Friday, December 11, 2009

Hope Springs Eternal

For almost twenty years, I've held a picture of the life I most desire as an artist and writer, living close to nature's rhythms, the rhythms of daily household life. I imagine a life in which I can devote several hours each day to domestic chores and outdoor reverie, as many hours to setting my inspirations into words and image, with time and energy yet to embrace the considerable challenge of sharing my work with the world.

Here I am, living on a dead end road in a town that is 40% land preserve, with a garden and a dog and a supportive spouse, and just enough financial stability to say that, while certainly risky, nothing stands in my way but fears and insecurities. Part of my hesitation is about money, part of it is about turning away potential clients (why is it scary to say no?), part of it is that internal ego-crushing critic, chanting who do you think you are? in the unfriendliest tone

But I am soon to turn 40, and I can't let these fears and insecurities call the shots any longer.

When designer Stefan Sagmeister decided to close his studio to give himself a year off for creative explorations, his first bold move was to tell everyone. That way, he reports in his October, 2009 TED talk, The Power of Time Off, he wouldn't be able to chicken out.

This morning at the gym, a friend told me about her beloved assistant of twenty years, who died suddenly this week, just a month shy of retirement.

There are no guarantees.

Yesterday my neighbor and I walked our dogs together, and saw this pond along the way. I believe these patterns exist always in this pond, formed as underground springs push up toward the surface. Thanks to just the right combination of cold and snow, the invisible is revealed.

I was so inspired, I couldn't wait to get home so I could return immediately with my camera.

While shooting, I decided it was time to admit it: I am plotting a special year, beginning with my birthday in early March. I have already begun turning down work. I have my own underground springs, a million and one half-dreamed and partially completed projects that I will no longer push aside. Life is now!

Monday, November 30, 2009

American Thrift

One of the art associations I belong to stages a yearly "6 x 6 Show." Each participant may submit up to six pieces, all six-inch square including frames. Here's a sneak preview of my six collages, hope you like:


Thursday, November 12, 2009

Show Time!

Are you anywhere near Putnam, CT? If so, come meet me and a bunch of other artists next Friday evening at Silver Circle Studio gallery, at the opening reception for the Holiday art show. Check out the poster above, more info on their website.

Big art plans in the works, tune in soon for more details! (Hint: I'm turning forty in a few months —Life's too short. It's now or never.)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

I've been swallowed up lately, partly by design work (students and clients) but also by a rip-roaring need to clean and organize my home. When this happens, and it doesn't happen often, I try to go with it, to pour myself into the sudden obsessive need to scrub the sink and sweep the floors and rearrange furniture and throw out old magazines. Perhaps I'm clearing the decks for something big just around the corner. I can't quite see around that corner yet, though it seems my vision is clearing. Indeed, as I wipe cobwebs from the window sills, return tools and shoes and books to their rightful shelves and drawers, and tick someday-maybe tasks off an almost forgotten mental list, I notice my mind returning to order as well. The horizon is clearing. There's room again to appreciate the poetry of simple things.

For instance, these snapshots I finally downloaded from my cell phone's camera.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Collage Inspirations

Sorry, I've been a slacker.

Check these out:

Derek Gores
' sophisticated, pop-arty zen-randomness culled from magazine scraps.

The spirited, evocative compositions in Michelle Lynne Goodfellow's journals made with unpretentious materials: found paper, marker, and crayon.

The Book Cover Archive - a great collection. Book cover design = collage. Sort of.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

More Flow

This is my second posting of hand-marbelized papers. Making these is the ultimate in play: experiments and happy accidents are the name of the game. Perhaps that should be my new orientation to life.

Each are about 19" x 12.5" and available for purchase for $35. Click on them to see bigger, crisper images.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Life is Now

6.5 x 6.5 x 2"

As a young adult, and certainly before then, it seemed that life was something I was preparing for, something that would begin once I finished school, once I established my career, once I fell in love. I had high hopes for my eventual life. But these hopes came bundled with an equal measure of worry and apprehension – maybe things wouldn't work out! Even my most optimistic moments were in themselves a double-edged sword. The present always paled in comparison.

In the midst of my angst, I came across Ram Daas' Remember, Be Here Now in a friend's apartment, which made me laugh. Though I only thumbed through it briefly, I found myself thinking about the book for weeks. The message sank in gradually. Life – my present-time, right-now life – improved.

It occurred to me today that I'm ready for a refresher of this idea. I'm working on that.

In the meantime, a few creative inspirations:

Kate Bingaman-Burt's Obsessive Compulsion blog: charming drawings of what she bought today. (She's been keeping track for years.)

Check out innovative packaging from a designer/environmentalist's perspective at: the Dieline.

