Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Great Giveaway from Lovely Colorado Artist!

You'll want to check out these 2 uplifting retreats super collage artist KC Willis is offering at her Longmont, Colorado, studio next year! One is called Colorado Collage and features guest instructors as well as the inspirational KC! The other is called Imagination Congregation and is focused on making Christian art that will stand up and shout your faith!

Read all about these exciting opportunities to be inspired and find your inner artist on KC Willis' blog!

If you love vintage, you love paper, you love collage and western themes, and you love the cameraderie and inspiration of being with spirited women for an artmaking, soul-feeding, fabulous five days, hurry on over here and find out more from the links to these two great retreats (and guess what! Both are offered twice next year - so you'll have more opportunity to attend!)

Plus, KC and the visiting artists are offering an amazing goodie box for helping to spread the word! So check out KC's blog and the retreats and the fun and amazing art of KC Willis! (And learn how you, too, could be eligible for this great giveaway goodie box!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

What I Learned from Seeing Artists at Work

Do you want to make more art?

What I've learned from visiting artists' studios this past weekend is that it really helps to see and hear the artist's process.

I've taken loads of classes and workshops, most of which are designed to give you a controlled art making experience. You're guided in a step by step process to success, with all the kinks ironed out.

Then you start out on your own, and WHOOOAAH! things don't run that smoothly. You may start to doubt yourself. And if you want to try something different, your self doubt can keep you in 'known' territory.

But visit some artists in their studios and you'll see just how gnarly the creative process can be. You'll see that it's messy (no, you're not the only one); it's filled with experimentation; flops; trial and error and, if you're persistant, success.

Look around a studio and you'll see beginnings of all kinds of projects. Talk with an artist in their working space and you'll hear about how many times they had to rework something to get it to turn out the way they wanted.

Yes, being an artist is about having ideas and making connections. It's about playing with materials and having fun. It's also about sticking with an idea through all of it's phases, including finding out what you tried just won't work, trying something else, learning a new technique, and voila! often many steps and missteps later, a finished show-ready piece emerges!

So go to your studio and make stuff and stick with it!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Learning to Play

Last spring I wrote about perfectionism here. My Little Miss Perfect was in full swing when I came home from Texas and amassed lots of supplies and books to help me learn about and improve in working with pastels. Trouble was, I hated making drawings of outdoor scenes and still lifes. I am able to make things look 'real' but I don't like the process. I get all tight and anxious about the finished piece. It's not much fun for me. But I tell myself that's what I'm 'sposed' to do.

So here I was, with all these new supplies, and I wasn't using them. As you might imagine, the guilt set in. I longed to loosen up with the pastels, but whenever I stared at that big sheet of paper, I felt like I had to make some 'real' art. Then a couple of experiences allowed me to find a new way. I hope my learning might help you, too, if you're faced with perfectionism.

Recently, I spent a fun and inspirational afternoon taking an Artist Journal workshop with Fran Meneley in Longmont. Although I'd done some collage, written a journal off and on for years, and done some sketching of ideas in my journals, this was my first attempt at the 'artist' journal.

It was intriguing and puzzling. Was it 'supposed to' be pretty, personal, artsy or raw? What's my style? Well, as I relaxed into making pages over the next few weeks, I realized it was all those things. Although I tend to value the raw over the pretty. Pretty gets my perfectionist thang going.

Last weekend I attended Boulder's Open Studios tour. One of my favorites was Caroline Douglas, a clay artist with a wonderful imagination. She had several small watercolor and pastel working sketches in her studio that reflected the way I long to play with pastels. I want to make imaginary pictures. Caroline's work showed me the way.

So last night I brought a box of pastels up to my art journaling area in an annex of our kitchen, and I restored my relationship with my pastels! How great to use them in my art journal, where pages are smaller and less 'special' than my pastel paper, so I feel free to experiment!

