Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Ta Dah!

A couple of years ago, our family decided it was time for the adults to draw names for Christmas gift giving and this year I drew my daughter Amy's name. Lucky me! And what did she want? She asked that I "make a piece of art" for her. I was feeling some pressure to make the "perfect" gift, one that she would love, also something worthy of hanging in an art gallery (yeah, right), all of which was causing me to freeze up and become royally creatively blocked. As time was closing in and Christmas was looming large, I decided to follow my own advice to "make something I know." Amy loved my Itty Bitty Pretties, but I didn't want to work that small for her gift, so I went to the Art Department (Salem's local art supply store) and purchased a set of nine canvases, each canvas four inches by four inches. I proceeded to choose background papers in a palette that she loved: turquoise and crimson. I scrounged around and found eight family photos I wanted to use: four of them of her sons, Jackson and Emmett, one current and one when they were about six months old; one each of when Amy and her husband Mike were toddlers; a fun one of when they were dating, finally, a family photo that was taken at Thanksgiving. I joined the long line at Kinko's to make black and white copies of the photos. I cut out the images I had selected, glued them to the chosen background, painted around the edges of the canvas, then embellished each one to my heart's content. My Hubby went with me to Lowe's to find a piece of wood to mount the canvasses on. When we asked if they had any scrap lumber, the guys pointed to the floor: they had one lone piece of wood and it was just the size we needed, 13 x 13! I took the wood home, applied gesso, then painted it with two of my favorite Golden colors: Quinacridone/Nickel Azo Gold and Quinacridone Crimson. Luscious! My Hubby helped me glue the little canvasses on the board and it was completed in time to dry overnight. On Christmas Eve Amy opened her gift and loved it! Merry Christmas, Amy!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

"Recovery" Sticks

I had the privilege to be the Crafty Chica at the Salem Serenity Lane patient holiday party on Monday night. After a group exercise and a tasty potluck, patients and their family members were invited to enter the "Craft Room" (a converted group room), where they had the opportunity to design a recovery stick, sometimes known as a Dream or Spirit Stick. Their creativity was phenomenal! Here are a few of their creations:

Peace and Joy

One of my favorite blogs, Pomegranates and Paper, is hosted by the talented artist, Loretta. A short while ago, Loretta had a little contest where all you had to do was post a comment at her site. That was easy enough because I love her blog and it was my pleasure to post a comment telling her so.

Well, during a recent family emergency and in the midst of a lot of stress, I received an e-mail from Loretta informing me that I had been chosen as winner #3, which meant I was to receive an original watercolor from Loretta! It arrived in the mail yesterday. I ripped off the mailing envelope to discover a little square wrapped in old world atlas tissue paper. Yesterday was a kinda busy day as I was preparing for a workshop I was to conduct in the evening, so instead of just tearing away the paper, I put the little wrapped package on a chair in my den to be savored until the time was right to open it. That time came this morning when Amy, one of my daughter's, made an unexpected visit. Since she is a great lover of art (and supporter of me), I chose this morning to open my gift. As I gently tore away the tissue, we both sucked in our breath and collectively exhaled while saying, "Oh, it's beautiful!"

Thank you, Loretta, I love my little angel of Peace and Joy.

The Strong Silent Type: Wordwear

I was one lucky lady to take a class from two of my favorite creative advocates: Gretchin Lair of Scarlet Star Studios and Bridget Benton of Eyes Aflame. Gretchin and Bridget generously shared the techniques they have developed in making Wordwear, jewelry made from little metal dog tags, letter die stamp punches, and embellished with beads and brads. During the workshop, Scarlet Star Studio was a frenzy of tap tap tapping as we got our words punched onto the tags, then learned how to add color with alcohol inks and Rub 'n Buff. I punched out three tags on the day of the workshop.

