Monday, May 31, 2010

Van Gogh's Ear

The last time I went to the Cleveland Museum of Art, I was honored to be in the presence of so many great paintings by artists whom I had long admired.  I stood transfixed at the brilliance of light so masterfully captured by Renoir, and I was absolutely delighted by the larger than life water lilies of Monet.  I was moved by Rivera's beautiful, bronzed figures and Cassatt's tender renderings, but nothing would prepare me for the emotion I would feel upon examining Van Gogh's, The Poplars at Saint- Remy.

As I carefully studied every brush stroke, I was swept back into time as I began to feel the passion with which each stroke was applied to canvas.  I felt what I imagined to be desperation and compulsion.  I felt the enormity of what he so lovingly expressed and it seemed I could feel frustration in the heavy application of paint in that clear blue sky.  For one, brief moment, I felt as if I had become him and could suddenly see through his eyes.   I was suddenly so filled with emotion that I began to sob and had to leave the room.  I have never experienced anything like that before or since, nor do I suspect I ever will.  I will never forget that afternoon or the connection I felt to someone whom I never met yet shared such intimacy. 

Of all the artists who ever influenced me (and there have been MANY), Vincent Van Gogh is the artist with whom I feel a deep kinship.  I've thought of him often over the years, particularly when I've been asked for various reasons to explain what being an artist is and what my art means to me.  I know that Vincent didn't have any better answer for those questions than I have, for how are we to understand the madness of our incessant need to create?  And that's what I've come to believe it is - madness.

I thought about Vincent this past week when my journaling workshops were cancelled.  Only 3 people enrolled and they were from the women's center that sponsored them!  I can't begin to tell you how excited I was about these workshops.  I had started buying supplies for the participants.  I had written most of the curriculum and I had purchased the most adorable bags for them to hold their supplies.  I was eager beyond words to share my creative energy with the unknown faces.  To say I was disappointed is a huge understatement.  To say I was devastated is probably much more accurate, in fact, I was uncharacteristically hysterical.

I had little success in keeping my emotions under control.  My oldest son, Nick, who was on his way to work, comforted me with a big hug and a "wish I could stay here with you, Mom".  I called my girlfriend and artist, Ro, for support.  As soon as I heard her voice on the phone, I just lost it.  I could hear myself being hysterical and I was powerless to stop. "I'll be right there", Ro said without hesitation, and in the few brief minutes it took for her to hop in her car, she was here.

I made us coffee and we sat outside on the deck.  She patiently listened to me as I sobbed and cursed and denounced art and creativity for the madness that it is.  "FUCK ART!" I proclaimed to her. "The hell with all this creativity nonsense! It's craziness!", I exclaimed through my tears.  I wouldn't let up and I can't even remember everything I said in my yelling frenzy.  This continued for awhile and Ro did what any good friend does.  She basically threw all of my own words of wisdom that I had shared with her in her time of need back at me and told me to "stop stewing because the stew is gone and now you must find something else to eat."   Yes, she's crazy too.  As I said, she's an artist.  Crazy seems to go with the territory.

Slowly, Ro's voice of reason began creeping into my psyche and we began to chuckle over my meltdown and give thanks, once again, to the fact that we don't enter meltdown at the same time.  We chatted quietly and realistically about our goals and we laughed about meltdowns we've both conquered in the past.  "Well", Ro said, "I guess maybe I'll go up to the studio when I get home".  "Yeah", I said. "I think I'll go inside where it's cooler.  I feel like working in my journal.  So much for giving up art!".  We both laughed and Ro returned home.

I sat indoors, cross legged on the sofa the way I always do.  I wasn't quite in the mood to journal in my usual fashion so I just began to doodle.  I thought about Vincent and how frustrated his art career must have been.  I thought about the man passionate enough to surrender an earlobe and disturbed enough to eat his paints.  Say what you will about art and artists - it's probably mostly true.  Anyway, here's the journal spread I completed that afternoon.  I don't typically title my journal spreads but this one's for Vincent, and I call it "Van Gogh's Ear".

                                                 "Van Gogh's Ear"    Marker Doodle

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Junk to Journal: Floral Extravaganza

Have you been looking at your junk mail with artist eyes?  Here's another "junk to journal" to get your creative juices flowing.  Remember the lovely gold American Express (AE) multi-fold junk mail?  Don't feel bad if you don't remember.  Actually, I might not have posted this pic!  Anyway, it's got a little pocket on one end and the other end is basically tri-fold.  It also came with a fake (AE) Gold Card (like I'm going to use THAT!)  Actually I will be using it but not to make any purchases.  I'll show you a more creative use for that soon!