It can be really tough to let ourselves play. Lots of expectations can trap us. I'm grateful for playful artists like Caroline and Fran, who have shown me the way and helped me give myself permission to have fun. If you're stuck in the perfectionism rut, find a mentor of play, a queen or king of fun, and learn how you can let yourself go. You'll be glad you did!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Photos of the Day

Taken in Rocky Mountain National Park, Wild Basin area, along the St. Vrain River, on Saturday, September 11, 2010.

Friday, September 3, 2010

A Part of Me Is...

Often I have the experience of feeling painfully awash with fear or worry or procrastination, so that I can't really 'see' anything else in life. I am finding that there IS a way to take tiny steps toward freedom and spaciousness, even in the midst of overwhelming emotions.
In my last post, I wrote about Ann Weisser Cornell's teaching on Focusing. A major learning I'm implementing from Cornell's book The Power of Focusing, is a phrase that helps me remember that not ALL of me is involved in whatever emotion may be distressing me at the moment.
One of the things that often happens to me is that I plan the night before to spend time making art the next day. However, next day, I may procrastinate and start criticizing myself for not working on any art projects.
When I remember to say, "'A part of me' does not want to make art today," it does two things for me. First, I can acknowledge that some energy, maybe resistance, or another commitment, is pulling me away from my artmaking. When I recognize the resistance, it can relax - it is being heard. It's still there, but the pull is not so strong.
Second, it is very important for me to recognize that this feeling is a 'part' of me, not all encompassing. Whew! This leaves room for so much possibility! Particularly:
  • It frees me to become aware of my Higher Self - that spacious place of inner peace that is connected to the All
  • There is room for other points of view, within me or outside of me, that have a different perspective on my dilemma, and
  • It frees me to live in the moment, to enjoy the sunlight on my worktable, to appreciate my dog's easy presence, without being immersed in my overwhelming angst

Helene Brenner, in I Know I'm in There Somewhere, writes:

"Your Larger Self is bigger than all of your thoughts, feelings and life problems. Whenever you forget this and make something or someone else bigger than You are, you are out of touch with your Larger Self."

This Larger Self is is so much more than your thoughts and feelings. It is not necessarily God or a Higher Power, but is the wise inner knowing that whispers truth and freedom and compassion. How easily I can drown that voice, lose touch with it, by listening only to my problem.

My journey is, each time I find myself immersed in the experience of berating myself for not making art and buying yet more supplies, to repeat the mantra - "A Part of Me is feeling ashamed now." "A Part of Me is scared." "A Part of Me is upset."

Ahhh, then I have some room to breathe. Wishing you the same.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

A Fresh New Start

As of this week, I am officially re-focusing on my life as an artist! Making art and 'things' is my first and deepest love, and I'm excited to be moving in this direction!

I'm reading a book called I Know I'm in There Somewhere: A Woman's Guide to Finding Her Inner Voice and Living a Life of Authenticity by Helene G. Brenner, Ph. D. Brenner speaks to me so deeply. I've felt for most of my life, since jr. high, that I lost my voice. Reassuringly, it isn't lost, I just haven't attended to it. Brenner has many exercises in the book to recover one's capacity to 'hear' your voice.

Additionally, as a coach, I trained with Marlena Fields, who teaches bodymindspirit awareness, based on Hakomi psychotherapy, a body based therapy. In Marlena's class, I met a friend who has shared some focusing techniques with me, this based on the work of Eugene Gendlin and Ann Weiser Cornell, and teaches one to learn to read felt body sensations.

I mention all this as it is a significant part of my journey, and is helping me to let go of feeling that making art is just a self-serving activity, something not as important as coaching or working as an occupational therapist.

I am embracing the joy I feel when I play around with fabric, thread, stitiching, paints and natural dyes!

I've written a vision statement, and here it is:

My vision is to bring more creativity, joy, imagination and wonder into the world through the making and sharing of my art.

