Who Gets To Say?

When should a widow start dating again?  When should a person adopt a new pet after one dies?  When exactly should we accept our loss & get on with life?  Who gets to say?  After all the loss that 2011 brought to my life, I’ve learned a few things…

1.  Feel What You Feel When You Feel It— That means crying when you want or lying around in pajamas all day watching old movies.  It means being sad one minute & happy the next.  It may even mean feeling 2 or 3 emotions at once.  It’s ok to feel what you feel.

2.  Create Personalized Closure Rituals— Do what you think is appropriate to say good-bye & bring closure for your Self.  There’s nothing worse that the generic Amazing Grace/Valley of the Shadow of Death service where the minister has nothing more to say about your loved one than “He was a good person.”  Make the ritual as unique as the one you lost.  Write a poem, create an altar, paint a picture, have a ceremony that only you attend, or go back to a special place you both shared & simply sit in the silence.

3.  Know Your Loved One & Grief Are Unforgetable—  I have to be honest… you won’t “get over it”… ever.  You will come to terms with it, tucking it into a safe place in your heart so you can continue living but you won’t ever forget nor should you.  It’s the memories that keep our loved ones alive in a meaningful way.

4.  Do What You Need To Do To Go On Living—  I lost Pixie on December 5th & adopted Freyja on Dec. 27th.  She was a Bichon/Spaniel mix used in a puppy mill as a breeder for 3 or 4 years!  She spent the last 3 months in a no-kill shelter (Bless these shelters & the people who support them!!!)  Did I move on too quickly?  Absolutely not.  I have love to give & have the means to care for another dog.  Besides, Paco & I needed rescued just as much as Freyja did.  Life goes on.

Freyja's First Day-- A new life for a puppy mill dog 🙂

After a visit to the groomer to remove the matted hair.

Paco is overwhelmed by the thought of change.

We're all going to get along just fine.

Please consider adopting a dog or cat from your local rescue center.  They desperately need love. 

If you can’t, give of your time or money.  In these economic times, the shelters need both!



Collage Trio

Winter has officially begun but I want to share three completed leaf collages that I began several weeks ago.  Starting a new piece is easy for me as I have dozens of ideas for new artwork; however, finishing it isn’t always so easy.  I’m getting better about patiently waiting for a piece to guide its own completion, especially in cases where my critical mind has gotten in the way of inspiration.

I adore Autumn for a myriad of reasons but what inspired these pieces was a walk that turned into a fairy tale.  On this particular day, I took my dogs out for their daily exercise.  The day was a bit warm for fall & the sky was turquoise.  The contrast of the sky & warm-hued trees got me daydreaming.   In this blissful state, I rounded a corner where the leaves literally carpeted the ground in gold, russet, garnet, & rust.  It left me breathless & hushed, awed by the colors & hypnotized by the muffled sound of my feet stepping on the still-soft leaves.  I began picking up the ones I liked the best, which meant I ended up holding a large bouquet of them!  I adored each & every one, unique as snowflakes, seashells, & each of us.

Back in my studio, I selected a few delicate leaves to sketch & eventually collage on canvas.  You’ve already seen the works in progress but now they are complete.  I chose deep, rich tones of the season to remind myself of that warm Autumn day long after the colors fade & snow becomes my new carpet.  I look forward to my imagination being stirred by icicles in the coming months.  Each season has it’s own beauty & I cherish them all.

Autumn Leaf 1: paper, acrylic paint, fusible fiber, & metallic ink

Autumn Leaf 2: collage on canvas

Autumn Leaf 3: a celebration of early fall

Seeds of Change

I recently heard “You can’t plant a 100-year-old oak tree because seeds of change take time”.  That saying connects to my last post where I referred to Janus, the Roman god of beginnings & endings, who had two faces- one looking to the past & one looking to the future.  The perfect guy to inspire “January”… the month of reflecting while facing a new year.  Hmmm, perhaps my name should be Janice as I, too, spend time learning from my past & trying to improve my future… (sometimes to the detriment of enjoying the present).

Don’t get me wrong; I’m wholeheartedly grateful for the many blessings in my life… there are so many!  But I want to continue to grow… which takes us back to the “seeds of change” metaphor.  Seeds need nurtured with patience & tender loving care.  In other words, good things just take time.  I think back on skills I’ve mastered like drawing & organic gardening.  I was patient with myself & kept trying (even as I made many mistakes).  I also think back on the seeds I didn’t cultivate like being fluent in a second language & learning to dance.  We have to be patient & persevere as we decide what to plant & how best to tend it.  It will pay off as we watch our seeds grow into saplings then mighty oaks.

With 2012 fast approaching, ask yourself what seeds do you want to plant?  What do you want to cultivate in your life?  I hope to nurture my important relationships, adopt a rescue dog who needs love as much as I need to give it, & spend more time doing the things I enjoy.  I look forward to sharing more artwork with you as well as news about a womans’ spirituality workshop I’m leading for the first time this spring.   We are, at once, the gardener tending the seed & the seed itself.  May your roots hold you close to the earth while you reach for the sky.

Do What Makes You Happy

My boyfriend gave me the simplest yet most profoundly wise advice after I rattled off my holiday “To Do” list, which included cookie baking, house decorating, gift wrapping, tree trimming, card writing… (see where I’m going with all of this?), he simply said, “Just do what makes you happy.”  It makes perfect sense.  Who said I had to spend a fortune on gifts?  Who said I have to make dozens of cookies?  Why can’t I take this time of the Winter Solstice to do what comes naturally– get quiet, reflect on the past, & look ahead to new possibilities that will come with the returning light.

