easy but I know it wouldn’t be for me (nor was it easy for him when his father died).  Nonetheless, it’s true.  Sometimes, if we are truly lucky, the people around us make a place special and sometimes we have to create it ourselves.

Like I mentioned in my last blog, my home is my sanctuary.  It’s the warm place that I’ve created for myself & those I love.  As I make it more “homey”, I find that it’s also inspirational. Subjects for my art are all around my house & garden.  This is my new special place & this is some of the special art I’ve created here.

Check out the art I have for sale at www.etsy.com/shop/PureSusan

Garden Sunshine- The sunflower is aptly named. Doesn't it look like sunshine on a stem?

Garden Blessing- This statue blesses my garden as she peacefully stands among the irises.

Out with the Old, In with the New

I have a philosophy.  If I don’t clear out the old; there isn’t room for the new.  Do you know what I mean?  I want to surround myself with what inspires me NOW… the things I love NOW.

The artist in me loves to try new things, go to new places, & meet new people.  As such, I tend to accumulate things from my travels.  Over time, some of these things don’t reflect who I am anymore.  I keep adding to what I possess without letting anything go.  Recently, I found myself looking around my home of 6 years at the shelves & closets full of “stuff”.  Stuff I don’t wear anymore.  Stuff I don’t read anymore.  Stuff I’m just not interested in anymore.  So, why is this stuff still cluttering my life?!  Time to make room for the new.  It wasn’t an easy task, but this summer I donated boxes of books, knick knacks, & clothing to Goodwill in the hope these items will matter to someone else.  I felt like I had taking a deep cleansing breath & sighed out.  It was refreshing!!  Literally, I felt freer.

That hard work paid off!  My home is now my sanctuary.  It’s the warm, welcoming place that I’ve created for myself & those I love.  Your home is the ultimate expression of your Self so the objects you surround yourself with should be meaningful.   What no longer serves you?  What things symbolized you in the past but don’t represent you any longer?  What needs to be released so something new can arrive?  Clear your space.  You’ll feel positive energy & inspiration flow 🙂