Westward Ho! Day 7

Our last day of classes.

I skipped breakfast this morning to write about yesterday and ease into the day.  The Fort has a little coffee shop, so I stopped there for a latte and scone before heading to Jesse’s class; a quiet walk through the morning mist to the other side of campus with only my bag’s wheels grumbling on the asphalt and the gulls calling overhead.  Lots of crows here, too.  And owls.  The Flying Ones offer lots of singing practice.

I think Jess’s class was my favorite.  We worked in black and white acrylic paint using a fan brush and our hands.  Primitive mark-making.  And like Michael deMeng’s class, we started looking for areas of interest and larger images.  I loved the energy and immediacy of it.  Black and white felt so much easier than color.  And Jesse was a hoot.  He told stories in different accents, so of course I loved him.

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Details from the pages; lots of little Mr. Bills getting out of the thorny, pregnant monster’s way.

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After lunch, it was finally time for Tracy Moore’s class.  This was the watershed moment. Could he teach/inspire/goad me into art journaling?  Was there a way to incorporate art into my daily journal practice?  Or were these two modes of expression forever separate for me?

Tracy’s very low-key, but passionate about art journaling.  He just wanted us to keep our hand moving over the page, doodling, trying different simple shapes while he told stories about his own process.  He talked about how journaling for him is a social experience, hanging out in coffee shops and bars with his journal and pens, inviting people he meets to draw something in them.  Some of his pages have lots of text, some don’t.  He admits that he gets bored easily and switches things up.

He also gave us a list of his favorite stuff; pens, techno doo-dads, stamp-making tools, online stores.  I made a list.

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Later I talked to him about being a writer who also does art and whether I could combine the two.  “Keep it simple,” he suggested.  “Try it and see what happens.”

So at the Last Night Party,  I sat with everyone else and wrote in my newly minted art journal and pondered this question.  The Seattle band, Surrealized, provided mood music and the door between my words and my art cracked open.  Is the separation illusion?  If both are allowed to play together, what else might join them?  What else might have been sacrificed to my bipolar scramble for survival?  What else waits for room?

I’m willing to push the door open a little wider and invite everyone to come play.

 

Westward Ho! Day 6

IMG_0405I smartened up yesterday, dumped out one suitcase, and loaded it with all the art supplies I need to schlep to classes.  I’d seen other people doing this, so it’s not my brilliant idea.  Just took me a day.

Yesterday’s classes were with painters.  I’ve longed to learn how to use paint since high school (when I flunked art class).  It’s always intimidated me, so I ran through a gammet of expected emotions throughout the day.  It was a challenge to stay present, to breathe, to remember who I was and that I was okay no matter what.  Both teachers were kind, funny, helpful, nonjudgmental.  All that made a challenging day successful.

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Again, these pages are just beginnings; a way to learn techniques and start applying them.  We all wanted weeks to keep working on them.

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In Michael’s class, we started with a wash of paint, then slowly pulled images out of it with repeated layers of wash and white highlights.  This is one technique I want to try again.  It has a spooky, otherworldly quality that I dig in a big way, but couldn’t quite grok in three hours.

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Then it was time for the vendor show.  Half a table turned out to be a lot smaller than I expected, so I ditched my idea of showing my bigger collages and set up my cards as best I could.  My table-mate, Lynn, and her girlfriend, started laughing at my stuff almost immediately, so that helped me settle down and enjoy myself.

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And all I can really say is, “Holy Shit!”  People crowded around my end of the table until Teesha flicked the lights to call quits on the show.  Even then, a couple of new friends hung around, digging through my boxes and exclaiming over details like WW1-era papers and gilding paints.  Compliments bombarded me like little Nerf balls.  I loved telling the stories of cards people chose; This is my grandma… This is my mom and dad…This image came from a 1915 holistic health magazine…  This group of folks loved it.  I was in my perfect venue.

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I started out with four boxes of cards and ended up with two and a half.  I haven’t tallied the take, but let me tell you, it’s much more than I ever expected.  I was in shock when I packed up.

IMG_0403And stinky, sticky with adrenalin.

And my back ached like a son-of-a-bitch.

And What A Day!

 

Prototype Redux

I’ve never reposted an old post.  I figure I either have something new to say or I don’t.  And if I don’t, then this platform stays quiet until I do.  But Leonard Nimoy died yesterday, and I can’t find new words.  This man/actor/character has been a part of me since Star Trek aired on September 8, 1966.  I was nine years old—impressionable, starving for attention, a little fan-girl waiting to happen.

