Friday, July 30, 2010

Painting with a Purpose: Final Giveaway Painting (and some inspiration)

Where did the month go? It has been a blur except we have 5 paintings that verify we were here and we did paint ... a lot this month! And we will be painting more because the process of collaborating with Cowgirl has been so rich and inspiring as an artist and as a mother. I am beginning to process my thoughts around the experience and what it has taught me, hopefully for publication in another venue.

Here is our fifth and final piece for Half the Sky Foundation's Art in our HeARTs Art a-thon to raise money for programs benefiting children in China's welfare centers and orphanages. It seems appropriate that our final painting carries the instruction to be Inspired.

Not only has art inspired a deeper relationship between my daughter and myself, but it has inspired me to dream bigger. I am actively considering ways my passions of art and photography can be put to use to benefit others, igniting their dreams and confidence. I have witnessed in my life and in my child's life the power of art making to validate and celebrate our individual gifts and talents. I believe
the five paintings we have created reflect our journey to embrace ourselves as artists with a mission to shine light upon the joy and wonder of this world. And thanks to everyone who has so generously supported our campaign with a donation, that joy will be part of a child's life as so much of what Half the Sky does is to nurture and witness the gifts of children who have no other family but the one within an institution's walls.

If you haven't been here all month, here's the drill: we will be giving away our friendly Inspired Tiger to one lucky winner. To enter the drawing, make a donation to our pledge page (see the cute little badge - Donate Now - on the right hand side bar? Click it to take you to our page) and either sign the honor roll there or come back here and leave me a comment. (More information about our project Painting with a Purpose can be found here.) You can also email me if you are shy: Lishofmann(at)novia)dot)net. Cowgirl will pick a name out of her hat on Monday and I will announce the winner on Wednesday so be sure I know how to contact you.

In the spirit of my last post, I am setting the intention to Do Less and Be More in the coming month. I will be participating in August Break with a daily photo Monday through Fridays and my Weekly Reflection post but I'm not sure what else. So much is going on within, I feel a need to nurture that and be quiet, be still and just do my practice which is simply to show up every day for my life awake, present, open and trusting.

what i saw this morning; a reminder i need to gain perspective and pay attention to inklings, intuition and deeper guidance

Of course, if you know anything about me you will know I have a hard time keeping quiet! I would like to believe August will be my silent art retreat but who knows? So if I am quiet, please do know I will still be here, bowing in gratitude to every one of you as each comment is like drops of dew on a summer lawn: refreshingly welcome and needed!

So how are you inspired today? And how does it manifest in your life?

Here is what is exciting me ... contour drawings! Courtesy of another wonderful week in BIG:

these are done without looking at the paper while drawing the figure and are on large poster board paper (except for the one of Moose which is in my journal)

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Weekly Reflection (week 29): Standing Still

The journey of a thousand miles begins beneath one's feet. (Lao Tzu)

Yes, this has been on my mind all week. I came across this variation on the famous quote which states that the journey "begins with a single step" awhile ago, but recently I have been chewing it over, curious as to why I am so drawn to the more "correct" translation of the ancient Chinese text?

I think it has to do with the notion of "doing" versus "being." I firmly believe that everything we do both knowingly and unconsciously are the small steps that add up to a long journey. I am aware that "no action is wasted on this journey" (another favorite quote, this one from the Bhagavad Gita) and seemingly small efforts can eventually move mountains, change lives.

But my tendency is to be in action. Recently, a friend was in despair about not being able to fit into her schedule time for making art as she had recently gone back to school and also was juggling family and work. And I heard myself in her words; I recognize that all too often I am busy thinking about all the things I want to be doing and not noticing - not celebrating - what it is I'm achieving in this moment. While it is a gift to have my creativity in overdrive, there is also this compulsive moving forward as if my inspired ideas were preparing to fly the coop.

When I teach a beginner's class in yoga, the first pose we learn is Tadasana or mountain pose. I joke that I am going to be teaching them the really hard stuff: how to stand, sit and lie down. Oh, and to be still. And relax. And do nothing. Which is, really, doing everything.

In Tadasana we talk about the correct placement of the feet, the alignment of the knees over the ankles, the balance of the pelvic basin, the rooting of the tailbone and the lift of the crown of the head. Then I ask the students to try and notice how the weight of the body is distributed across the feet: do they tend to lean forward or hang back? Collapse inward or roll outward? How we stand is very revealing.