This junk mail made me think of an air travel ticket envelope so I flipped through my journal to see if I had any pages prepped that "felt right" for the job.  I came across a spread that felt really tropical to me and made me think of flying down to Sanibel and into those shades of pink, teal and yellow that I immediately associate with Florida.  Once I settled on that spread, my next step was to attach the AE junk mail with a

glue stick.  I then covered all pages of the AE mail with white acrylic paint.  After that dried, I began adding more yellow, pink and teal to all pages including the previously painted areas.  I wanted my new AE addition to look as if it had been a part of the spread all along.  Next came a change of plans.  I was tidying up a bit and came across a spring flower bulb catalog.  Of course, I couldn't throw it out and had to stop and thumb through the pages.  That's when my travel spread turned into a flower garden.  All those luscious blooms were going to look GREAT on my spread.  I would figure out the rest as I went along.  That's one of the great things about being creative.  There's always time to change direction and make room for new ideas that pop into your head!

It was time to cut flowers and begin arranging them on the spread.  I decided to add a few horizontal lines to represent a trellis and to add further interest to the spread. I also added some blue to the right hand side of the spread to accommodate a lovely blue blossom on the preceding page.  The blooms in the catalog were all so lovely I wanted to save them all.  (And I'd like one of each plant for my backyard, please!)

After I applied my flowers, I then added quotes about flowers. One of my favorites is from the great artist, Claude Monet, whose work has been of great influence to me.  "I perhaps owe becoming a painter to flowers".  I took another quote from The Koran: "Bread feeds the body, indeed, but flowers feed also the soul."  My final quote was actually taken from poet, Edna St.Vincent Millay's poem, "Afternoon on a Hill":

 I will be the gladdest thing
Under the sun!
I will touch a hundred flowers
And not pick one.

Finally, I added my own thoughts on flowers:  "I have shared some of my deepest sorrows and greatest joys in the company of flowers."  And what became of the pocket?  I found an old deck of playing cards and used them as "dream cards" representing flowers that I would love to add to my garden!

I hope you enjoyed this installment of "Junk to Journal" and I hope it inspires you to transform the junk mail you find in YOUR mailbox!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Journaling Through the Women's Center

Late last fall, The Women's Center at Lakeland Community College commissioned me to create two pieces of artwork for them.  One piece was to be a "mascot" that they could easily transport with them to recruiting and program events.  The other piece was to be a permanent, interactive "bulletin board" that would allow for end-of-year reflection from the women of the various Women's Center Programs: SMART (Single Mothers Achieving Real Triumph), WILL (Women Inspired by Lifelong Learning), and WISE (Women in Science and Engineering) and WOW (Women on Wednesdays). It was both an honor and pleasure to complete these art pieces for the Women's Center.

"Women helping women" is both the motto and practice of the Women's Center, and anyone who has had the pleasure of working with these women will tell you that the center has a special place in their heart.  Conducting journaling workshops with these inspiring women is one of the most rewarding activities in my life.

The vision for this artwork began with a quote given to me by the center's directors: "And then the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom."
~Anais Nin .  I magnetized the bottom third of this 48" x 36" canvas with magnetic paint and created the painting using acrylics. 

I am thrilled to have been able to contribute to this end-of-year project, but the real story lies in the reflection and creativity of the amazing women who have completed goals and experienced success in completing their first year of college - many of them returning to school after 20 or more years!  I applaud your courage and tenacity in finding your voice, overcoming fears and ignoring those who would say "no".  It was a great pleasure to work with you all and to share in your triumph if only for a few hours.

The Journaling Project: Journaled Magnets

To save time, I designed two different floral templates and traced them onto paper.  I applied 80lb copy paper to  5" x 8" magnetic sheets and traced the floral patterns onto them.  I was able to get 3 magnets per sheet. I cut the magnets apart for distributing, but the class cut out there own shapes.  I've found it better to leave as much room as possible around the finished shape to allow for more accurate trimming later.  The class was asked to reflect back over this past year and to think about how they have blossomed from the tight bud.  They used magazines, markers, glue sticks and crayons to transform their blooms.

By the way, did I mention there was LOTS of yummy food? I seem to recall someone mentioning that maybe gluttony should be considered as one of the things we share. We're not only creatives, we're comedians!

The finished project!  Every magnet was an amazing, inspirational work of art. Thank you for sharing, ladies.

