Butterfly Dreams

In 2017, for the first time, I signed up for a one year course, Paint Your Heart and Soul, facilitated by fine artist, Olga Furman.  She gathered several amazing artists together.  Each artist supplied one or two lessons over the course of the year.  A new lesson was delivered on a weekly basis.  This was an opportunity to encounter other artists, to learn their techniques and to practice.  This year-long course encouraged the ongoing flow of creativity.

This particular class was taught by Olga Furman, herself.  It became one of my favorites.  One that I returned to again and then morphed into my own works of art.

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There is some collage work in this piece and more practice in drawing and painting a face.

What is interesting about collage is that you use it with discretion.  You also embellish it to make it more your own and to integrate it into the whole painting.

Since butterfly is about transformation, metamorphosis, it holds special meaning for many.  Especially in these times when change feels imminent.  There are the changes that are forced upon us and the changes we choose.  We’ve all heard “The only constant is change.”  Realizing this, we typically resist anyway.  Resistance seems to be built into change.  I do wonder if there is a stage where the butterfly-to-be in the chrysalis resists this transformation.  Did it dream of itself as a butterfly before it emerged as one?

This 8″x10″ painting was sold in a local art gallery.  I found myself missing her.  I remember someone saying once “Never let go of anything sooner than you are ready…” Of course, I can get over it.  But there is a bit of nostalgia over her, my first butterfly fairy.

My Mother’s Hands

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This mixed media piece was to be my entry in an upcoming art show.

It was also a challenge to myself to integrate poetry with paint.  In some way, it was a homage to my mother’s life.  The photo is of her at age seventeen.  She was a beauty.  My mother died in 2011 at age 91.  From my perspective, her life had been a long, hard road. I’ve written so much about her, about our relationship, about her relationship with my father.

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One of the layers of this painting is a poem, My Mother’s Hands.   After writing the poem  on the canvas, I remember feeling vulnerable.  I was revealing her story to an audience who might not understand the battered wife syndrome.

The poem begins:

I wonder if a palm reader back then would have foretold
–a long life
–an unloving marriage
–an abusive spouse…

…and then I smudged some of the words with gesso and paint.

In the last three years of their lives, my parents were in a care home, a house in a neighborhood with eight elderly residents.  Another sister and I alternated visiting them during the week.  Two other sisters orchestrated their care from afar.  The brothers remained aloof until the very end as they didn’t feel at ease with our father.

In her later years, my mother’s hands were contorted with arthritis.   Her fingers had trouble gripping a spoon and then navigating it to her mouth.  But she had lost so many of her abilities that I didn’t want to help her too much.  I watched as the spoon wobbled towards her mouth.  Her mouth like a quivering bird anticipating food.

My father in the background would say “These are not the golden years.”  I could see that.

One sunny day, we were sitting outdoors under fruit-laden orange trees.  My mother said “I wonder where we go from here.”

“What do you mean, Mom?” I asked.

“After we die.” she said.

“I thought you believed in heaven,” I said, trying to offer comforting words.

My father said “There’s nothing.”

“Dad,” I said, “I thought you had a dream of heaven.  You said it was beautiful.”

My father said, “It was lonely.  I was the only one there.”

In slow motion, my mother reached for my hand and held it–an unfamiliar gesture.

Yesterday was Mother’s Day.  I’m sure thoughts of my mother weave through my mind on any given day.  For one reason or another.

I wonder what she’d be thinking about the state of the world today.  She once asked me to write her story…I’m not sure which one…the one of the devoted wife who stood by her husband no matter what abuse.  Or the possible woman who hid herself away and didn’t have an opportunity to blossom.

Following a Feeling–Home

This abstract collage painting…inspired by a feeling of what it is to come home.  I shelter at home now.  And my home is also inside of me.  I leave home, walk a path in the world.  There is a sense of the path unfolding as I take the next step.  Walking into what isn’t known.  I go so far and then, I turn around and return home.

