Lazy Days of Summer

Happy Summer Solstice everyone!  I have a secret that needs to come out; despite being a total nature lover, I find summer is the most difficult season to love. There, I said it.  Every June I come up with dozens of ideas for outdoor projects, ignoring Mother Nature’s gentle reminder which I vaguely recognize from last June, “You might want to do your outdoor activities during the coolest parts of the day & rest when the sun is at its highest.”  When I continue to work in the yard, despite her warning, she gets parental by shrugging & saying, “Ok, I tried to warn you.  Now you have to learn the hard way.”  The reward for my stubbornness is exhaustion, icky sweat, & sunburn.  As I rub aloe across my red shoulders & down my red nose,  I humbly remember I need to work on Nature’s terms if I want to enjoy the summer.

Lawnchairs in the shade beckon as the temperature climbs.

It’s all about balance & learning from nature.  Birds, deer, & other wildlife are most active in the cooler parts of the day.  Intuitively, I know that & always have.   I now do my chores early in the morning.  Once the temperature rises, I read, meditate, sketch, or perform self-Reiki in the shade of my young maple tree.  Occasionally, I nap because that’s what summer is for!!  Just ask Paco, he knows 🙂

Paco, my Lhaso Apso, knows how to beat the heat.

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Playing with Color

Last weekend was cold & rainy, perfect for playing with my art supplies on the enclosed porch– listening to the rain, watching the birds chase one another, & looking at all my colored pencils, paints, & markers.  On this grey day, I needed color.

It’s so hard for me to decide what to play with first.  I’m addicted to it all… opaque watercolors, Prismacolor pencils, paint markers, acrylics, metallic ink,… the list is endless!  I feel like a child in a toy store every time I enter an art supply shop. Don’t even ask me about handmade papers, soft bristle brushes, & sketchbooks.  My imagination takes flight just thinking of the possibilities.

After a few moments of contemplation, I decided to use the opaque watercolors, fine tip markers, acrylics, & a corrective pen on bristol board.  My objective:  simply to PLAY.  I used some of the techniques Alisa Burke mentions in her on-line class “The Art of Abstraction” and combined them with other techniques that spring to mind as the color spreads across the white paper.

Here are the results.

It started with tangerine. Then, I added lime and raspberry colors for a fruity, fresh abstract piece painted with acrylics. Black is added to lead the eye around the paper.

I absolutely adore Prussian Blue!! That was the first color I chose before adding maroon & deep green. I painted strokes of black & white for contrast. The corrective pen gave me some fine white details.

Opaque watercolors were painted with a wet, sloppy brush so they could run in different directions. Black added with a fine tip marker & smudged with my finger. White swirls & splashes dance across the paper. I love the lighthearted feel to this piece.

These pieces are intentionally quick & emotional, quite unlike my usual collages & paintings.  By playing with the materials rather than starting with a plan (a vision of the finished piece in my mind), I could let things just happen.  I could be surprised.  I could have FUN.

When is the last time you had fun for fun’s sake?  Set some time aside soon.

Create- For the Spiritual Journey

A dear friend’s mother passed away recently, leaving her a variety of art supplies that she had no idea how to use.  “Bring them over.  We’ll have lunch & an art date”, I suggested.  So, we enjoyed a delicious lunch on my deck & opened the wooden box that had 2 velvet-lined drawers cradling charcoal, watercolor pencils, & drawing pencils in neat rows.  My friend is a very talented musician but hadn’t done much sketching.  “What do I do with all of these?”, she asked perplexed.  I thought for a moment.  Where to begin?  I’ve had countless art courses & workshops over the years, even majoring in Fine Art in college & enjoying a career in graphic design for several years.  Do I discuss perspective?  Line?  Composition?  Hmm… I made up my mind as to the most important quality of art & gave her my advice.

“PLAY.”

“Pick a pencil & see what it can do.  Scribble with it.  Smudge it.  Splash water on it.  Don’t worry about what it looks like.  Just create for the sake of creating.”