When I stand in Tadasana, my tendency is for my body to slowly drift forward, like a car idling fast and ready to lurch into action once the foot is off the brake. I also let the weight of my body spills out as my feet roll towards their outside edges. What this means is my energy pools out from me rather than being gathering and mindfully employed. If I were to take a step forward from this position, I would probably be pretty wobbly and over time, would have strained ankles and depleted energy.

I am also reminded of a story about a woman who has lost a needle and is looking for it outside. When someone asks her where she lost it, she replies inside but it is dark there, so she has come outside where there is more light to see. When the people question her, she replies "I have seen you all searching outside, and I know now from my own experience, that what you are seeking is lost within." My compulsive busyness is part of my searching, but what I know what I search for will only be found within my own stillness and being.

So for me, balance in my life requires a little less stepping forward and more time standing still. Less doing and more being. Understanding where I am in this moment, feeling the earth beneath my feet and connecting myself to that grounding, stabilizing energy is the beginning of any journey. Then any action that arises does so from a place of centeredness and deep knowing of myself. As I stand, I lift and spread my toes, drawing into myself and settling fully and consciously into the space I occupy. From that stillness all manner of magic can - and will - arise. I just have to let it come and let it flow. I don't have to seek, I just have to be found.

The journey begins here, within me.

my first page for The Sketch Book Project; it seemed appropriate

Painting with a Purpose update: The winner of our Fearless Dreamer Lion is Amma O! Congratulations! I am thinking Cowgirl and I may have to paint a few more Fearless Dreamers for a few inspired friends out there ;)

This Friday will be our last painting for the campaign. We have surpassed our original goal to raise money to sponsor a child and if we can raise an additional $100 we could co-sponsor two more children! Please help spread the word and if you haven't had a chance to donate, now is the time! Details are available here and here you can donate by visiting our pledge page.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Totally Random Thought Monday (weekend recap and some things I love ...)

(edited to verify, i did NOT make these amazing cupcakes or cake! Alas, I can only take credit for the photo. my dear friend Michele is the inspired baker and what is even more impossible to believe is these taste EVEN BETTER than they look! yes, that good!)

Okay, so brevity isn't my strong suit! But with summer in full swing, I am having to prioritize things in order to cram in all the goodness. Cowgirls' social schedule is packed with swimming, birthday parties, catching up with school friends and outings with cousins and grandparents. I have flung myself into the eye of the creative storm and have signed up for the Sketchbook Project which means I now have ah, um, FIVE sketchbooks I can be working in at any given time never mind painting for BIG and one more painting for our Painting with a Purpose Campaign. YIKES!

So today I will try to economize here and share just a taste of our life here amongst all the dandelion seeds ...

(are you getting some fluff in your eyes?)

The lovely Faerwillow has hosted a trinket trade and I was the first recipient of her box of traveling goodies. There are five items inside and I could take up to three but I had to replace them with an equal number of trinkets to pass on. I mailed the box on today to Cottage Garden Studios and cannot wait to see all the changes as the box makes its way around the world!

Amanda over at Kre8ive Life gifted me this lovely award which really does sum up my experience here in bloggyland:

I am perpetually amazed by the circle of inspiration and support that moves through our lovely community and feel blessed and fortunate to be sharing in the magic that everyone is stirring up with their words, images and art. As part of the award I am instructed to write or show five things I love and then pass the award along to five bloggers I love.

So here they are, in no particular order, the things that are giving me great joy at the moment (I am taking creative license with the question):

Toy Story 3 - We went as a family this weekend and we are giving it six enthusiastic thumbs up! I particularly enjoyed the scenes that show the kids engaged in wildly imaginative play with the toys (versus the destructive play seen in the dreaded Caterpillar room.) I laughed and yes, I cried at the end (but I also cried when Tom Hanks lost Wilson in "Castaway" so take that into account) and there are scary scenes in the Daycare which had me and Cowgirl clutching at each other for support. Apparently I had a restless sleep last night and the only thing I remember from my dreams was the bitter Teddy Bear Lots-O' but Cowgirl didn't seem to be bothered at all. I was aware in the movie of Cowgirl taking her cues from us. Even when things got tense, there usually is some kind of comic relief that lightens things up. It seems to me that what we love about scary movies is how they help us experience fear in a controlled way. We experience being both afraid and then amused, learning we can hold more than one emotion at a time and that is a pretty useful thing to know. (And I am aware of my veering off topic here and away from brevity ...)

