Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Texture & Text

This past summer the Husband bought himself a pellet smoker grill. I'm not sure if that is the accurate name but from my perspective it smokes and it cooks, so smoker grill it is. I've come to think of it as his baby because he has stayed up late and gotten up early to baste meat products left on over night for extra smokey goodness. He smoked a flank steak for Mother's Day which was a two day ordeal - I mean - production. (Never mind that I am a vegetarian, it's the effort that counts.) Just about anything he can lay his hands upon, he has smoked (yes, even pizza!)

All of this is to say I've found my equivalent to his smoking mania: textures. Specifically the textures created by Kim Klassen who has been on a tear creating textures and a Photoshop recipe book and video tutorials for those of us wanting to learn more. I am totally self taught in Photoshop and while I knew my way around layers and filters and masks, Kim's Skinny Mini 2 week tutorial has been knocking my socks off. And like my husband and his smoker, I may be going a tad crazy with adding textures to everything in addition to my new found love: text. What I am loving is the ability to create almost painterly effects. I have also been able to fine tune my skills so that hopefully the image just looks great without it screaming out at you: TEXTURE! But there are times when I enjoy the quality of creating a digital collage if you will.


So here are some of my latest efforts. Do check out all the fantastic tools and materials available over at Kim Klassen Café. Her generosity in sharing her expertise and her tricks is astonishing. And one more reason why I love this all-consuming online world.

And to clarify: the Skinny Mini is a great introduction to the great tools and flexibility of Photoshop. So the lessons are not completely about textures but how to enhance your digital images.

cowgirl and her spider crown

Monday, October 25, 2010

Monday Inspiration Celebration: My world

In an average week, I do not really travel that far from my home. Well, I do commute into the city for work, but generally I hightail it right back home when I am finished. I have Fridays off and it is not uncommon for me to stay put all day puttering in the house until it is time to pick Cowgirl up from school. When she was quite little she once asked me "Can we not have such a busy day today?" So days off for both of us are often spent quietly engaged in favorite pursuits like painting, coloring, playing board games and exploring outdoors.

polaroid shot using The Impossible Project's PX 100 Silver Shade film

Sometimes my narrow perspective can feel a little stale or dull. I wonder how many shots of Cowgirl on her bike I can possibly take or whether my many flower, shrub, or tree shots of the neighborhood are really that different and noteworthy. Yet what I love about where I live is the rich variety and nuance that can be discovered when one takes the time to look really deeply and at length at a subject. So what has been inspiring me this past week is the world that is just blocks away from my golf course neighborhood: the farm land and the skies and the open spaces that still exist in this part of the country.

each of these locations is less than a mile from my house! in all three i played with textures by Kim Klassen

And now for some random inspiration:

bags inspired by project in The Artistic Mother by Shona Cole

A new tote bag made over the weekend (a gift for a friend's daughter) - I figured out how to do zigzag stitch on the sewing machine! (It required parts and setting changed - very nerve wracking!)

Cowgirl's art always inspires me! This is her and I with our friends celebrating under a rainbow.

Is there anything better than receiving some mail art? This is a postcard from one of the participants in 21 Secrets. I am organizing a mail art swap for my class - there is still plenty of time to sign up for the course. I am learning so much from the various presenters: traditional Chinese paper cutting; typography for art journaling; a cool technique utilizing tissue paper and clip art for layered journal pages and so much more.

So share links to your inspirations and/or creations. I am finding myself looking forward to Mondays just to see what everyone is up to!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Weekly Reflection (week 40): A day

I am in week four of Susannah Conway's latest ecourse offering Unravelling 2: Living in My World. Her first course blew the lid off for me in many ways, but the greatest shift was to embrace Fearlessness when it comes to my creative life. The new course is proving to be equally enlightening in more subtle, deeper ways that I cannot articulate just yet. Each week feels like the material is burrowing deeper and deeper into my understanding of myself and how I live - and create - my life. The beauty of the course is a chance and a challenge to articulate for myself my beliefs, my values, my sense of self and how that is crafted daily. In a word, the course is sharpening my sense of Mindfulness.