So, I offer, again, the collage piece I made about him in 2011.  Prototype.  All the images used in this collage are original, pictures I saved from entertainment magazines as old as Star Trek’s first TV Guide cover in 1966.

tiny salute

Protopype

I’m excited to present this finished piece.  It carries so many layers of meaning for me.

As all fathers do, mine created the template for all subsequent relationships with the men in my life.

As a tween, I transfered my longing for attention and protection from my dad to Spock, the ultimate unavailable man.  In my fantasies, I found the secret pathway to Spock’s heart.  Of course he would never demonstrate his affection, never claim me as his, but I knew he would protect me.  It seemed more than I could ever ask for.

My affection for Leonard Nimoy is deep and abiding.  He was, after all, my first.

(not quite) 30 Days of Sketches

Drawing, Sketch

Backside at the Coffee Shop

Well, it’s pretty clear I’m not going to get all 30 days done in my drawing self-challenge, but I’m cool with that.  I accomplished what I wanted, which was to confront and beat back my fear of drawing.  I’ve rekindled an old love affair with pencils, gum erasers and big, blank, pieces of paper.  I got comfortable with a technique that’s faster and edgier than my careful and meticulous high school-age sketches.  The end result is much more than I ever expected.  So, Success!

30 Days of Sketches—Day 6

Portrait Sketch

Laney & Barb

A couple of things I’ve noticed while doing these sketches (aside from the anxiety):

I only spend a couple of minutes on them, working quickly and leaving lots of the image undrawn.  This is a completely new way to work for me.  In the distant past when I drew, I spent hours filling in every detail and reworking an image until I ripped holes in the paper.  I like this breezy approach.  It makes me focus on just a few details to “make” the image and keeps me from obsessing.

I can’t erase.  The type of pencil I’m using and the way I’ve treated the pages of my sketchbook won’t allow it.  This was not intentional.  I meant to use the sketchbook as an art journal for collage work.  Not being able to erase means I end up with lots of stray lines and can also see where I’m missing perspective.  I see how I misjudge shapes and dimension.  This is really helping me hone my “eye.”  It’s also creating a completely different look to my drawings.

It will be interesting to see what will happen if I spend a little more time with a piece, use a different pencil or pull out a different sketchbook.  I still have 24 days to play with, so playing around with the tools could be part of the process.  As I get more comfortable with a pencil in my hand again, I hope to do just that.

Count the Blessings

I’ve been down with an intestinal flu the last couple of days.  Nothing to do but watch movies, drink ginger ale and ponder the year that’s about to end.  But pondering can be a dangerous exercise, especially when I’m sick and in the middle of an episode.  I’ve learned it’s never a good idea to give too much attention to the thoughts that swirl up then.  Too much darkness, too much regret, too much grief.  So instead, I’ll focus on a few of the blessings 2011 brought me.

A place to sell my art cards.  My last visit at The Perfect Setting was disappointing compared to all the other times I’ve sold my cards there.  Pam, the owner, placed another employee in charge of the greeting cards.  This person pulled a couple of mine as “inappropriate”.  It seems she and I don’t share the same sense of humor.  So, Pam bought only half of the bunch I brought in this time instead of all of them.

Even though I know better, I took it very personally.  I know every shop has to make careful selection and cater to the clientele, but it surprised me since Pam always seemed to love everything I brought in.  Every artist has to tailor their work to fit the market—I know and understand this.  It just caught me on a very bad day, and I haven’t been able to sit at my studio table since.

This isn’t sounding much like gratitude.  But I am extremely grateful to Pam for taking a chance with my work.  She hung my weird collages even though no one in Marshalltown will ever buy them.  She bought all my cards, even when her other employees raised eyebrows.  She let me be the square peg in the town’s round hole—no one else here has ever done that for me.  Yes, I’m grateful.  And eventually, I’ll start making more of the cards that the town will accept—along with a few naughty ones.

Healing.  This year I learned how to manage without psychotropic medication.  I developed my Bipolar Bad-Ass Training guidelines.  I graduated from the Silver Sneakers water exercise class to the deep water, high-powered, water aerobics class.  I pushed the envelope of my reading disability and actually finished eleven whole books this year.  I’m learning how to be a woman alone without being lonely all the time.  I’ve moved past my fear of cooking and can now fix supper for myself every night.  I’ve started again on the weight loss journey, losing 12 pounds since my visit with the allergist at the beginning of December.

It’s an important practice to remember all the healing this year brought, all the hard work and dedication I put into it.  The illness always grabs center stage.  The loss of Will, the scrambled routine, the swamping thoughts tear down self-worth and confidence.  It’s so easy to see only failure.  So, remembering the success and joy play a vital part in bringing reality back to true.