Painting - I've said it before. I am having a blast painting with Cowgirl, painting on the floor, painting postcards, painting in my journals. It's all about the color.

Ricky Gervais and Elmo - Of course! And the podcasts and animated show with Stephen Merchant and Karl Pilkington are brilliant. Or maybe The Husband and I are the only ones sitting on the couch snorting as we laugh?

- I got these for Cowgirl's lunch box to cut down on plastic baggies for cookies and crackers. The inside is a heavy low density plastic (LDPE #4) and the outside is fabric with velcro closures. They can be used for sandwiches as well and open up as a mat to place food upon, eliminating the need for a plate. What I am not loving is next year I will have to make five lunches a week versus four, so send me your menu ideas!

Dan Zanes
- The first CD I bought for Cowgirl was Dan Zanes' Night Time and it has been in our car player for 4 years now. And I still enjoy listening to it. Maybe I am crazy, or maybe it is just the great message and fun sing a-long quality of the songs but we both love his music.

And here are some blogs that I have been loving a lot lately. Hard to limit myself to five!

Kim Klassen Cafe -
(sign up for her gorgeous photo textures)

flowers using Kim Klassen's "Random Inspiration" texture

Kristen -
(an inspired life in progress!)

Tracie -
(Fellow BIG Tribe member and Creative goddess)

Amelia/101 Bird Tales -
(check out her fantastic Artist Manifesto on the left hand link)

Nolwenn -
(Another lovely from my BIG Tribe making amazing videos to excite and inspire us all.)

And since I've failed miserably at brevity here (if you have read this far, then know I truly love you!) I am adding a sixth item to my list of things that give me joy. I am always amazed and forever in love with these faces:

What are you loving today?

Friday, July 23, 2010

Painting with a Purpose: Week 4 Giveaway (and Fearless Dreaming!)

Here it is, another Friday and we have our fourth painting ready to unveil:

Inspired by what is happening to me and to my tribe of female warrior painters over in BIG, I knew the name of this piece had to be Fearless Dreamer. In my humble opinion, this is our best painting to date. I am actually hoping a family member wins so I can buy it off of them!

If you are not familiar with our Painting with a Purpose campaign, click here for the details. If you haven't made a donation yet, now is the time! You only have to donate once and then your name will be entered into each week's drawing for a painting.
Just be sure to either leave your name on the pledge page honor roll, leave a comment here or email me at Lishofmann(at)novia(dot)net to make sure your name is entered into the drawing. A name is picked at random on Monday afternoon and the winner announced on Wednesday. So far we are close to $800 but let's not stop there! On Sunday I will be donating all proceeds from my Kripalu yoga class to the campaign. Our fifth and final painting will be posted next Friday.

Each week I am finding it easier and easier to tap into painting from the perspective of my five year old self, before I became self conscious and concerned about "getting it right." I am a recovering Perfectionist and Cowgirl is my sponsor! Each week she has
taken on a larger role in the pieces and her inspiration is manifesting in my work. It has been a challenge to override the critical voices in my head: she will select a color and I will start to say "no, that would look weird." Thankfully, I've learned to suspend my thinking mind and have yet to be disappointed in her choices. I mean - who would have thought red, green and yellow stars could look so wonderful?

I am also finding this project has led me into some Fearless Dreaming of my own. I have a project in mind which would combine Half the Sky Foundation and Photography. It is a small seed of an idea and I am in the beginning stages of researching its feasibility, so forgive me for not sharing more details just yet. But painting this lion has opened up vast reservoirs of courage, daring and lion-heartedness within me. I wonder, what Fearless Dreams are calling for your attention?

(For some summer fun, join me and a swelling list of Bloggers who will be participating in Susannah Conway's August Break. For the month of August I will be posting a picture a day Monday through Friday. Most days it will just be a picture, although chatty Cathy that I am, you know I will still be here with my Weekly Reflection and arty updates. Info on the project is here. To see who's going to be in blogger camp, click here.)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Weekly Reflection (week 28): my reset button

One of the most useful things I ever learned from one of my yoga teachers is this: emotions are like the weather; they come and they go, often with no apparent explanation. Another teacher said "emotions are simply energy that has been given a name."