Today I got to work and made three Christmas gifts for friends (after ruining about six tags that didn't come out right!). I had sent an e-mail to a special group of friends asking them what their favorite or special word is; everyone responded, so now I'm in the process of hammering out necklaces for my select group of friends. Two of my favorite responses? Paratum, a Latin word, and GROK, from Robert Heinlein's sci-fi book, Stranger in a Strange Land. My Mom is sure going to be surprised when she receives a necklace with the word GROK emblazoned across the tag!

Monday, December 3, 2007


My hubby and I had a tough week. He went in on Thursday for routine outpatient shoulder surgery, but when he was put under anesthesia and given a nerve block in his neck, his heart started doing flips and flops (my lingo for beating crazily fast). The docs didn't think that was a good thing, so hubby's orthopedic surgeon performed CPR while they waited for the ambulance and paramedics to arrive. Hubby ended up in the ER, eventually being admitted overnight for observation and tests. Turns out he has atrial fibrillation, something that can be controlled by medication. This long explanation is leading up to the real post, so stay with me here.

I had registred a while back for a one-day workshop to be held on Sunday, December 2nd, but after what I (we) had been through, I was a little hestitant to leave the house. Hubby encouraged me to go, but if it weren't for the fact that I had promised a ride to my new friend, Deirdra, I might have bailed and stayed home. Man, am I ever glad I went! The class, "The Artful Journal: Finding the Way," was led by the vivacious, talented, gracious, and fun Judy Wise. The class was offered through Innerstandings in Diane Havnen-Smith's beautiful, inspirational studio.

The class itself was phenomenal. Judy guided us through the painting of several pages to use as backgrounds, and along the way demonstrated several new techniques. I was introduced to writing words using twigs and Sumi ink, the unexpected surpise of applying water to watersoluble wax pastels, and learned how to carve my own rubber stamp! But an added bonus was the delightful group of talented women artist's who were in attendance. Besides Diane, Deirdra, and Judy, there were several notable participants: Katie Kendrick (I took a class from her at Art and Soul in Portland in October), Linda Womack, the queen of encaustic painting (I've taken a class from her at collage in the past), and Lisa Call (also an instructor at Art and Soul), not to mention several other inspiring women artists. It was like a Who's Who of my favorite artists and I was sitting in their midst!

After the exhaustion and fear of Thursday and Friday, my spirit was restored and nurtured after spending a day making art.

Here's a photo of me with Judy Wise.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

I’ve been a busy little beaver and haven’t taken the time to post to my blog. But I’m remedying that right now! I’ve been taking a class in Portland on Monday nights with Bridget Benton, “Art-Making as Playful Prayer.” It has basically been three hours carved out once a week to play with art supplies – someone else’s art supplies! The classes are being held at collage on Alberta, an eclectic revitalized street in NE Portland. At our first session, we discussed what is art? what is craft? what is spirituality? After a lively discussion, Bridget shifted gears slightly and treated us to a slide show on mandalas, described what we would be doing, then cut us loose to dig through her boxes and boxes of papers and embellishment to make our very own mandala. Here’s mine:

In our second week, we were introduced to Touch Drawing, a technique developed by Deborah Koff-Chapin and the author of the book Drawing Out Your Soul: The Touch Drawing Handbook. It was so much fun! We took block print ink, applied a small amount to a glass square, brayered the paint, threw down a piece of rice paper and scritched and scratched and drew and pushed, changing the paper as the designs emerged, spreading the paint around in between, adding paint when necessary. I was in kindergarten again!

When we tired of being printmakers, we had time enough to dive into mask making. Again, Bridget had brought her bins and tubs of delightful papers, fabric, fibers, and lots of things that sparkled. We were given a mask and the four of us set about to make a glorious little mask.

Two weeks ago our project was prayer flags. Bridget provided us with torn pieces of PFD muslin (“prepared for dying”), fabric paint sticks, rubbing plates (I didn’t even know what these were!), fabrics and papers galore, fusing material for ironing on the bits of fabric, buttons, rubber stamps, paints, glitter, and more more more. I didn’t complete my flags, but I have three squares in process.

