Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Flying Girl Takes a Risk, or List

Flying Girl Takes a Risk, or List, 9/29/08
Golden Fluid Acrylics, Prismacolor Watercolor Pencils, Faber Castell Pitt Artist Pen.

Oy. The kids woke up earlier than normal and I had to stop writing just now. Now I'm too tired and I have to get started on painting. This has completely mucked up my schedule. And I don't remember at all the connections I had made and wanted to write about.

Is it okay if I don't get profound and just babble a little?

I used the color inspiration photo from yesterday. I think I got closer to the image, but I don't know if I like the painting better than yesterday. But then.... maybe not. These are unusual color combos. And I did have to mess with it a lot to keep it all harmonious. Sometimes these paintings feel like I am flipping through a book of color chips. Switch this, switch that, sky, horizon, girl. Shade darker. tint lighter. Toss in some orange. It's a very interesting exercise, and I am learning to let go and not hold on so tightly to what I think it should look like.

I am learning to take risks.

And that is the key to life, I think, sometimes, that taking chances. Maybe that's what this picture is about. The small confining, lonely house without windows, and there she is flying from it with her short list of things to do. Things that are risky because you have to put yourself out there, outside of your safe, sad walls.

I am going to be 38 soon, and I thought it would be a good thing to make my own list of living. Now, it's only a few weeks, so I'm not making this any sort of crazy travel around the world list, but smaller things, inspired by the lists that doobleh-vay and simply lovely are doing. So here it is.

38 things to do before 38 (November 19)
  1. Paint a month of Flying Girls (this might actually be 30 things, but oh well.)
  2. Schedule an artist's date with myself.
  3. Get G completely off of diapers.
  4. Get some business cards.
  5. Put art supplies in the new cabinet.
  6. Set up a nice workspace in my bedroom.
  7. Sort kids clothes into keep/toss/store/giveaway
  8. Get a long sweater/cardigan
  9. Get some ballet slippers at target.
  10. Buy new paints and paintbrushes.
  11. Write 25k words in my new novel (for nanowrimo).
  12. Write an outline for my new novel (in October)
  13. Figure out Flickr.
  14. Go trick or treating with the kids. (I hear my neighborhood is Halloween central.)
  15. Have a Halloween Party on October 18 (a Fanciful Twist. Awesome blog!)
  16. Listen to music more often.
  17. Take a walk to the beach with the kids.
  18. Collect (steal) sand to make a mini sandbox for the kids to play with.
  19. Make a holiday plan (including gift lists and plans for making stuff.)
  20. Put ten paintings on my etsy shop.
  21. Get a learner's permit.
  22. Get a scanner/printer (either the one from storage, or a new one. Or get comfortable using my uncle's.)
  23. Clean and purge bedside tables.
  24. Start inspiration file/board.
  25. Mae playdough with the kids.
  26. Make rice krispie treats.
  27. Get some sculpey and make stuff.
  28. Straighten out paypal account.
  29. Make small and heartfelt public. (Not ready yet, so no link.)
  30. Post one of my poems.
  31. Host a giveaway.
  32. Make a Flying Girl with my Alice in Wonderland.
  33. Do some ATCs/ACEOs.
  34. Connect w S.
  35. Get a project going with PK. (PK, if you're out there, we've got to get off our rears.)
  36. Start making Christmas presents.
  37. Write up a business plan.
  38. Post this list.
Woo Hoo!

And I can knock #38 off right away. Isn't that exciting.

So these things are about small things, but they also mean a lot towards my goals in my life. Life is made up of small things, isn't it? You conquer your fears by facing the small things, don't you? And some of these things, I recognize I have been working on for a long time, and they aren't that small. Some of the things are the last step on a long journey. Even the end of the journey takes small steps before you leap off the end of that precipice and fly.

What small things can you do to face your fears and really live your life?

Monday, September 29, 2008

Flying Girl Enters the Sun, or Mandala

Flying Girl Enters the Sun, or Mandala, 9/28/08

I have no idea what this painting means.... or I haven't had time to sit with it and analyze it, and feel it, and allow its meaning to bloom.

But right now I am sitting, listening to music that I haven't listened to in what seems years, and everything seems to have more significance. It's the transcendence of Joni Mitchell's voice combined with her poetic words. I'm feeling a little floaty, here, so don't mind if I wander from thought to thought.

Did you know that Joni Mitchell is a painter? She's very good. Funny how when you're an artist, boundaries are more easily broached. You don't have to be JUST a singer or JUST a writer or JUST a painter... there is room for all of that to flower.

Just as there is plenty of room for inspiration to flower wherever it is planted. Or room for happiness to happen, anywhere it is noticed. Today, I will notice some of my recent happinesses. It helps, as does remembering to breathe.