All too often I am aware of a cloudy front moving into my emotional topography. There are days when I know all I can do is just live through the storm as I trust this one certain truth: all things change. Somehow just acknowledging the rut I am in is enough to allow some space around it so I can breath and begin to see how I might climb out. Other days, I know I can climb out, but I choose to wallow where I am, for no rational reason other than it is energy that needs to be expressed. And hopefully, transformed.

I've learned a bit about this process by watching Cowgirl cycle through some of her storms. (Please tell me there is a major brain re-wiring process that takes place between the ages of 5 and 6 as this is the only explanation for some of the recent, ahem, outbursts of late.) We have had events that felt like reenactments of Mount Vesuvius erupting and after a few futile attempts to redirect the lava flow, I've learned it just has to flow. I am always surprised by how cleansed and calm Cowgirl can seem after venting her emotional energy. One minute, she is hurling the most painful words she can find: "You are a terrible mother!" (My deficiency as a mother is usually a result of my saying "no" to something Cowgirl wanted to do; children - like cats - find the word "No" to be the egregious offense possible) and the next moment finds her cuddling on my lap, cooing and giggling in a "life is all butterflies and rainbows" kind of manner.

So if emotions are just energy, sometimes that energy just needs to move and be released. But there are times when I feel stuck and it has been helpful for me to have at my disposal a list or toolbox of things that can help me transform dark energy into something positive. Yesterday was a day where I felt stuck physically (my neck is stiff from being wrenched when Moose lunged after a rabbit while on his leash), was tired (thunderstorms woke me at 2 am) and drained. I knew I had to do something to keep me from descending deeper and I found myself snapping at the husband " I am NOT okay today ... I am floundering here ... I need some space and time to RESET myself!" Which got me thinking ...

What are the ways I can trigger my reset button?

Rest and retreat. Sometimes I need to curl up with a good book (preferably fiction; losing myself in another world) or better yet - a good book in a bubble bath! Even as a child, I understood how soothing and calming water could be for my fiery disposition. As I relax in the water, I envision it cleansing the heavy energies that my body is releasing. (When Cowgirl was very little, I used to run her hands under the faucet and the cool water always relaxed and settled her.)

Hugs and cuddles. True bliss for me is slipping into Cowgirl's room before she wakes, sliding myself down upon her bed and framing my body around her warm puppy self. As she is rarely still when awake, it is pure heaven to place my hand on her belly, feeling her silky head under my chin and breathe in her unique bouquet of soap, warm sheets and the top note of lingering strawberries.

My art journal. No matter what is going on, I can loose myself in materials as I direct my mind away from what ails me and focus instead upon the juicy flow of a caran d'ache watercolor crayon, dipped in water and squished upon the page. Seriously, next to the word Juicy in the dictionary is a picture of these babies.

A walk outside. The blessing and curse of a dog is they thrive on being walked. Even when it feels like I am moving concrete, the mere act of getting myself up and out of the house and moving can shift my energy. Moose, in general, is definitely a key tool in my centering toolbox. (see above journal inspiration for proof!)

Time in my yoga room.
Sometimes movement is what is needed, but usually I just need to sit or lie down. When I am particularly scattered, a guided meditation is the best things for helping me center myself. If I am being really good to myself, I will pop on my ipod and listening to goddess Leonie Allan's Divine Dreaming Meditation before going to sleep. Yummy as ice cream but without the calories!

Leonie Allan's Divine Dreaming Kit is one of several beautiful meditations she offers on her website

Speaking of ice cream ... since I join so many art challenges I was thinking to myself I needed a change of pace. I think I am ready for the Ben & Jerry's Eat Every Flavor Before the End of Summer ice cream extravaganza. Sometimes I need to invite a little sweetness into my life.

the things i will do for my art! so far, mint oreo cookie is my favorite ...

Seek out inspiration. I can get overwhelmed by all that is available at my fingertips, so when I am in an emotional storm, I try to limit my online time to only those places and people I know will nurture, soothe and inspire me. This week, beautiful Connie (one of the midwives to my creativity) shared this awesome video from Jen Lemen. Not only has she given me chills, but the seed of an idea has been planted and with that act, my mood has lifted.