I'll be using my blog to give a running commentary on my process, learnings, experiments and healing. Indeed, it has been very healing already to make this commitment to the one thing in life that makes me so happy.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Snarl of Perfectionism

Does perfectionism ever scare you away from enjoying making art? It sure has for me. As I mentioned in a previous post, I'm taking a pastel drawing/painting class. I really love pastels, and want to learn to work loosely with them.

I find myself often caught in the bind of not wanting to try anything different on a piece I'm working on because I don't want to 'ruin' it. I want it to turn out looking perfect, and so I don't take chances on making different markings, or experiment with other colors.

I am trying to drop this perfectionist tendency. It stops me from experimenting and learning more about the medium. I lose my opportunity to see what's in front of me. And I'm more likely to continue my obsession with tiny details which feels stifling. Perfectionism also stops me from having fun and finding the joy in making art.

So this little guy inspires me in a couple of ways - first, to consider that my perfectionism is not all that fierce.

Second, next time it kicks in I'll just snarl back at it and keep on going my merry way!

Have fun creating this week!

Image from flikr, used with creative commons license.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

What is art?

A friend sent me a reference to Karen's Whimsy website today. On it, I found Karen's tribute to her mother, who died of Alzheimer's Disease. Karen's mom made artful arrangements of seeds, flowers and stems in the garden as her disease progressed. Karen photographed these and made a video. You can read about her project here and see the video here (you may need a browser such as Firefox to view the video).

This is such a loving and poignant memoir of a creative woman. When we find ourselves struggling in our creativity, it is a powerful reminder of what art is.

Thursday, March 4, 2010


I'm living in Port Aransas, Texas, for the next few weeks. There's a great little art center here called 'Art Center of the Islands' that has weekly drop-in art classes. I started attending a pastel class last week.

I almost didn't go to my first class, even though I've wanted to use pastels for about 20 years! Fortunately, my husband helped me get through that barrier. He asked me what would be the worst that would happen. I said that I wanted to create a masterpiece. I wanted to make a picture that would knock everyone's socks off. The worst thing would be that I would make something reallyugly and disappointing.

Talk about crazy expectations. We all have them. Different flavors, such as 'I'll never be any good at that', or 'I have to be the best in the class' or 'I don't have any original ideas'. Whatever they are, they can stop us from ever starting. And they prevent us from learning and enjoying ourselves.

I was able to giggle a little bit about my big ole expectation, and decided to go into the class with the following guidelines:
  • I want to have fun
  • Let's just see what happens

Well, I got MY socks knocked off! I learned that like watercolors and oils, pastels are used in layers. You can even change the way something looks by coloring over it completely. So they have qualities of paints, without the water; and qualities of drawing, but with a looser approach. Is that why I have wanted to use them for years? Because they are just about the perfect medium for me?

I love drawing, but not in the painstakingly accurate way that pencils lend themseves to. I like painting but get frustrated with mixing color, only to have it run out. Pastels proved to be the best of both worlds - a medium for creating images, and COLOR!!!

If I had been stopped by my expectation that I had to create perfection from the get-go, I would never have discovered a medium that delights me, and, as long as I keep my pesky expectations in line, promises to be a fascinating teacher for me.

What might happen if you substituted an attitude of curiosity and a desire to have fun for your expectations? [Hint: Surprise!! Delight!!]

Wednesday, January 13, 2010



When everything gets crazy, you feel completely overwhelmed and like you don't have a minute to spare, that's when it's most important to carve out some time for yourself.

Jennifer Louden is running a contest on her ComfortQueen blog in which she's giving away a free pass to her February 2010 Virtual Retreat. You can get some bubble bath and retreat without ever having to leave home! Check out the information and entry requirements on the ComfortQueen blog

When I read about it, I thought, Oh no, I'm already overloaded with people wanting to tell me how to be happy, creative, successful. How can I possibly listen to 11 more lectures about it, in between everything else I've got scheduled? Then I listened to a short video from Jennifer and realized, (DUH!) it's a retreat! That's all you're supposed to do ALL DAY - is RETREAT!

Now I get it!

Enjoy the SLIDESHOW.