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Home is a word that evokes strong feelings for many of us.  The home of my childhood, the home of my body, the house or dwelling where I live now.  The home of my community, the home of my state, the country…the neighboring countries, the earth, in this galaxy, universe.  Home is both provincial and expansive.

I crafted and facilitated a creative writing workshop on homecoming in order to deeply explore this theme.

One story goes that Winnie the Pooh was lost in the woods with Piglet and Rabbit.  They wandered in circles for quite some time.  Rabbit got impatient and left Winnie the Pooh and Piglet to find their own way home.   Winnie the Pooh had a north star sort of experience.  He heard his twelve honey pots calling him…when things got very quiet (rabbit’s incessant talk had ceased), Pooh heard the calling and followed it home to the sweetness in his cupboards.

pooh, piglet, rabbit

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We’re in a state of suspension with sheltering at home.  There are times we experience anxiety, stress, frustration, impatience.  There are many levels of  coming home.  How do you bring yourself to a deeper level of homecoming (the home within) when you are compelled by challenging thoughts and uncomfortable feelings?

Clarissa Pinkola Estes says that returning home “is not necessarily an overland and arduous journey.“  Some ways of going home are mundane, some are divine.  She cites a few examples “…Rereading passages of books and single poems that have touched (you).  Spending even a few minutes near a river, a stream, a creek.  Lying on the ground in dappled light.  Being with a loved one…Sitting on the porch shelling something,  knitting something, peeling something.  Walking or driving for an hour, any direction, then returning.  Getting on a bus, destination unknown…”

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What are five things that call  you home or return you to your center when you are lost in the woods?

Horse

This horse painting appears to be total whimsy.  However, it appeared at a time when I felt the wind had been knocked out of me, out of many of us.  It was the occasion of the 2016 presidential election in the United States.  The helplessness and shock that I felt with the election of someone whose values were so opposite to my own, to so many of us.

The one word on this mixed media piece is WISDOM.  I felt that this was what was needed more than anything.  This seemed to be lacking in the newly elected administration.  I painted and collaged this white whimsical horse as a way to cope with what was ahead.  As I prayed for a leader who loves the earth, mankind and all of our relations.

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In one sense, this could be seen as a political cartoon or a bit of satire.  After the election of 2016, things were (and continue to be) extremely serious.

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Picking up a brush, pencil, paints, clay, charcoal, pastels, watercolors–any creative tool can help you to cope with what is challenging.  It can give you a field of expression when you feel powerless or without a voice.

I have several art journals.  They are a private expression of things that seem too large to manage; the word could be unwieldy.  Words and images blend on these pages to express what I feel and have trouble sharing with others.  Or understanding myself.

What about you?  Do you have a journal for your writing and art?  Or several?  Use them.

Under the Sea

This mixed media painting was a collage experience.  It is a fanciful rendition in recognition of the variety of fish and life forms who live in the ocean.  Our earth’s  oceans are a source of health to us, to the environment and home to innumerable creatures.  In 1951, Rachel Carson wrote a poetic book about the sea —
The Sea Around Us.

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Sadly, we have used the ocean as a dumpsite for our discarded, non-biodegradable waste.  Everything from plastic to radioactive waste has been dumped into the sea.  Not to mention the oil spills.  I wonder how advanced a civilization we are that we don’t realize the intricate weaving of the ocean into the dynamic energy of the ecosystem of which we are part.  And if we realize this deeply, are we going to change our ways of disposing of stuff?  We have great minds in this world, surely we can change our habits of use and disposal.  We better get with the program very soon as the earth is reacting to such waste.

 

This three-minute video clip from a lecture given by Maria Popova is too beautiful for words.  She reads a segment from Rachel Carson’s book about the sea.  The sheer beauty of it brought tears to my eyes.  I hope that you take a moment to get present, shut your eyes and listen deeply.

Gazing

This painting feels like something we’re getting accustomed to as we shelter at home.  It’s such a challenging time for many of us, each for our own reasons.