These are just a few things I grabbed this week to help me reset and find my center. I am constantly restocking my toolbox, so I would love to know your tips for transforming clouds into sunshine, rain into laughter. Or perhaps more accurately, how do you incorporate all types of weather into your life?

Painting with a Purpose Update: The winner of Joyful Giraffe is Jeannie! Thanks everyone for supporting us with your words and your dollars. Our fourth painting will be posted this Friday and we've extended the campaign to five paintings, so there is still time to join in and win! For more details, click here.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Art-filled Summer (Artistic Mother & My Best Shots)

readers diptych: Me by C-Dog (left); C-Dog by Me (right)

Left: Me by Cowgirl; Right: Cowgirl by Me

A quick recap to help establish the mood and setting for my life last week:

1) dog sick with "tummy" troubles (meaning: lots of walks so no accidents occur):
2) air conditioning on main floor of house not working for 3 of the hottest and most humid days of summer thus far;
3) kitchen sink detaches itself from concrete countertop (a case of beer held it in place);
4) electric circuit in basement (my art area) blows and cannot be reset;
5) did I mention it was incredibly hot and humid all week?

I am happy to say, in spite of these challenges, art was made, projects completed and we earned our afternoon trips to the pool, cold beer (me) and nightly ice cream reward (me & Cowgirl). And thankfully everything except the heat and humidity has been resolved!

One project that had been languishing for weeks was an altered story book which is a project from The Artistic Mother by Shona Cole (I am part of the online Group working through the projects together. To see other examples, or to join, go here.) I don't know why it took me so long to complete; I have made travel/memory books using altered kid's board books before and I love making these pieces.

i collected photographs, tickets, maps, stickers and postcards from our trip and then collaged the pieces into a board book. i wrote journal entries on the back of postcards to document our trip.

I buy cheap board books from the discount table at my local bookstore. (You could probably find cheaper ones in a used bookstore.) I first gesso all the pages and then go back over each page using a brayer to apply the acrylic paint. (The directions in The Artistic Mother have you mixing paint into the gesso for a lighter effect; I decided to stick with vibrant colors so I only did the cover in tinted gesso.)

The theme was to be a story about Cowgirl. Ever since she was a baby we have played the game "Where's Cowgirl?" It is peek a-boo except I had read that since "Bu" is a negative in Chinese, it might scare the child to keep saying Boo or "NO NO" to them. (Never mind Cowgirl knew Cantonese! She used to say BAH! and wag her finger at me which must have been the no she heard from her nannies.) When she was little, Cowgirl would simply hide herself under a towel (her security blanket) but now the game has morphed into a variation of hide and seek. Since this game so defines her, I settled upon the story "Where is She?" Each page asks the question "Where is Cowgirl? Is that Cowgirl?" and the facing page is one of the many characters she encompasses:

To put the book together, I wrote out the text and selected images using matt photographic paper to print on. (I simply created everything in a Word document, that way I could easily change the size of each photograph to fit the book.) For each page I picked a color based upon the images I was going to use and then I stamped in some details and colored the edges with water soluble oil crayon. Since Cowgirl wanted to take the book to school for Show and Tell, I decided to add a layer of Mod Podge over each page for extra protection and durability. I tried rubbing a wax candle over the surface of each page to hopefully cut down on the stickiness (a trick I learned from a fellow art journaler when using gel medium on pages).

I am pretty pleased with the final product and hope to make a couple of books with pictures from our weekend at Chinese Heritage Camp. At least, that project is on my "To Remember" list!

Since finishing my 365 project of self portraits at the end of June, I have been neglecting my camera. One morning I remembered to grab it before heading out the door on an early morning walk with Moose and guess what?

Yup, fog everywhere. I kept my camera with me even though I doubted I would see anything worth shooting. Thankfully, the Universe always has some magical tricks up her sleeve which I might have missed if I wasn't looking so intently for something to photograph:

In one tree alone I found 5 beautiful webs! (To see another one, check out Unravelling Together where my web had a fortuitous encounter with some oranges.)