Unravelling/Day - part 1

6 am, 7 am, 8 am, 9 am

Unravelling/Day - part 2

10 am, 11 am, noon, 1 pm

This past week the focus was upon the elements of our day. To comprehend how we spend each day, we were to document with our cameras twelve hours of our day, taking a picture or two every hour. What I love about this kind of exercise is how the details of seemingly mundane tasks are highlighted; with attention the prosaic becomes poetry. I found myself noticing the steam on the shower handle, the pattern of dirty cups in the kitchen sink, the landscape of the interstate that I drive every day all deeply engaging when I take the time to notice.

Unravelling/Day - part 3
2 pm, 3 pm, 4 pm, 5 pm

So my reflection for the week has a focused awareness of the details of my day and an understanding of the ways my camera and my art (painting, drawing, writing) help me to slow down time and savor the details. Through this practice I am aware of this truth:

"There is a close connection between deep concentration and love, and with the practice of one-pointed attention we can greatly increase the precious capacity to remain loving and loyal no matter what the vicissitudes or circumstances we encounter."
Slowing down and one-pointed attention are two of the Eight Points outlined in a program for living a fuller and more spiritual life by a wonderful teacher, Eknath Easwaran. I have always admired Sri Easwaran's teachings and but have found it challenging to stick to his deceptively simple program. But now I think I have found the right tools to assist me: my camera and my journals.

How do you cultivate awareness of details that make up your day? Care to join me and show us 12 hours from your life?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


I've never understood Foodies. I mean, I love a good meal and all but I have a hard time justifying the high cost of a fine dining experience. $100 and I have a beautiful necklace to wear over and over but a meal? I mean, it is with me for a little while and then, well ... you know. And I understand it is the concept of the total pleasure of this experience and the memories it creates and the fact that it is by nature a passing thing. You taste, savor, sip and smell and wave after wave of sensation rolls through you. And I've had some incredible meals: Michelin Star restaurants in the Loire Valley; an epic afternoon lunch in Umbria where bottles of wine were swilled down like so many juice boxes at a daycare; and family meals of all my comfort foods. I get the concept of a Foodie, but I guess I am too practical, too materialistic a person to indulge myself that way.

Until now. And what is my passion? Is it savory, rustic fare? Or the fresh, bold flavors of fusion cuisine?

It is film. To be precise, Polaroid film.

I am always late to the scene with any trend and it comes as no surprise I am embracing the notion of Polaroid photography when the last vestiges of original Polaroid film are long gone - or being hoarded in refrigerators and saved for a special occasion (or the right amount of money). So I have been experimenting with the equally experimental film from The Impossible Project which appears to be the Apple of the film world. People either love them, or hate them ... but we all will probably be using them because they are the only game in town.

I posted my first experiments - and experiments they are as my Ebay purchased Land Camera is a totally foreign beast for me. I have no idea how sensitive it is or how it reacts (over or underexposing) and the film being costly does not encourage much experimentation. And like a true beginner wandering into a casino, pulling a handle on the slot machine and hitting a modest jackpot right off the bat, I was hooked. I got some interesting first shots and having researched online how others were working with the film (the first batch of color film appropriately called "First Flush") I felt ready to whip out another pack and capture some real polaroid magic.

Did you get the analogy of this process with gambling? With winning right away and then endless chasing the dream "this next pull will be it!" Add the image of dollar after dollar being dumped into the slot machine and each pull resulting in ... yes, lemons. Or in my case, Sludge.