Our earliest ancestors did this instinctively.  They knew that to everything there was a season & lived at one with the Earth & her cycles.  Recapturing that respect for nature, I honor the time of darkness as I do the time of light, knowing each balances the other.  As nights grow long & cold, I line my nest with cozy blankets, sip warm drinks, & create hearty one-dish meals that comfort & nourish.  I read books… lots of books.  I reflect on what I’ve accomplished this year, who I loved, & who loved me.  Like Janus, I look back while also looking forward to how 2012 can be even richer with love, laughter, support, & equal measures of work & play.  I’ve suffered a lot of loss this year but each loved one who passed left me with countless cherished memories that float into my consciousness on a stream of bittersweet tears.  I recognize & honor that flow of emotion, too.

So, we put up a tree covered with lights & natural ornaments to bring in the light until the sun returns.  No cookies, no holiday knickknacks cluttered about, & just the amount of shopping that I can afford.  By removing what doesn’t matter, I’ve made room for what does– my family, friends, & peace.  Peace & love I wish for you, too.


Art Journal as Loving Tribute

I recently posted “What’s An Art Journal For?”, explaining… “my art journal helps me delve deeper into my soul, interpret my dreams, & chronicle my life.  It’s far more intimate than a sketchbook.”  Over the last few days, I’ve been using it as a way to heal & honor my beloved Shih Tzu, Pixie, who died at age 14 1/2.  I should clarify, she didn’t “die”… I had her put to sleep because of tumors that would have made each day slightly worse than the day before.  After all the countless wonderful memories & a lifetime of loving devotion, I couldn’t bear to see her suffer for even one day.  She deserved much better than that & in a strange way, saying goodbye like this was my final gift to the girl who gave me unconditional love her entire life.   Her last day was spent going for a walk, eating her favorite foods, & getting so many kisses from me that I thought I’d wear a bald spot on her beautiful little head.  She was my girl & will always hold a special place in my heart.

The Sweetest Girl in the World

I took a day off work to mourn her & feel sorry for myself.  I cried a lot while working on a two-page memorial using acrylics, paper, her Obedience Training certificate (which is a joke since I was the one who ended up being trained!), & ink drawings inspired by the enormous number of photos I took over the years.

The Many Faces of Pixie

The Obedience Certificate that should have my name on it!!

As an artist, I’m blessed to have a creative outlet for my feelings.  As a person, I’m equally blessed to have memories of a wonderful companion, Pixie.  Sleep well my fearless Flying Squirrel.

A Woman's Best Friend

Step Aside & Let Inspiration Flow

I’ve got to be honest, this piece took a while to complete.  I first mentioned Time To Howl in August when I had the inspiration for the composition & color palette but not the details of how to portray this powerful animal on canvas.  My intention was to collage the full moon & the wolf, yet every time I tried to find suitable fabric or paper, it just didn’t feel right so I set it aside.  Wolf didn’t want to be smothered with neat little strips of fabric or subdued with flat bits of paper.  Wolf is a wild thing, demanding energy & movement.  But how?

Patiently (& sometimes not so patiently), I waited for Wolf to speak.  There was no rush.  By this point, I knew that if I tried to force my will on Wolf, it would be unsuccessful.  She leaned silently against a wall in my studio for months before she finally inspired me to use Liquitex modeling paste mixed with my acrylic paints & applied with a palette knife so that the hairs on her face & throat stood on end.  Yes, this was Wolf as she was meant to be!

Sometimes, when it comes to creating artwork, I need to make my ego (brain, logic, intellect) step aside & let the inspiration flow.  Or, in this case, let the Wolf howl.

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

Wolf speaks!

What’s An Art Journal For?

My art journal is a visual diary, quite different from the many sketchbooks of various shapes & sizes I have scattered about my house.  While the sketchbooks contain doodles, ideas for future compositions, color experiments, & sketches, my art journal helps me delve deeper into my soul, interpret my dreams, & chronicle my life.  It’s far more intimate than a sketchbook.

Lately, I’ve been doing some soul searching but have found it difficult to put my feelings into words.  Finally, I realized that I’m most in touch with my Self when I create visually.  I cut out pictures from magazines & used bits of paper & found objects that spoke to me (including a few fallen feathers from Bella, my parakeet).  I just let my heart talk & shut off the mind chatter.  What you see below is the result.  Not sure if there is an answer in this collage but you can surely see that I’m questioning.

Searching: An Art Journal Entry

Detail from Searching

Searching: Every figure in this is a part of my Self

Searching: possibly searching within... not sure yet


A Fresh Perspective

Several nights ago, I had a dream that I was standing on a high, rocky ledge with no obvious way down.  A friend on the ground below shouted, “It’s easy! ” but from where I stood, it definitely wasn’t.  When I appeared beside her & looked up, I saw notches, the perfect size for my feet & hands to fit, in the rock that would have easily brought me to safety.  The new perspective helped me see what I couldn’t see before.  Since then, I’ve had a couple of other dreams with the same message… answers will come when I look at things from a new point of view.

Great advice for artists & for life in general.  Taking old materials & using them in new ways; seeing a familiar subject from a new point of view;  or getting to know something new just by playing with it are ways to stretch ourselves as artists (and people).  This page from my art journal is titled “A New Perspective”.   I didn’t want to paint a literal interpretation of my dream so I decided to create this upside-down figure in mixed media to get my point across.  It’s a visual reminder to look at life differently when my current viewpoint has a “blindspot”.

A New Perspective- look at your situation from a different point of view