Saying Good-bye to my dad on my terms.  I am deeply grateful that I was able to spend so much time with my dad in his final days and participate in his funeral in a meaningful way.  It was a gift.  Just as easily, my illness might have flared like it did this past Christmas, incapacitating me and keeping me from any human interaction.  Frankly, I expected to be a nut case during my dad’s rituals, and the stress did eventually cause an episode.  But I was fully there when I most wanted to be.  A miracle.  A prayer answered.

These are just a few of the gifts the Heart of the Universe placed in my lap this year.  What treasures did you receive?

Triage

I’m going to say I’m back from the bipolar battlefield even if I’m not sure.  I seem to be back enough to do triage, sorting the casualties into who needs immediate attention, who can wait, and who is too far gone to warrant any attention at all.

What needs immediate attention is my home.  During an episode, I tend to “let things go.”  So, the bathroom needs a scrub, as does the kitchen.  Laundry, vacuuming and a general picking up and putting away.  I have a duffel bag full of pictures and photo albums to put away from creating the slide show for Dad’s funeral.  A general dusting might be a good idea, too.

Concurrently, I need to get my routine back.  It’s not too far off—I’ve been getting to the Y every day, doing a little writing and art—but off enough.  Watching TV during an episode is positive distraction, but watching too much and continuing on after the episode fades like this sets me up for mindlessness and compulsive eating.

Once I get my apartment and routine in order, I need to stock up.  The cupboards are pretty bare, which makes me reach for take-out, which I can’t afford.  I’m out of any kind of analgesic (Advil, Tylenol, et al.) and Kleenex (little things, but vital when you’ve got fibromyalgia and allergies).

Finally, I need to move ahead with projects and plans that I set for myself.  Check out another juvenile book from the library.  Call my cousin, Ray, to set up a time to meditate together.  Call my friend, Joyce, who I haven’t even told about my dad yet.  Go out to the Animal Rescue League and talk to them about volunteering. Get outside while the weather holds.  Dust off my sketchbook and draw.

I’m relieved to see no dead bodies in this triage run, no parts of my life that I’ve ruined or blown up, no relationships destroyed or bridges burned.  That, in itself, is a miracle, considering my past.  It makes me think I can actually evolve with this illness, learn from it, and make a few lasting changes.  One thing about bipolar disorder is that there’s always another opportunity to practice these new ways of thinking and behaving, always the next crazy-bomb set to explode.  Hopefully, the casualties will continue to stand up and walk away.

Bipolar Bad-Ass Training, Revised—Part 1

Never get Too Tired, Too Hungry or Too Rigid.  That’s one of my new mottos (Another is Laugh ’til You Lose Urine, but that’s a different post).  So in my quest to avoid rigor mortis, I’ve incorporated a few of Gretchen Rubin’s thoughts and ideas into my personal Bipolar Bad-Ass Training Regimen.

It’s been six months since I first set up some guidelines for making the best of my time between bipolar episodes.  Those checklists and goals have served me really well, but there’s always room for improvement.  Plus, our needs and priorities change, and I don’t want to be stuck hanging on to an old ideal when it no longer fits.  That way lies madness and a surplus of guilt and shame.  Pass.

Clean Eating is still a big priority for me, and continues to be elusive.  I feel like I’ve come a long way in fostering my Will, but bipolar episodes and my recent illness threw me right back into compulsive behavior, which starts and ends with non-stop eating of the worst possible crap.  There’s no easy answer to this one, I’m afraid, just awareness and diligence and gentleness.

My thoughts and plans for Strength and Stamina still hold true.  If anything, I’m more determined than ever to exercise every day and add more activity to my daily life.  I also have a physical tomorrow, so I made a list of things to discuss with my doc—how to deal with this persistent recurring bronchitis (allergy testing?), removing a benign but growing cyst in my armpit, and getting the regular blood work and tests out of the way.  It’s part of Doing What Needs To Be Done (another motto).

When I looked at my priorities, I found I needed to make an adjustment.  I always thought I’d go back to school for a Master’s Degree, but it’s just not realistic for me anymore.  My ECT—induced reading disability seems to be holding fast and my financial situation hardly supports a return to college.  It was an old dream that just doesn’t fit who I am now.

My priorities now are Writing, Making Art and Growing.  My goals are to finish my novel, Callinda, by the end of the year and continue to blog at least every other day; make art every day and start drawing again.  As for continuing to grow, I’ve got a couple of things in mind.  I want to call the Animal Rescue League and see if I could volunteer a little bit.  I’m curious about other writers who love fan fiction and plan to research that.  Maybe I’ll find a kindred spirit or two.  I plan to spend more time at the public library, reading magazines I would never normally pick up.  I want to start at the beginning of the racks and work my way through them all.  I can’t wait to soak up all that new stimulation.  And lastly, I want to find a local chapter of the Sweet Adelines.  I miss singing, and maybe they’d take a croaky alto.  We’ll see.

