Friday, December 31, 2010

Turning the Page

Happy New Year, friends! So here we are, inching towards another year, another decade. Like many of you, I've been taking stock of how 2010 has left its mark -- both good and bad -- on my life, and how it's influenced me as an artist. So, in no particular order, here are the 10 Things I've Learned This Year:

1.  Sometimes it's better not to look before you leap.

I've always had a nonrational fear of stingrays, and not just because of what happened to Steve Irwin. So you can imagine my reaction upon finding out that we'd be snorkeling among manta rays on a recent trip to the Bahamas. Nine-foot-wide mantas, in fact. "It's getting close to feeding time," said the resort snorkeling guide, "so they'll probably get pretty close." Great, I thought, securing my dive mask and pushing off into the lagoon anyway. The guide was right. There's nothing like looking down and seeing a behemoth of a manta ray -- and the above photo doesn't do it justice -- swimming straight up toward you. Climbing back on land an hour later, I felt hoarse from screaming underwater, but I also felt the rush of feeling very much alive.

Back in January, I entered my first art show, sponsored by The League of Reston Artists, a local art organization. I watched the other artists file in with their beautiful oil paintings and photographs, and couldn't help but feel a bit intimidated. After all, these were real artists. For a moment, I considered backing out. But I hung my work and went home.

A few weeks later, the League sent out an email announcing the upcoming art show reception, along with those who'd won awards at the show. Turns out I'd snagged an Honorable Mention in Painting!

2. Yes, you belong here.

In April, I'd entered another show at The Soundry, a venue known for its unorthodox, well, everything. For this show, which The Soundry coined F*ck the Machine (summing up its attitude of the traditional art world), the participating artists would become the art jury. We'd have to fight it out through three rounds of eliminations; the whole process would take over four hours. We got up before our peers and explained our work, fielding questions and defending it, if necessary. Likewise, the process was filmed broadcast live online.

I chose to submit And Another Thing, a graffiti painting I'd done for my younger daughter. The piece featured different lessons I wanted to pass on to her. At the end of the night, I returned home alone. The painting would hang in the exhibit.

Some works in the F*ck the Machine exhibit. Mine is on the right.

3.  Art feeds the soul.

In May, I had the great opportunity to take two classes with one of my mentors, Traci Bautista, at Art & Soul Hampton. Her book, Collage Unleashed, had been a huge inspiration to me. Meeting her in person, and working on projects with the very materials she'd used in her book, was unforgettable!

Art quilt I'd made in Traci's Spilling Canvas class

4.  Weather the storm.

This year has dealt its share of storms, too. Rejections, both professional and personal. Way too personal, in fact. But that's life. 

5.  You can bend only so much. 

I've felt torn in a million directions this year. Sure, lots of good things have happened, but I tend to take on too much at once. The best of intentions with the worst planning imaginable. Welcome to my life! 

And so, I'm slowly learning that I can't be everything to everyone all the time. You've been warned!

6.  It's ok to imagine being successful.

The more I do art, the more I understand myself. Taking Traci Bautista's Discovering Y.O.U. Art Marketing Course helped me sort things out a lot this year, and allowed me time to think about where I was in my art and how I'd like to see it transform. While preparing one of the homework assignments, I came upon an old journal I'd written over a decade ago while I was still living in NY. It was interesting to note the similarities between how I'd felt then, and now. I worked part of the journal into the graffiti collage in this photo:

7.  Everyone gets stuck sometimes.

In talking with other artists, one common experience we share from time to time is the fear of the blank canvas/page/etc. Maybe the solution is to just spill something -- anything -- on it, and see where it takes you. 

8. Don't overthink it.

In my opinion, the process of making art should free you. Maybe that's why I don't understand the point of agonizing over compositions. I've learned to work from the gut instead. 

9. Artists have a responsibility to inspire. 

Over the year, I've tried to connect with other creative types, both locally and globally. While this is still relatively new territory for me, the exchange of ideas has been a great learning experience. I look forward to meeting more of you out there!

10. Treasure random moments of joy.

This year, I'm helping to coordinate a volunteer-run art history program at my older daughter's school. It's a lot of work (especially for someone like me who's not a "kid person" per se), but I love seeing the kids' faces light up during our presentations. You'd be surprised how much they absorb from one lesson to the next. After they quiz me each month on how my purple hair "got like that," I admire how they attack the projects with sheer honesty, too. 

And so, my new year's wish for you comes from an old Irish blessing. Parts of it are incorporated in this graffiti collage:

Deep peace of the running wave to you. 
Deep peace of the flowing air to you.
Deep peace of the quiet earth to you.
Deep peace of the shining stars to you.
Deep peace of the gentle night to you.
Moon and stars pour their healing light on you.

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Photo Tutorial: Graffiti Christmas Ornaments

Yes, Virginia, there IS a new blog post!

(One that I'd hoped to get out much sooner.)

Christmas had always been a huge deal at our house, growing up. The Christmas tree took three days to put up, on account of how particular my mother was about affixing each of the 1,836,789 ornaments on the right branch, next to the perfect-colored light. Decorating that tree seemed to be the highlight of her year. She'd once left it up until Good Friday, but that's another story.

It took over a week to put up my tree this year, owing to a revolving door of art shows, illnesses, Nutcracker rehearsals/performances, volunteer commitments, and the usual chaos that rules my life. Still, I spent some time in the studio (aka Our Lady of Perpetual Chaos), working on graffiti-inspired Christmas ornaments. (You'll probably see some of that creative chaos in the final result.)

Start with a glass craft ornament.

Adhere strips of tissue paper to the ornament. You may wish to add several layers in some areas to vary the texture. Let dry.

I used several colors of tissue paper to cover the ornaments.

Next, mix up some acrylic glazes.

Using random strokes, paint layers of glazes over the tissue paper. Let dry between layers. Here, I also added texture by painting sections of rubber shelf liner with heavy body acrylic and then rolling the ornament over it.

Experiment with other materials you may have around. On these ornaments, I also used fabric spray paint, alcohol ink, and india ink.

To add even more texture, I painted the tops of the ornaments silver and, when dry, added a coat of glass bead medium. It would eventually dry nearly transparent.

Almost done!

Afterwards, I used markers to write Christmas sayings, such as Merry, Comfort & Joy, Noel, Silent Night, and Peace on the ornaments. I also decorated them with stars and hearts.

A lot of work, but a ton of fun!