I call it Gazing…living in the mountains when the snow is heavy on the road and there really is no place you can go, you look out from the inside.  The snowplow hasn’t come and you can’t get your car out of the garage.  Time fades away…what day is it, what time of day?  Where was I supposed to be?  This might be comparable to some of the feelings that you’re having now.

The painting is mixed media.  It began as a copycat painting following the style of the Japanese artist, Yoshiro Tachibana.  I love his art!

Over time, this painting morphed into something that made it more my own.  An online artist/teacher invited us to look at other contemporary artists and to choose one of their paintings to inspire our own art.  It was fun for me to emulate his style…and challenging.  I had difficulty getting the window frame looking correct.  And her hands, and elbow…the candle sitting on the ledge.  Afterwards, I set the piece aside as it felt like it didn’t belong to me.  A year later, I revisited the painting and made it mine with collage and whimsy.

 

Gazing.

As a beginning painter, studying the art of other artists, copying is a way of learning about colors that work together, the placement of objects and other creative design details.  Through initial imitation, you can then branch off into your own style.

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Find a contemporary artist whose art you like.  Choose a piece and copy it to the best of your ability.  Spend time with it.  Don’t rush it.  Walk away, return, walk away.  Once you feel satisfied (not looking for perfection here), stylize it to make it more your own.

Always, always give credit to the original artist.  

The Dreamcatcher

Years ago, I wove hundreds of dreamcatchers.  It was a very challenging time in my life.  I don’t remember how I discovered the dreamcatcher…but when I did, I found that designing and weaving them was healing and engaging in a way that I hadn’t expected.  I gathered supplies, hoops, twigs, willow, waxed threads, leather strips, feathers and beads.  Each dream catcher was a unique creation.  For me, this indigenous craft held deep meaning…and they were to be shared.  I gave one to each of my family members.  A man I met had a booth at a local flea market.  He sold them, keeping a profit for himself.  What they provided for me in the moment was without price.

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Tracy Verdugo taught a class on painting dream catchers.  And then invited us to write a poem.  This poem is written around the outside circle of the dreamcatcher.

Destiny

Lace and ribbons
decorate the frock.
“Forget the dreams.
Get back to the kitchen
and bake me a pie!”
Banish your fantasy of
happy couples and
floral bouquet apologies.

Re-enter the Goddess–
no partial woman is she!
So, you are somebody
after all.
Tell us what you know.
Emergence is what you requested–
sit down and let’s talk over tea.

A wedge of lemon?  Honey?
Ah, the bitter with the sweet.
This you must experience
for yourself.

Lace and ribbons,
wedding day vows–
disguise your sovereign destiny.

 

 

dreamcatcher

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A dreamcatcher is an indigenous symbol–a web, often with a hole in the center.  It is intended to let the bad dreams pass through and to catch the good dreams.  The dreams that guide you towards your highest visions.

There is both power and presence when we create.  What is the dream of the future that you’d like to paint, color, draw, sculpt or weave?  Make your own dream catcher using collage and paint.  Are there words or poetry that go with it?  Write them on your work of art.  Get lost in this process.  Invite others to participate in making their own dreamcatchers.  Share in ways that are available to you at this time.

Stay healthy and safe.

Ballerina “Degas Style”

As the social distancing continues, we are finding other ways to connect.  It’s not easy.  I took a walk with a friend for the first time in two weeks.  We stayed six to eight feet apart.  If anyone was approaching on the trail, we split further apart to allow the person(s) to pass.  I have alcohol wipes with me when I shop for groceries.  The checkout clerk wears plastic gloves and a mask.  When I get home, I wash the packaging that my food comes in, the fruits and vegetables, etc.  These are some of the precautions that I take at this time.  It is difficult.  And I do believe that deep inside each one of us is something that knows how to be with what is occurring at this time.  I have no answers…except to give myself something to show up for every day.  Blessings.