Last week was the beginning of three weeks of shrine making. Small shrines? Oh no, we each got to choose a drawer, a big drawer! In this large open space we will be making niches, adding paint, paper, and finally embellishments. I’m a little dizzy with the possibilities!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Sand Painting Unveiled in Portland

My son Scott got his first apartment after several years of sharing living space with other people. He's pretty pumped and is taking great pride in decorating his one-bedroom apartment in NE Portland. When hubby and I went up to help Scott move last weekend, we took some pieces of art we had stored in our basement so he wouldn't have to endure the echo of bare walls; Scott told us to be sure and bring the sand painting I had done in July while at Sitka. Was I ever thrilled that he wanted to hang a piece of my art on his wall! Here is my first (and so far only) piece of sand painting - it doesn't even have a title!

Introducing Itty Bitties!

Itty Bitties are what I call the little 1.5 x 1.5 chipboard squares that I have been working on since early summer. I dug them out today because I had some unexpected time and wanted to work on “art,” but was feeling stymied and overwhelmed as to where to begin. My eyes landed on the tiles I had finished earlier and I decided to spend a few hours making more. I like my Itty Bitties because they are small, not very intimidating, and each little square is a finished piece of art. It is also a fun way to practice and experiment with new techniques in a safe little space. In order to have consistency, I use repetition in the basic procedure:

*Cover the chipboard square with paper; this can be a section of words from a book, a picture from a magazine, or just a bit of pretty paper.

*Cut out a head from a photocopied photograph (I make my copies at a place like Kinko’s so I’m getting copies made from a toner copier). I have been making my chips using black and white photos of relatives, again to give some repetition and continuity. Decide on a placement and glue the photo onto the paper.

*Add a word from the dictionary that represents the person, i.e., “uncle” or “sweet” or “daughter.” You get the idea.

*Paint the edges and back with coordinating acrylic paints.

*Embellish away with any and all sorts of cutouts, flower petals, whatever . . . this part is unlimited. I like to think about the person I am “working on” and add little bits that remind me of that person’s life. What a flood of memories I’ve had this afternoon as I cut, glued, and then added pieces to represent my grandparents and a great uncle.

I hadn’t planned to share the directions, but what the heck. If you need a small, safe project and want instant results, Itty Bitties are a great way to break through and create some miniature pieces of art.

Hey, why are you still reading this? Go get your scissors and get started!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Portland Bridge Walk

On Saturday, my hubby and I went on a fun little adventure in downtown Portland. At 8:30 am we arrived on the steps of the NW Natural Building at NW 2nd and Everett, where we were greeted by Sharon Wood Wortman, the author of The Portland Bridge Book. She has developed these really cool walks and talks in downtown Portland and this past Saturday was the last one of the year. Sharon is the coordinator and the guide, but she had two musicians (more on them later) AND Oregon's Poet Laureate, Lawson Inada, as part of our morning. It was much more than your traditional walking tour.

After early morning chilly introductions (thank heavens I had my gloves, hat, and scarf with me), we walked to the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT - Region 1) and were directed inside to the main command center! We got to see their wall of multiple screens and complex computer stations, and we were given a demonstration on how the cameras that are mounted throughout the city function and how they can zoom in on buildings and cars, ala 1984, kinda creepy cool. We were then herded down the hall where two musicians, Stephen Cohen and Alan Ames, performed a snappy tune about the Portland bridges.

Oregon's Poet Laureate, Lawson Inada, was present and spoke about bridges and images and challenged us to keep our minds open and alert to new possibilities. Because he had what he called a "gimpy leg," he was not able to join us for our walk, but promised to meet us in the rose gardens outside Union Station later in the morning. Lawson is sure a warm, engaging man, and his enthusiasm is infectious.
Before departing, Sharon provided us with an overview of bridge styles and functions, and gave us a brief history of the Portland bridges. After bathroom stops, we were on our way. While waiting for the Max train to take us to our first destination, the Morrison Bridge, Sharon had us form circles to demonstrate and experience the physics of how bridges function; gravity and trust were at work in our little huddles! After a short jog on Max, we walked to the Morrison Bridge, where we were greeted by the bridge tender, Jan. Sharon guided us down the stairs to the guts of the bridge, where the electrical and computer components are located. She then took us farther beneath the bridge and directed us to stand behind a long yellow line. Once we were safely in place, she called upstairs to the bridge tender and asked if she could please open the bridge. We heard a loud bell ring above us, then the cars quit zooming overhead. Very soon a large concrete slab, the counterweight for opening the bridge, began to rise just feet in front of us. Exhilerating!