And even when it is too hot to venture outside, I can stay in and play with some And amazing backgrounds/textures available for free when you sign up at Kim Klassen Cafe for her weekly offerings. This week I received "Simple Things" texture and look how beautiful it is paired with a busy bee (hmmm?):

and a pumpkin blossom (yes, that is Cowgirl's pumpkin plant!):

I've only just begun to explore the possibilities available by tweaking the effects and lighting and opacity features in PhotoShop.
So much fun, I can't wait for Kim's Stay-cation in August. (Thank you Janice for sharing these goodies with all of us!)

Guess I have been busy! But there is so much fun to be had, it feels right to balance intense playful work with intense play.
Cowgirl and I have two more paintings scheduled to make and I just bought more paints for week three of BIG.

How are you filling in your summer days? What memories are you busy making?

Friday, July 16, 2010

Painting with a Purpose: Week 3 Giveaway! (and art overload)

I cannot believe we have completed three pieces for Painting with a Purpose and we've already surpassed our goal! This week we have a 8 by 10 inch Joyful Giraffe ready to be yours! If you've made a donation already, then leave a comment today to be entered into the drawing. (If your name appears on the honor roll or I have your name from previous weeks, you are still in the drawing!) Cowgirl will draw a name on Monday and I will announce the winner on Wednesday.

Cowgirl and I are have so much fun making our paintings together that I've decided we will do a total of 5 (because Cowgirl is five) and extend the campaign through the end of July. That means there will be two more paintings to win! Even though we've exceeded our goal, I would love to go beyond. So, if you haven't made a donation yet, there is still time! Simply click on the badge to the right of this page that reads: DONATE NOW. And when you donate, your name will be entered into our drawing each week - so a donation today means two changes of winning. Just be sure to either sign the honor roll on my pledge page, leave a comment here or email me: lishofmann(at)novia(dot)net.

I know everyone is feeling the pinch of our current economic climate, but no donation is too small. Every dollar counts! Each act of love fills a bucket that will overflow as long as we keep adding our drops. I wanted to share this story from HTS's website:

Holding up Half the Sky
One day an elephant saw a hummingbird lying on its back with its tiny feet up in the air. "What are you doing?" asked the elephant.

The hummingbird replied, "I heard that the sky might fall today, and so I am ready to help hold it up, should it fall."

The elephant laughed cruelly. "Do you really think," he said, "that those tiny feet could help hold up the sky?"

The hummingbird kept his feet up in the air, intent on his purpose, as he replied, "Not alone. But each must do what he can. And this is what I can do."
— A Chinese Folktale

The name Half the Sky also comes from a Chinese saying "Women hold up half the sky." I am witnessing so many amazing women lifting their arms, raising their creative voices and hands to bring inspiration, hope and healing into their lives. By sharing their stories - your stories because each of you who come here and leave me a comment, link me to your wonderful world - bring light into our hearts and minds.

This is what Cowgirl and I can do: we can paint our hopes and our dreams and send them out to nudge free your smiles, your laughter, and your dreams for a world where every child is loved, every child matters. And that includes the child within each of our hearts!

I hope you will take a moment to watch this brief, but beautiful video about the various programs Half the Sky Foundation offers to the orphaned children of China. And when you are done, let us know what your little legs can do. We are here, holding up our corner, won't you join us?
Our Joyful Giraffe is ready to come to your home!

And as if the Art a-Thon isn't keeping me busy enough, here are some other exciting programs and projects I've just learned about and am considering joining. (Yes, I reaching critical creative mass and am uncertain of what will occur when I blow!)

Thanks Lisa and Nolwenn for sharing information about The Sketchbook Project:

Janice, you always get me into trouble! Learn about a free (!) Inspiration Staycation
being run by Kim Klassen who has lots of inspiring things to share over on her blog Kim Klassen Cafe.

And yes, I am also doing Creativity 101 by Andrea at ABC Creativity which is also FREE people!

Oh, oh and don't forget to check out 30 Journals, 30 Days where later today yours truly will be featured! There are loads of yummy videos to watch, links to get lost in and buckets of inspiration to keep everyone busy making art this summer.

Think about it - if everyone was busy making art, what kind of world would we be creating? Perhaps a world filled with Joyful Giraffes?

Please help me spread the word about Painting with a Project. We don't want to slow down now!