One thing Gretchen Rubin did to keep her accountable to her new resolutions was to create a chart where she could track her daily activities.  She said the steady reminders kept her focused and the gold stars and check marks as she accomplished her goals kept her motivated.  I don’t know that I need more motivation than living saner, but I thought I’d try tracking my progress.  I loaded up my new iCalendar program so I can see at a glance what I’m doing and what I’m avoiding.  Meh.  We’ll see if the motivation outweighs the nuisance.

Bad Clowns

My creative projects seem to be managing far better than I am at the present.   While I continue to slug it out with all the usual bipolar symptoms and pitfalls, my novel, Callinda, keeps writing itself; new greeting cards appear on my worktable; and a collage I’ve wanted to do for years hangs on my wall.

To the Muse in my ear who refuses to shut up, to the hands that paint and snip with a mind of their own, to the part of me who plugged into the Cosmic Creative Source the day I was born and never looked back, I say thank you.

And now, for your creepification, my new collage, Bad Clowns.

The fear of clowns, or coulrophobia, is the number 3 phobia in the United States.  Only the fear of needles and spiders beats it.  Think about it.  A grown man in disguise around little kids.  Eew.  Remember John Wayne Gacy?  Remember Heath Ledger’s Oscar-winning performance as The Joker?  My man, Stephen King, knew exactly what he was doing when he made his monster in “IT” a clown.  No one understands what scares us like Stevie, and his icy little fingers are ruthless.

For me, Santa Claus (at least the department store kind) is just another clown.  My three-year-old self knew instinctively to stay away from that lap.  So, if you ever take your kids, nieces, nephews, grandkids, or friends’ kids to the circus or want a picture of them with Santa, and they start whining and digging in their heels, do me a favor.  Don’t tell them they’re being silly.  Don’t scold them and force them to make nice to the funny man.  Just hold their hand and slowly, carefully, back away.

I got this icky rubber stamp clown from my favorite vendor, Teesha Moore.  I knew someday, he’d be central to my Bad Clown collage, and here he is.  I also cackled non-stop while “editing” these Pictionary cards.

I thought busted and bloody-looking balloons would help create the atmosphere of evil and danger.  What do you think?

The central clown figure started out as a teeny, tiny photo of a circus troupe from the 1920’s comprised of midgets and dwarves.  I took the face of one of the clowns and had my print shop blow it up 1000 %.  I transferred that vague image to the canvas, then used paint, chalks, ink and markers to make him my own.  I like that he doesn’t scream “EVIL” but that you know there’s something definitely wrong about him.

I found the plastic clown cake decorations at an antique store a year or so ago, and I knew immediately they’d end up with nails through their heads.  Yeah, that’s the way I roll.  I’ve been saving scrap of circus advertising and early images of clowns for years.  It was a wonderful feeling to put them all together in one disturbing place.

Ahh, how’s that cotton candy tasting?

Easy Peasy

Tuesday, I wrapped up several of my collage pieces, gathered together a bundle of my greeting cards, and trooped over to The Perfect Setting to visit with the owner, Pam Swarts, and her gallery manager, Carol.

 I’d been coaching myself for days about approaching this appointment as an adventure, an experiment in stepping out with my art.  I told myself it would be interesting and useful to see how people other than my family and friends react to my work. Would “arty” people get my sense of humor?  Is my stuff typical of other collage and assemblage works?  Would an art dealer consider my stuff marketable or just amateur crafting?  I told myself this meeting could be informative and useful.  “Profitable” was not a direction I wanted my thinking to take.

Pam asked me to lay out my pieces.  She asked lots of questions about my process, about the stories behind the pieces and my personal story. She and Carol discussed how they might display a piece, who the target audience might be, and which pieces might be too personal to connect with a customer.

Then they pulled out the checkbook.

Wait!  What?

Pam bought all the greeting cards and chose three larger pieces to put on consignment.  One of the larger pieces she like so much, she was willing to buy it outright and frame it herself.  She and Carol called my work “unusual” and “deep.”  They asked me to write stories for the three pieces that were more layered with symbolism and myth so customers could get the “full meaning.”

So, now I have a contract and an inventory list that I’m to bring back “when I have other pieces to show them.”  And I have that first check.  I’m in shock.

Could it really be this easy?

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