There are 8 shots in a pack, which makes each shot cost a little over $2. Unless you factor in all the wasted shots, in which case here is my $17 shot - the only one not looking like a close up of coffee with curdled milk:

After this experience you would think practical old me would hang it up and wait for things to get less experimental. But here is where I finally get the Foodies - where the experience and the allure of Polaroid photography and The Impossible Project make sense and indeed sink their hooks into me. There is the mindset of knowing each shot is precious and costly and that I need to take my time, not rush things and savor each potential shot. Then there is the moment of pressing that magic red button, hearing the snap and then the whir of the film being ejected from the camera. With Impossible film you have to shield it right away and let it develop upside down for at least 90 seconds before stealing a peak to see what you got. The anticipation is palpable. And this film can take days for all of the details to flesh out, so there is a lingering enjoyment, if indeed it rewards you with an image.

I love all this. I love the excitement of not knowing, of hoping, of trying again and again. And the rush of success when a picture is captured. Yeah, I am probably loving some pretty mundane shots, but they are my shots won after much toll and determination. I will hold out for the new batch of color film. I did send in samples of my Sludge work to customer support for feedback. They were incredibly prompt in answering another question I had and actually issuing me a credit for film that had stuck together, two shots coming out at once. I appreciate what they are trying to do and I love that in a small way I am part of a Pioneering movement. But instead of a rifle over my lap as we cross the plains, I am holding my lovely ivory and chocolate SX 70.

So in the spirit of Fearless Adventure, I opened up a new package of the sepia-like PX 100 Silver Shade film and began a new adventure. Only one picture, but at least I got one! Looks promising ... and as any gambler knows, you've got to play to win!

Or in the case of a Foodie, you have to risk indigestion for the chance to taste heaven.

Fingers crossed, I'm through with my Sludge stage!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Monday Inspiration Celebration: Autumn

Autumn is in full swing with vibrant colors, the crackle of fallen leaves underfoot and crisp, clear blue skies. We have had some warm weather and the season is inspiring all my senses.

I am totally into pumpkins, having made two treks to our favorite family run pumpkin patch:

I got to spend several afternoons outdoors working in my art journals:

I had time to finish a sewing project - a dress/jumper for Cowgirl:

Work on some art postcards for a mail swap:

And I have been enjoying amazing tutorials for Photoshop from Kim Klassen via her Photoshop Recipe Book and her Skinny ecourse (check out her giveaway!)

The universe has been helping me practice receiving by placing so many amazing people in my path. A surprise package the other week held this beautiful gift from an equally radiant fellow blogger, mama and creative soul, Meegan:

This little figure perfectly expresses my life right now. Meegan sent another piece to Soraya and I feel honored to be in such inspirng company. I love the dialogue that has developed online amongst like-minded bloggers and Meegan never fails to provoke soul stirring thoughts through her posts and in an exchange of comments and emails. And she is a patron of the arts, having commissioned Cowgirl and me for a painting to hang in her daughter's room:

I am easing into the notion of receiving and am enjoying every minute of it!

So what gifts has Creativity blessed you with this past week? What inspiration would you like to share? Let's keep the goodness flowing!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Weekly Reflection (week 39): I am an artist

So I had this very deep, philosophical blog post mapped out in my head ... how perhaps artists today are the Shamans of our society ... revealing the vastness of human experience which many may feel uncomfortable examining ... hence the tendency to lump Creatives with the mad, the unstable, the eccentric ...

I think there is some meat there but when I got up this morning I knew I couldn't stay indoors on the computer and that the best course of action would be an outing to the public garden. And then I stumbled upon this quote and my decision was made:

"Let yourself be silently drawn by the stronger pull of what you truly love." - Rumi

It helped that my "assignment" for the Tribe this week in Fearless Painting was to go outdoors and paint. So I loaded up my backpack with painting supplies, grabbed a camera bag for the polaroid and my trusty canon (I think I need to name my camera ... Lorenzo ... because I swear it does whisper to me in Italian whenever I use it) and packed a lunch of pb&j, apple and energy bar (I know, chocolate would have been more appropriate.) I hit the road, U2 blasting from the stereo and a cool Autumn breeze kissing my face. It was a perfect day.