We had the best time!  Creating without self-criticizing is so liberating!!  This collage, titled “Create”, represents our burning need to be a part of creation in some way, shape, or form from creating new life to giving birth to new ideas.  Creating is yet another way to connect to something greater than ourselves & leave a legacy for those who follow.  I am a co-creator with the Divine, affecting my life & the lives of those around me.  So are you.

Create: celebrate your role as co-creator in your life.

This is the 8th collage in my series of 12 for the spiritual journey.  How are these pieces impacting you?  Please share your thoughts.  I’d also like to hear your ideas of what I should do with them when I’m finished.  I’ve considered making a calendar, notecards, or prints.  Any other suggestions?

 

Little Feathered Muses

I absolutely love every season of the year, appreciating the beauty in snow hanging on tree limbs, fireflies glittering in a summer night, & autumn leaves blanketing the park where we love to hike.  But what gets my creative “sap”
flowing after months of tired browns & greys are the energetic pastels of spring– joyful blues, yellows, greens, & pinks.  My senses celebrate every fresh breeze, budding tree, & blooming daffodil.  This past week, I’ve especially delighted in soaring, swooping, singing birds– my little feathered muses.

Over the past 6 years, I’ve turned a barren backyard into a wildlife sanctuary full of native plants, bird feeders, & a stone birdbath hoping to provide a habitat for birds who, in turn, provide inspiration for me.

I laugh out loud, watching songbirds & robins inspect the 18+ birdhouses I have scattered around my property.  They’re looking for the perfect place to have their babies.  They flit from one house to another, peering inside, considering their options.  Location, location, location.  I’ve seen Househunters & Househunters International on HGTV but I can only imagine a series called Househunting for the Birds 🙂  The comical scene inspired me to grab my sketchbook & get cozy on the sunporch.

I just bought Grumbacher’s Opaque Watercolours so I turn my favorite birdhouses into a quick watercolor study so I can play with my new art supplies.  First, I wash yellow ochre over each house.  Then, I go back over them with richer colors.  Lastly, I use a permanent black fine-point marker to add an outline & details.

A light wash of color makes the composition cohesive.

Rich, earthy colors give the piece interest & depth.

A fine-tip marker gives detail.

Inspiration isn’t far away when my muse is in my own backyard.

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

Art Date with Mother Nature

When Mother Nature talks, I try to listen.  In the past two weeks, I’ve intuitively heard her say when it’s time to prepare for winter & when it’s time to enjoy a gorgeous autumn day.  On Oct. 29th, the sky was grey with fat, wet flakes falling to the ground.  Leaves weren’t even off the trees yet.  How bizarre to see two seasons occurring at once!  At first, the snowfall was beautiful to watch but soon the trees bent low under it’s weight.  Mother Nature sounded the warning so I raced outside with a broom to sweep snow off the branches before they snapped.  Thankfully, my trees survived.  That day woke us to the reality that winter is just around the corner.  Time to prepare.  Since then, we’ve power-washed the house, tilled the garden, rolled up the hose, & repaired gutters.  I think we’re as ready as we’re going to be.

Autumn & Winter at the same time.

Mother Nature spoke to me again today.  “Come play,” she beckoned, “The sky is blue, the air is mild, & the last of the leaves are about to fall from the trees.”  We drove to the lake, an art date with Mother Nature (as well as my boyfriend).  I picked up rocks rich with mica or quartz, glistening like jewels on the rocky beach.  We skipped stones like children & I climbed among gnarled roots to hug trees so big my arms couldn’t wrap around them.  Yes, I take “tree hugger” literally 🙂

This day was a sigh.  A lovely break from the routine so I could commune with Mother Nature, centering me & soothing my spirit.  May you find time this week to find peace in nature.

Who can resist being in nature on a day like this!

Such beauty & character.