Once the bridge span was back in place, we climbed our way into the little glass bridge tender lookout, where Jan gave us a more detailed history of the Morrison Bridge. What a view of the Willamette River!

Because we were a pokey group, we didn't have time to take Max over the Steel Bridge to walk back on the foot path on the lower level (but Sharon told us we had to promise we would take this walk sometime in the future!). So we hopped on Max for our return trip to Union Station (and a walk on the Union Station foot bridge), where we were greeted by a waiting Lawson Inada. Lawson was excited to hear about our adventure and asked a few of us to share what we had witnessed or learned, then he read one of his poems. He encouraged everyone in the group to write a poem about a bridge and then gather sometime in the future to share what we had written; Sharon promised to coordinate this future event.
Sharon concluding by reading one of her poems, and for added impact (it related to the poem), she had Carlos Reyes, a poet who was on the walk, and his partner, Karen, ever so slightly barely touch lips (but I think they cheated and actually kissed!). A beautiful conclusion to a very lovely day in Portland.

However, hubby and I weren't quite ready to have our Portland time end. We made our way to the central downtown, ate sushi at the Dragonfish Restaurant, and hit the 2:10 matinee of Lars and the Real Girl, a quirky, touching, off-beat film. A perfect day in downtown Portland!

NOTE: I am still learning how to do this blog stuff and working with the photos has proved to be annoying and frustrating. In my first attempt to move the photos around (using the html function), I accidentally erased the majority of the text for this post! Aarrrrggghhhhh . . . I retyped and reposted the photos, although all of the photos appear at the top of the post. Okay, I'll learn. In case you are wondering about the photos, this is what you are seeing:

Photo of the Steel Bridge

Stephen and Alan on their guitars

Sharon Wood Wortman

Lawson Inada exorting us to go forth and be aware

Huddling and experiencing bridge suspension while waiting for Max

Inside the Morrison Bridge

View from the Morrison Bridge bridge tender station

Lawson reading outside Union Station (that's me in the green coat and black beret)

Carlos Reyes and Karen

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Friday, October 19, 2007

A New Adventure

I have finally joined the blogging world. I upgraded my cell phone last month (I can now take photos, among other hi-tech things I don't know how to use), received an iPod for my birthday, and now this, a blog. I guess I'm going against the flow because it appears you CAN teach an old dog new tricks! However, I've spent the day trying to figure out what the hell I'm doing, alternating between being frustrated and feeling fancy and accomplished. But the real question is this: Why am I putting myself through the misery of learning yet another electronic language and protocol? I was pondering this as I was making myself a latte. Here's what I came up with:

1) There are several beautiful blogs out there that I read on a regular basis and I am so inspired and uplifted, not to mention the element of titilation of peeking into another person's personal life. Oh, that's right, I was writing about why I wanted to join the blog crowd. Well, I want to be an inspiration for others, to show that a 50-something woman can be a whirlwind of creativty . . . . and I just want to be the creator of a beautiful blog. At this point, I'll just settle for being the creative force behind a blog that is functional and readable.

2) My wish for this week is that my "art will flourish." Well, I'm hoping that with plans to post reguarly (self-imposed plan), it will be the catalyst to create - my audience is waiting!

3) I've always had an interest in writing. I'm a journaler and use the page on occasion to figure things out and at least record what I did yesterday and plan to do today, but with a blog, it will force me to the keyboard and give me the needed nudge to play with words and arrange them into some sort of pleasing order knowing that others will be reading what I have written. I want my words to be worthy.

So that is my motivation. Enjoy.