Colorful organic forms in collage with paper, ink, colored pencil, like none other - by Emily Ann Pothast.

Meticulous abstractions in drawing, collage, and 3d by Sam Messenger.

All of the above found via Share Some Candy - so much more to see there. Check it out.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Getting There

Make more room for creativity in your life! Here are seven tips for streamlining work and life:

Practice Google Fu. A close relative to Kung Fu: Don't let "I don't know" become a stumbling block to the fulfillment of your goals and dreams. Look it up. Ask someone. Learn advanced boolean search rhetoric. (Need a basic primer? Start here.) Become a Google Fu Master.

Don't Fight the Flow unless you have to. If there's nothing urgent on the horizon, clear the decks. Something unexpected is always on the way — could be an emergency, could be an opportunity. In either case, make room for it: Run errands, pay bills, file papers, clean up the office. And if you're tired, rest.

Become an email Ninja. In other words, stealthily process emails OUT of the inbox. Look at it once and decide: Do I want to keep this? Where does it belong? File it where you can find it. Do I need to do something with this? Send quick responses now. Note more involved tasks on an Actions List. Make a folder for things you want to read when/if time allows - get that stuff out of the inbox. Nothing should be in there except brand new mail.

Eliminate Mental Clutter. Your brain is the ultimate inbox, but it works best if you can focus deeply on one project at a time. To get the incoming chatter off your mind, capture it. I keep a notepad beside me as I'm working, so that I can record, "buy stamps" as it flits through my head, "call mechanic", "follow up w/Client B" and then turn my attention back to the project at hand. Later, I'll look at that notepad again, and handle whatever is recorded there.

File Everything. Maps, menus, receipts, bills, contracts, newspaper clippings, paint chips, brochures, warranties, instruction manuals, passwords, bits of poetry written on napkins, even spare screws and washers... anything on paper, or that can be written on paper, or saved onto a compact disk, and anything flat and small enough to fit into a Ziploc bag inside a file folder— In other words, anything that you aren't currently using that's cluttering up your space – label a file, slip it inside, and file it. When you want it later, you'll know exactly where to find it.

Do the most important thing first. It sounds simple, but this statement is tricky. Important to whom? Important for what? In this case, I'm talking about you and your happiness. If a little yoga in the morning will make the entire work day more pleasant, than this is absolutely more important than the looming deadline or the big project you've been agonizing over. If all you've ever wanted to do is write a novel but there are dishes to be washed, then the dishes can wait while you jot down two or three pages. Remember: Important is not the same things as urgent.

Have any tips to add? Write them in the comments. Let's learn from each other!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Practicalities for Practicing Artists

Gouache, watercolor and ink on heavyweight bristol paper, 12 x 9"

A few resources to pass along:

Sales Tips for Artists: podcast with accompanying PDF study guides, on selling artwork to the interior design market, contracting with galleries, pricing your work, and more. Dick Harrison is like a friendly, patient uncle, selfless and extremely informative. This is easy listening, folks.

Art Print Issues: blog focusing on the art print market by Barney Davey, who also wrote a book on the subject.

Mine Stephanie Levy's blog, Artists Who Blog for a lay-of-the-land on artists promoting themselves (and inspiring and informing others) on the web.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Updates and Inspirations

I'm going to Surtex in a couple of weeks, a massive trade show in New York for designers and artists licensing their work for textiles and surface design. I plan to take in the scene, the crowd, the trends, what's hot, and what's getting done over and over. I'm sure I'll be both overwhelmed and inspired, and I'm looking forward to it!

While in the city, I also plan to visit Galleries in Chelsea, to absorb more artistic inspiration and to balance out all that commercialized creativity seen at Surtex (not that galleries aren't commercial too. We live in a capatalist society, after all). I'm especially looking forward to seeing Donna Sharrett's show at the Pavel Zoubok Gallery. I need to stand with my nose pressed up to these pieces. They have already influenced my work. The images are gorgeous, but it's not enough!

I am on Twitter now. Are you? Follow me here:

Been listening to LemonJelly lately - witty, groovy, weird, unique; great background music when concentration must remain elsewhere. I especially like Nervous Tension - hear it, and others, here.

And now, a gift for you: the image above is a repeating tile, which you can download and use as a background on your computer. (You can even use it on a web site or blog, as long as you credit me and include a link back to this blog).

To download the image:

1. Click on the image to view full-scale
2. Right-click (PC) or control-click (Mac) on the image to download.

Insert as your desktop wallpaper image - be sure to allow the image to TILE - voila! Click on "Comments" below to let me know if you like this little gift I'm offering. I'll give away more in the future!

Don't know how to change your wallpaper? Check out these instructions: for PC and for Mac.