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I don’t know the names of the variety of ballet positions.  Except for one, plie.

Being in the phase of painting ballerinas,  I was leafing through a magazine and came across an image of a ballerina stretching towards her toes.  I believe it was by Degas but I could be wrong.  He certainly painted a plethora of ballerinas!

Regardless, I wanted to try and paint her.  In my whimsical style, with a touch of collage around the hem of her tutu.  I remember how challenging it was for me to get her form close to being true.  The arch of her back, the tilt of her head, her fingers that touched her ankle.  The proportions.  The angle of her face and neck.  Even the color of her skin and the tonal values.  Urgh.  I wasn’t entirely pleased with it.  But after a lot of tweaking and fussing, I called it done.

I named this painting The Sugar Plum Fairy as behind her is a fanciful forest of perhaps, trees of a sugar plum variety.  And doves that form a heart.

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Then there is the famous Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy from The Nutcracker.

 

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Today is a good day to STRETCH!  Being homebound for now,
don’t forget that your body loves to streeeetch.

 

 

Balance

Aren’t we always striving for BALANCE?  Was it the Buddha who first named “the middle path?”  If we go too far in one direction, we can overcorrect and go too far in the other direction…but the ideal, like a pendulum, is to strive for balance.  I’m sure that I needed balance when I painted this piece.  Honestly, I can’t remember a time when things weren’t ruffled, shuffled and needed reframing in order for me to go forward.  Imbalance desires balance in the body, mind, emotions and spirit.

Balance

In this painting, I started with an 8″ by 8″ birch board.  I painted half of it with black gesso and the other half with white gesso.  Then began the journey as I explored the theme of balance.

I placed this painting on a wall in my kitchen as a reminder that I desire balance.

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How do you bring balance into your day?  Exercise is a powerful way to encourage balance.  One yoga pose, the mountain pose, reminds you to stand tall, grounded and steady on your feet.  Try it.  How long can you hold it?

Can you think of an image that suggests balance to you?  Find an image in a magazine that supports the idea of balance.  On a sheet of paper, write down the word, BALANCE…throughout the day, notice things around you that support your own balance.  List them on the paper as a reminder to yourself.

Alone Doesn’t Have to be Lonely

I don’t remember exactly what inspired this mixed media painting.  Except that it was another intuitive journey and continued to shift over time.  Putting down colors that I was drawn to, seeing images within the evolving piece, deciding which ones to elaborate on and which ones to let go.

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It was a cold, winter’s night in the mountains where I live.  There was the early dark of winter and a blizzard outside.  There was nowhere to go and no friend to meet.  An existential loneliness settled in around me.  Resistance is the first response when an uncomfortable feeling presents.  Feet dug in…”I don’t want to go there.”  But it persisted and I needed to be with it.  I’d been working on a painting of a polar bear in the Arctic.  I’d been trying to paint the aurora borealis.  Good luck with that!  That sky went through so many changes.

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What prompted me to paint a polar bear in the Arctic, that I can’t really say except that as I created the background, his image hovered in the painting.  I brought him forward.

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That night of extreme loneliness, staring at this painting in process, imagining the polar bear as his world disappears, I wrote the poem that I’ve already shared in this blog earlier.  It begins like this…

It’s cold and I’m alone again at night
The stars so far away, no comfort there
Is the polar bear aware of his plight?
Ice floes are melting, does anyone care?

Painting this piece, writing the poem, helped to shift my energy.  The poem and painting connected me to something outside of myself, bigger than my small life and this moment of loneliness.

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To be human is to feel loneliness at times.  In this time of the pandemic, social isolation and uncertainty, find a way to either write, draw or paint or any other creative activity.
One exploration could involve color.  Color crayons, watercolors, acrylics, colored pencils…any of these work.  On a piece of paper, put down colors that you feel particularly attracted to.  Place them side by side, at different angles to each other.  If you are using paints, notice which colors make other colors “pop” forward and which colors recede.  Let yourself play with color.