The public gardens here are amazing. Tucked away on the edge of town right near the river are 100 acres with 20 different garden spaces. I have a favorite spot by the marsh pond that is very secluded with benches under a wooden shelter. I spread out my stuff and began painting the scene before me: a pond filled with lily pads, gold fish, frogs and autumn grasses. The only sounds were a blue jay, the plop of frogs off of their pads and into the water, and a very chatty squirrel. Heaven.

And then they came: wave upon wave of school kids on a field trip. I would guess they were in first or second grade. And as they made their way to my sanctuary, I groaned a little inside. But then the most amazing thing happened: seeing me working, a couple of the boys exclaimed "Wow! Cool ... you are painting." Rather than cover up my work, I explained I was painting the pond and let them take a look at my painting. Staring at the page, one boy eagerly asked "Are you an artist?"

I paused before answering. I was aware of my knee jerk reaction to say "no, no ... just playing" but I that impulse pass. Proudly and a little bit surprised, I replied "Yes ... yes I am." And then ... better than the richest piece of chocolate, better than an A+ on any report card ... this one boy told me "You are are a really good artist!" I think I would have cried except I was too busy staring at the joyful expressions on their faces, as if they had stumbled across an astronaut checking out his rocket. I mean, these kids seem amazed and impressed to stumble across An Artist and who was I to deny them that joy?

Perhaps they knew what we adults have forgotten: that making art is a portal into a vast realm of imagination and adventure; that picking up a brush and some color is a way to uncover the deeper pools of truth that lie within; and that art encompasses all of life - the messy, the organized, the painful, the joyful, the comprehensible and the confused. Making art is a way to invoke magic in the pursuit of healing. The practice connects us to our power, our voice and our ability to create meaning out of that which on the surface often appears meaningless. It is an attribute of being human but one which we far too often deny ourselves. Why? Maybe because of its potency, I'm not quite sure.

I took time to point out the many frogs sunning themselves on the lily pads and watched the kids faces beam when they finally saw the vast busyness of the pond underneath the stillness of the scene. As they left, a few commented on how cool it would be to paint and I yelled to them "Just do it! There is no right or wrong way to do art! Whatever you want, that is perfect." I have no idea what their teacher thought. I only hope that perhaps one child when home, picked up a crayon or some paints and began to explore the possibility that they too might be an artist.

So today, if you were to answer to the pull of what you truly love, where would you go? What would you do? Or more importantly: why aren't you already doing it?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Monday Inspiration Celebration: Polaroids


Another Monday! What has been inspiring you this past week?

I succumbed to the siren song of the Polaroid camera and treated myself to an early birthday present - a ivory and chocolate SX-70 Land Camera. Oh, she is a pretty little thing! I purchased film from The Impossible Project - their First Flush film which means their first attempt to duplicate the magic recipe of original Polaroid film. It is very quirky; you have to shield it immediately from the light when it pops out of the camera and it can take days for the image to fully materialize. It is both frustrating and magical. I first tried the film in a borrowed Polaroid One Step camera with poor results. I just had no control over focus or exposure. That said, these first few images were taken with that camera:



On the second shot, I had tried to create a shield which catches the film when it shoots out. Well, you can see its shadow in the image! I had better luck just lunging for the picture with my hand.

The second batch of film I had some problems and my first shot had two pictures popping out at once:


What you are seeing is my living room shot from the balcony above. You can just make out the coin patterned carpet and Moose sleeping on the rug. My third (or second?) attempt at the shot was just pure murkiness.

Indoors is proving challenging, although I like this image of the paper lanterns hanging from our dining room chandelier:


I am finding outdoor shots in slightly overcast conditions are offering better results:



And my all time favorite shot so far:


I am banking on the people over at Impossible improving the film. They have offered great customer service, including sending me a coupon when it appeared there was a slight problem with 2 of my boxes of film.


Meanwhile, if I want rich color, I can find that in my bin of paints! I am having fun creating Art Postcards for 21 Secrets and am organizing an art mail swap. Come over and join us!