PS. Here's a sample of the above image tiled (you must click on the image to see it full-scale):

Tuesday, April 21, 2009



Lessons in Flow
Hand-Marbelized papers, each approx. 19" x 12.5"
$35 each including shipping


Lately I've been waking up with bigger dreams.

For instance, I keep thinking of the studio space I want to grow into, the imaginary addition on my home where I can really spread out, where I can set up a sewing machine and a huge collage and a great big canvas all at the same time, without having to dismantle one project in order to accommodate another. A space with a very long table and a flock of comfortable stools, with built-in storage for art works and supplies, a deep sink. A space where I can teach classes and lead workshops and hold open studios to my heart's content.

I find myself thinking about how much I could accomplish with hired help. I plot out an imaginary schedule for an imaginary assistant: two mornings a week, Monday and Wednesday? Tuesday and Thursday? I think how great it would be to have that built-in structure to my work life. To know that I can deposit certain tasks in someone else's inbox, that they will get done. To be able to write a decent paycheck (what a nice thing to be able to do for another person!) and turn my focus on the stockpile of projects cluttering my brain.

And then, a moment later, all I want is a two-hour walk in the woods, or to wander out to the garden and plant more lettuce, mulch the garlic. I look around and once again, I'm satisfied with my spare-bedroom studio, my quiet, obsessive work habits, my U-shaped desk arrangement where all I have to do is swivel my chair and I'm designing a web site, writing a book proposal, answering emails, answering the phone; swivel again, and I'm making a collage, a painting, a journal entry.

Who knows where all of this might lead. Perhaps I will begin to see a path toward these new visions. After all, I have just the person in mind for the assistantship. And my next-door neighbor does have a lovely barn/apartment, once a potter's studio, now unrented, a glorified shed for her kayak and bicycle.

But it's not time yet for any big moves. Though that time may come sooner than I imagine, I've got enough on my plate for now.

In the meantime, I will continue to allow myself to dream, while going with the flow, but at the same time, experimenting with creating my own flow. And appreciating the fact that there are limits to how many projects I can entertain in a given day.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Worry is Creative

.dotstring, collage on bristol paper, 9 x 12", on view at WindhamARTS until April 23rd

I'm going to be on the radio this coming Tuesday, April 14th, on the award-winning Wayne Norman Show on WILI 1400AM, beginning at 7:15 in the morning, until 8:30 or 9. (If you miss it, or if you're not in the area, the audio will be posted later in the day here.)

I am nervous. I didn't pursue this at all. It's overwhelming to note that the splash made by my art show opening last Friday was strong enough to bring about such an opportunity.

Opportunity, according to Miriam Webster, is:
1: a favorable juncture of circumstances
2: a good chance for advancement or progress

The surface opportunity is clear: perhaps an appearance on a popular local radio show will bring a few more fans of my art, maybe a potential design client or two.

But the core opportunity lies smack-dab inside my worry. In the fact that I will be called upon to talk about myself and my work.

This is what scares me. Right now, my thoughts are like furniture fresh off the moving truck, crowded into the center of a room. I know all the pieces, but I haven't arranged them in any coherent order.

I suppose I could spin an elaborate image of myself bumbling and stumbling, trying too hard, flailing, choking. Or I could just feel the fear (yikes!) and apply my creative energy to preparation. Which is exactly what I plan to do.

What a gift a deadline is! Come Tuesday morning, I'll be able to articulate who I am, what I do, what moves me to do the work that I do. I'll know myself better. And knowing myself better is the key to BEING myself better.

So yes, I'm nervous. But I'm also looking forward to it.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

A Closer Look

I returned to the gallery on Tuesday to view my own show for the first time, on my own, without rush or worry about the opening. It's over. It was a success. Phew.

What a difference it makes to see one's own work carefully framed and on display, to take in the sheer quantity of work, to feel affirmed by all the red dots on the labels indicating which pieces have sold, to recall how crowded these rooms were just days before, all the compliments I tried so awkwardly to absorb with grace.

It occured to me part way though the evening that when someone gushes, "Thank you" need not be the extent of my response - I can follow with questions, engaging the viewer about what moves them, where the work takes them. What a gift it was to hear their answers.

Suddenly I get it that I'm an artist, that I have been all along. That these works, and my private visual vocabulary, does indeed speak to others, whether art-educated or — even better — not.

Even the labels I made to accompany each piece, a conceptual design project in its own right, were well received. In fact, one friend and colleague suggested I look into showing the labels all on their own. An exciting idea which I plan to pursue.

Today I put in an application for another show in another gallery, another town. I get it now, finally, that this is just the beginning, that these applications will become part of my routine, that I will continue to develop as an artist and a professional, and that the road ahead promises exciting terrain.

As always, dear readers, I will bring you along for the ride.