It was an amazing morning and I am so honored to have been a participant.  As is always the case with these journaling workshops, I took away with me far more than I left behind.  Thank you all so very, very much.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

You've Got Mail

As if waiting for cue, The Universe has dropped an extraordinarily luscious assortment of "junk" into my mail box. Just take a look at some of the goodies I've received in the last 2 days!

There are lots of interesting items in this batch of mail! I love the photo of all the street signs. (That's an invitation to a new gallery show) It's a tri-fold card and there are lots of useful words in a nice font included on both front and back.  The Lakeland invitation also has some good imagery (sheet music/comedy & tragedy masks) as well as key words such as "art".  Last but not least is the Lowe's advertisement.  The great thing about this are the discount cards.  They're almost the same weight as a credit card.  It's almost certain I won't use the cards at the store, but they have another greater use that I'll reveal in the next couple of weeks.  As a bonus, there's a lovely pot of flowers that's just begging to be collaged.  And what about the fork?  No, it didn't come in the mail, but stay tuned to see what part it plays in the creation of art.

Today's mail call was really over the top!  I can't believe what an elaborate marketing tool this is!  It was sent to my son from The University of Phoenix and it was encased in a VELLUM envelope.  There are 5 incredible pieces to work with here. (sorry for the glare)  I will show you more photos of this piece of mail in the weeks to come.  I could not have ordered a better junk mail kit.  Happy creating!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Junk to Journal: "Look Into the Southern Sky"

I really liked this accordion fold booklet that I received from Cleveland MOMA several years ago.  It's an invitation to a gallery show filled with extensive information about the show/artists.  (Yes - I'm a closet hoarder but I don't need an intervention just yet.  Well, maybe....)  I knew that one day I would use this invitation in my own artwork, and as it turns out, it was perfect for a "junk to journal" project.

When I began, the only thing I knew for certain was that I wanted to maintain some of the color on each page, and I also wanted to make sure that some of the words were still visible.  Other than that, I had no idea in what direction I was headed.  I loved the black/gray striped cover, and that gave me the idea to look through my portfolio of magazine pages.  I'm wild for color, but I'm also drawn to black & white (b/w)imagery so I had quite a few predominantly b/w images in my collection.  One such photo was that of a male.  It was a very moody photograph with very little contrast. The predominant feature was the large, black sunglasses.  I used that for the cover and decided to pull some of the red-orange color from one of the other pages.   I decided to paint over the features and also altered the hairline turning "him" into "her".   I came across the words "Look into the southern sky" and they just seemed to fit with the sunglasses and the feel of  the warm, sunny background.
Click on any image to enlarge
The next images that I came across were the skeleton heads.  There were actually 4 or 5 of them in one strip, but I tore them out individually.  I then came across the dog, the watch face, and the turquoise stone.   The stone reminded me of an art mannequin head right away.  I began playing with the images and it occurred to me that they looked like some kind of bizarre evolutionary timeline.  That's when the journal took on a "life of it's own".  It's a story of where we are now as a civilization and where, maybe, we're headed.  I hope you enjoy viewing the images.

Other notes of interest
I used this booklet upside down. The writing shows through the paint in places, but the font is small and can't easily be read upside down so it's not distracting.  I used tempera and acrylic paints and Mod Podge as an adhesive.  I also used a Sharpie extra fine black marker and a white gel pen.  No humans were harmed in the making of this art.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Junk to Journals

Believe it or not, you come across free journaling material almost every day.  Most of the time, you need look no further than your mailbox.  Businesses spend untold millions of dollars on advertising and it's time you put their money to work for you!

Pictured: Gap advertisement from a magazine, an accordion-fold invitation to a gallery show (standing), and two journal-type pharmaceutical books

One of my other favorite sources of journaling and collage materials come from the local paint store.  Paint manufacturers offer an ever increasing plethora of imaginative and stunningly beautiful array of booklets and paint chips displaying their paint colors and showing inventive ways to use them.  I was out a couple days ago looking for a new color for our front door.  The paint colors are absolutely luscious this season!

For the record, these are not one of the colors going on my front door, but I am looking for a new color to paint my living room.  Hmmmmmmmm......

These particular booklets and chips are from Behr and Glidden.  Aren't they absolutely luscious?  I know it looks like I didn't show any restraint, but believe me, I did!

A page from Glidden's booklet showing samples of every color family.  It's a calming, inspirational page.

Journaling material is everywhere! whether used directly on your journal page as part of collage, or whether used as an inspiration for subject matter, these beautiful art sources that often get thrown into the garbage can be a useful tool in your creativity.  Take a good look at your junk mail before you toss it into the trash. It could be part of your next spread.  Come back soon to see how I've used some of my "junk".
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