And it is an extra special Monday as I just found out a piece I submitted to Wishstudio Blog is featured there today! Do pop over for a look. As so many of my favorite bloggers have had guest columns there, I feel like I am being allowed to eat at the grown up's table. I hope I showed good manners. Be sure to leave a comment there and maybe Mindy will let me join the big girls again some time.

Now's the time to share what has been inspiring you this past week. What gifts did Creativity sprinkle upon your page? Let's keep the fairy dust flying!

Don't be shy ... you know you want to link ...

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Weekly Reflection (week 38): thoughts on receiving

Last week I received this delightful image from one of my Squammie cabin mates:

The arrival of this message touched me in a way I could not quite initially figure out. The wonderful flower head monster was made by one of my creative cabin mates, Liz, and is the traveling companion and subject of a photo journal-log by the equally talented and playful Sharyn. I immediately smiled and the grumpiness that had hovered around me lifted. I emailed my gratitude back to Sharyn and then found myself thinking about Theo - as he is called - for days now.

Finally, it struck me why this little fellow had gotten under my skin and had lodged in my heart: his childlike innocence allowed me to graciously accept the sentiments he was offering to me. I realized that receiving is not something I allow myself to do on any regular basis.

Offer me a compliment and I will shrug it off and say it is no big deal, nothing worth noting, anything to deflect attention away from myself. While I do crave acknowledgment of my work, I also fear the notice as if by looking too deeply at me, the flaws and mistakes will become apparent. I've recognized this tendency in other women - to downplay achievements - but now I am finding this habit within myself to be no longer tolerable. Because by denying myself the kind words, the acknowledgment of my efforts, and the recognition of my Light, I deny others the chance to shine their own. If I am busy hiding myself, I cannot be genuinely engaged in seeing you.

I am also grappling with disappointment in myself for missing an opportunity to grow. For not only have I shunned compliments, I have also avoided criticism and feedback. Yet I tell Cowgirl that we cannot grow if we do not seek ways to improve our skills and our work. Recently, I failed to heed my own advice and now I regret missing a chance to learn how I might improve upon my craft.

I am someone who talks out of nervousness. I have to fill the space. Likewise, my tendency is to be busy doing and not allowing there to be space for emptiness. But what I am realizing is it isn't the emptiness I fear, it is the act of allowing myself to be filled that unnerves me. Yes, I am a bit of a control freak. And I am weary of it.

a work in progress; unfortunately the metallic gold and silver and pale yellow pigments i used do not show up in this photograph. i am thinking it needs a splash of deep red?

In an exercise for 21 Secrets, I did a guided meditation by Effy Wild on Art Journal as Soul Mirror. The intention of the exercise was to uncover my life's purpose, my passion. Doing the meditation the word Attentive emerged for me. I was thinking about attentiveness in terms of mindfulness. And while that thought filled my head, I looked through magazines to find images or words for my journal page. I had almost given up when this text jumped out at me: "Learning to Trust Myself." Working on the spread, a message emerged: I need to cultivate being attentive to myself and to my life in order to hear the whisperings of my heart, and to trust that voice. But first I have to allow space to receive myself and my truths. If I do that, then I am better able to create space for others to uncover their gifts. And when that happens, we all benefit as a circuit of inspiration and empowerment flows through us all.

So thank you Theo for reminding me to open space to receive kindness in words, sentiments or gestures as it is offered to me. Thank you for teaching me I need to allow myself to receive. Thank you for touching my heart and showing me my actions do make a difference to another be it a Flower Head Monster, a child, a stranger or a new friend.

Do you allow yourself to receive? How can we make this a regular practice?

From this day forward, I set an intention to practice Receiving; trusting myself to know when it is appropriate for me to take in another's words, compliments or feedback and when I am to listen to my own heart and follow my own counsel. I welcome compliments and constructive criticism as ways to grow and learn. I may squirm and cringe a bit, but I will keep quiet and allow space for the words to sink in.