For the Sheer Joy of It

A friend asked me to watch a video on flixxy.com  titled “Humpback Whale Gives Show After Being Saved”.  It’s been a long time since I cried for joy but this video made tears flow down my face.   A magnificent whale is trapped in a fishing net, close to dying, until people in a passing boat use all their strength to set it free.  Watching him leap in the air, flip, & flop back into the sea was indescribably joyful.  I clapped, cheered, & laughed between the tears, especially after hearing what the little girl on the boat says at the end of the clip.  I’m not going to tell you; you have to watch it yourself 🙂

Inspired by another uplifting whale story, I created this collage titled “Free To Be”.  Two words that come to mind when I look at this happy Orca are —  “PLAY” and “FREE”.  When is the last time you played–  just for the fun of it?  Sometimes,  I get so preoccupied with lists, errands, & chores that I have to remind myself that play is equally important.  My imagination & creativity (& sanity) rely on a healthy dose of playtime.  That’s why I garden, hike with my boyfriend, chase my dogs around the yard, eat cookie dough ice-cream out of the box, & create upbeat art.  What sounds like fun to you?  Think about it.  The first idea that makes you laugh out loud is the idea I want you to try… the sillier the better.  Do something just for the sheer joy of doing it.  See how it stimulates your creativity.  Include the people you love & share the fun.

Free To Be… what a concept!

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

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.

How Do I Create a Collage? Part 1

I’m glad I was asked this question.  It makes me stop and think about what I do & why.  I guess I really break collage down into two equally important components:  my heart and my head.  My heart allows me to create with passion and make pieces that resonate with others who view and buy my work.  My brain recalls years of training in proportion, composition, and color theory.  It must begin with the heart, which answers the questions — What do I love?  What am I passionate about?  What do I need to express in my art?  (The answers to those questions will come up in later blogs.)  You’ll want to answer those questions for yourself.  For example, I saw a powerful image of a wolf howling at the moon.  It really spoke to me so I sketched it several times, letting myself play with the composition.  After I create a sketch that satisfies me,  I consider how I want to express it… on canvas? bristol board?  watercolor paper?  Lately, most of my collage work is on canvas because it allows me to use a variety of materials, responds well to cutting and poking with wires and exacto knives, and handles the weight of some unusual materials such as slate and pebbles.  Still operating from the heart (which means “leave the brain out of it”), I dig through my boxes and drawers full of materials to see what captures my eye.  “Okay Wolf, talk to me.  What do you want to look like?”  I stay playful at this point, not analyzing my choices yet, simply picking what I like at the moment.   What captures my imagination and speaks to my heart?   Do certain patterns or textures stand apart from the rest?  I pick from fabric, beads, small stones, handmade papers, photographs, ticket stubs, menus, sheet music… whatever!  A pile of seemingly unrelated items begins to grow.  Once I feel like I’ve exhausted my available materials, I take a deep breath and put everything else away so I can focus on the materials I’ve chosen.

I spread out all the items, looking for things that go well together, narrowing down my selection a bit to include things that go well together and communicate the feeling I want to communicate.  Now, my wolf may not be “wolf-colored”, this isn’t about realism.  It’s about having fun and trying new things.  In fact, this wolf wants to be purple with a coppery orange moon hanging in an olive green sky.   I sometimes wonder if I’m creating the art or simply acting as a conduit for art that wants to flow through me, out onto the canvas.

Okay, I have a sketch, a pile of materials, and the foundation for this piece (a small canvas).  Now what?  Stay tuned….

 

What inspires you?

We’ve all gone through our creatively blocked moments.  I know I’ve had my share of them!  If I’m going to be honest with myself, I get most blocked when I worry about what everyone else might be thinking about what I’m doing.  Will they like it?  Will they buy it?  Self-doubt is a real inspiration killer!

So what do I do about it?  Play.  I go into my art studio and look around, grabbing anything and everything that calls to me.  Then, I look over the collection of goodies.  Sometimes I need to edit the pile, noticing what goes together and eliminating what doesn’t.   I set the edited pile of paint tubes, fabric swatches, images from magazines, whatever… aside and grab the foundation for the work.  This foundation could be a sheet of paper, a canvas, or a pillow form.  It’s whatever I am using as the basis for the work.

Now, here’s the gutsy part.  I have to make the first move.  I have to sew, splatter, brush, cut,or color…. somehow marking the surface of the piece.  Isn’t that first mark the hardest to make?!  It can be difficult but liberating.  Because once you make the first mark, you have given your piece a voice.  For the rest of the journey, it will talk to you.  It will tell you what to do next and even tell you when it’s done.  You just have to listen.  Give it a try!