Little darlin’, it’s been a long, cold, lonely winter…

 

Molly's Tree- pen and ink doodle

Molly’s Tree- pen and ink doodle

There’s a certain pleasant tension, a pressure of life that’s seems palpable in Spring. Moist air weighs on tender new grass, which in turn stretches up toward the sun. Buds push their way through branches’ fingertips and unfurl into fleshy leaves. Tulips and daffodils press their way upward through soft, fresh dirt. It feels like all of nature is pulsing. Can you feel it? Whether you realize it or not I bet you can. Is your step just a little lighter? Do you long to shed un-needed layers, whether of clothing, flesh, or sadness? It’s Spring. Get outside and soak it in.

Daffodils- watercolor sketch

Daffodils- watercolor sketch

Violets- watercolor sketch

Violets- watercolor sketch

An Homage

Those of you who have been following me for a long time may remember a post that I wrote on my former, blogspot blog. The post was entitled “Pockets of Joy” (click to read it). It was a sad post, and a happy post – A post in mourning of my dear dog Shag (aka The Shagster) who had recently died.

Now, around a year after the anniversary of his death, I painted his portrait. It was therapeutic and a celebration of the best dog ever. I present to you, The Shagster:

"The Shagster" Oil on linen

“The Shagster” Oil on linen

April Fool’s Tradition

My cousin Chloee (really she’s more like an aunt to me) started a tradition years ago. She spends all year searching for a recipe with a crazy, unexpected ingredient. Then, she bakes up these unusual goodies and sends them out to family members, always timing it so that they arrive on April Fool’s Day, and challenges us to guess the secret ingredient. IMG_1222

These are not mean April Fool’s pranks… oh no! These are delightful. They’re always delicious, despite (or because of?) ingredients that may not otherwise seem very appetizing. Pinto beans in your muffins? Velveeta in your brownies? Rose petals in your cookies? Hey, don’t knock it til you’ve tried it.

 

So, this year when I received my April Fool’s treats, I couldn’t wait to open the box. Tiny muffins awaited me. I looked carefully. Hmm… green slivers. I sniffed. A hint of citrus. I took a tiny nibble and held it on my tongue. IMG_1223

Nutmeg, maybe…not too surprising. What else? Pecans? That’s not unusual either. Orange peel. Delicious, but not weird enough. What was that green? Zucchini? Not broccoli… chives maybe? Wheatgrass. Finally I settled on chives. There was a slightly herbal taste. I peeled back the label on the back of Chloee’s note, beneath which she had hidden the answer. Asparagus!? I don’t even like asparagus. But I like these muffins! Just goes to show, you never can tell.

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What I love about this tradition isn’t just the fun of it, or the craziness of it, or the effort Chloee puts into finding recipes and making sure they get here on just the right day. It’s the attention it requires on my part. It’s permission to take my time and notice every subtle detail of my food from the smell to the texture to the nuances of flavor. It’s the reminder to savor and enjoy.

Coming out of hibernation, continued

Step 2: Local color-

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Loosely applied, basically just blocking out the different areas of the picture. At this point I’m trying to close my eyes to detail and just get blocks of color in place. I didn’t even work too hard to cover up my base color, since I want that warmth to ultimately show through.

Coming out of hibernation

February in Alabama is wet, cold, and grey. A perfect recipe for malaise. Will I hibernate? Will I huddle under the covers and whine? Will I crawl into bed with a pan of lasagna and try to get as fat as possible? Not this kid… not anymore at least. Let’s get back to work. And this time I think I’ll try things a little differently.

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Step 1- Underpainting rub-out

Gamblin’s Solvent Free gel mixed with transparent earth orange (about 50/50).

The underpainting acts as a value study- letting me study the dark and light areas of the painting and decide if the composition is interesting enough to stand on its own without the color.

The paint/gel mixture is applied to the entireIMG_1194 canvas (or in this case primed panel) with a large brush, then, using a t-shirt rag I rub out the lighter parts of the painting, using varying pressure to get the gradations of value.

Stay tuned for more… unless I go back into hibernation mode. Then you can find me on the couch with a pot of chili.

It’s all about balance… well, mostly

ImageArt is a pretty sedentary activity. Luckily my other love is exercise of many different forms. One of my favorites- yoga. Often times during the relaxation period at the end of class when my thoughts are flowing gently ideas are formed, solutions uncovered, connections made. This morning, however, my revelation came during a balance pose. Having a revelation during a balance pose, by the way, can make you topple, so I gently tucked in the back of my brain to ponder over later. Now is later.

Imagine this: You’re trying a pose that seems unfamiliar, unnatural- say, for example, something on one foot (or in this case, on your head). You wobble, you teeter. Then what do you do? You laugh self-consciously or panic, you scrunch up, you shrink in, you become smaller. Do that, however, and you most assuredly will fall. However, if you keep your poise, lift up, expand with control, stretch out and grow you have a much better chance at success.

It seems to me that the same thing happens when we meet challenges or unfamiliar territory (or even just awkward situations) in life. If we become self-conscious, fearful of failure, insecure, and shrink into our small, seemingly safe little box, we most assuredly lose our balance. Instead, expand with control (“with control” being the optimum phrase here). Stretch. Be strong and test your limits. You still may fall, but I can almost guarantee it will be with more grace. And if you don’t fall? Congrats.

I’m not writing this from a position of authority. I’m really writing this TO myself. This is my challenge for myself in the upcoming year- to live expansively, generously, openly, un-self-consciously, without fear and shrinking… and if I fall, to fall with grace, then get back up and try again.

Trust me, it all connects.

For about a week now I’ve been attempting to NOT multi-task. Harder than it seems but surprisingly effective. Crazy as it sounds, I feel calmer and I actually feel like I’ve gotten more done. Even on days like last Monday when my dog licked a 10″ square portion of oil paint off a painting I’d been working on for two hours (FYI in case this happens to you- feed them and give them peptobismal. This is on a vet’s recommendation. She didn’t have a recommendation for what to do about the painting). I even managed to (for the most part) not multi-task when 20+ family members came into town for my daughter’s second birthday. It’s amazing how much nicer… calmer life seems when you’re really doing one thing at a time. However, I discovered a secret hidden area where I multi-task.

My brain.

That sneaky brain! Always trying to think about something else while I’m doing something entirely different. So, I’ve been working on mindfulness. Life’s too short and too precious to let moments slip away unnoticed while we’re not looking. So, several times a day I’ve tried to stop my inner narrative, my to-do lists, etc and notice where I am. Chances are it’s no place obviously special, but inevitably when I stop to notice there are special things about it. My brain is hyper. It’s hard to teach it to sit still for long. But, a little reminder several times a day, focusing for just a few scant seconds at a time, and I already notice it’s calming down.

On the subject of focusing on one thing at a time, in my latest painting I (mainly) focused on one color. White. I JUST finished it about 20 minutes ago, but I’m eager to share it.

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“Dare to Dream”
12″x16″
Oil on Linen

Man I love color!!! Look at all the zillion colors you can find just in white! Sorry, like I said, hyper brain. Anyway, this was really fun to do. And clearing my mind of all distractions and just looking for that myriad of colors imbedded in white paper and a white background was a great lesson in mindfulness. Tada! This blog post has come full circle. Namaste.