Joni Mitchell and Night Ride Home makes me happy.

This photo from Marie Claire, August 2008, made me so happy, too. It's not because of Maggie Gyllenhaal, although she's a fine actor. It's the colors, the blushing, shadowy, yes and no colors. In fact these were the colors that inspired my painting. I imagined how I could used these colors in my paintings, and a muted sunset came to mind. After my thumbnail sketches and all my examining the colors, when I started, I just went with what I imagined. I can see now when I put the images next to each other, the color scheme is not exact. I wouldn't mind continuing with the colors, making the red more pinky and less yellowy. Changing the proportions to more of the blush, less of the dusty blue, more of the dark, too I think. But that is for another painting I think.

Slightly cooler weather makes me happy. I hear tell that it's supposed to be beautiful for another three months... the reason why people come to Florida, apparently.

A cool glass of water when you're thirsty. Truly nothing else is as good.

A picnic. Inspired by a Winnie the Pooh book, I promised the kids we'd have a picnic. So I packed up a basket with their lunch, tossed a checkered blanket over my shoulder, and carried everyone out to the backyard.
Grilled cheese sandwiches. Truly, it's the simple things. You forget how those melty things can taste so good and be so satisfying.

Spider stickers with googly eyes.

Heath Klondike bars. Just right for a snack for mama after the kids have gone to bed.

All the wonderful comments from my readers.

Watching the process of creativity expand as I am engaging directly in it. I knew I wanted to get my painting practice back, but I was not expecting the development that I can see happening. I am always on the look out for ideas. Unexpected things inspire me. Unexpected things happen when I allow the present to take me where it wants to go. Unexpected doors are opened. Unexpected directions are taken. It's just all too cool. I recommend taking on the challenge yourself.

Oh, hey. If you do, you won't be alone. Bad Faery issued a challenge to draw something every day for the month of October. It's called The Big Draw and is based in Britain, but none of that matters, if you go over to her post, you can sign up to play with us. It's a challenge to draw something every day for a month. I'm jumping on, even though I am really painting... but the paintings start out with a drawing, so... what the hey. What they hey to you, too. Wanna try?

Oh, that reminds me the nanowrimo is coming up. Looks like the site is up for the new challenge, so if you're interested in writing a 50 thousand word novel in November, hop on over there and sign up. Then tell me about it, we can be buddies. I'd better start working on my outlines. I hope I am not overextending myself with all of these challenges. But then, I always have been my most productive when I had the most on my plate. Maybe that's what I need to get my butt organized and light it on fire.

What would light your butt on fire?

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Flying Girl Finds the Key, or Plume

Flying Girl Finds the Key, or Plume, 9/27/08
Golden Fluid Acrylics, Prismacolor Watercolor Pencils, Faber Castell Pitt Artist Pens

Today's painting was a surprise. It wasn't where I had planned to go, at all.

It was supposed to be a landscape of ladders of different sizes, a familiar image in my paintings gone by, but after I painted the ground and sky and was supposed to start on the ladders... well... they wouldn't come. Instead, this little house appeared in my minds eye and wouldn't go away. And then there was Flying Girl, and in her hand was a feather.... how else to fly? And then the ladder, propped up against the side of the house. Is that how she got lift off? No windows on that little house, I bet it's dark and claustrophobic inside. But such a jaunty little roof. Same color as the feather, I notice. I wonder if the feather came from that house, if the very place that held her in is the place that provided her freedom.

I see a lot of meaning here. None of it would exist thought if I weren't open to surprise. If I were invested too deeply in my original plan, I would have stayed there, and perhaps not gotten this new entry in my personal lexicon... one that I feel will appear again. Surprise took this concept to a deeper level.

Here's my question to you? Are you open to surprise in your life? Are you willing to walk down that alley where you might find a great discarded, solid wood cabinet? (I did that today when I went to throw out the diapers! It's cool, my art supplies are going in there!) Are you willing to say yes when someone offers you an unforeseen opportunity? Are you willing to toss aside the plans and lists and outlines you have made, when inspiration takes off and opens new doors?

It's all well and good to make your plans and organize your future steps into easy bitesized pieces that you think will get you where you want to go, but when that future starts taking off into reality, are you able to let go of your control enough to jump on and go for a ride?

Practice keeping your eyes open. It's possible that the key you are searching for, the one you are sure is hard and metal and will unlock that door, is really one scarlet feather that teaches you to fly.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Flying Girl is Ready to Go, or Packed

Flying Girl is Ready to Go, or Packed. 9/26.08
Golden Fluid Acrylics, Prismacolor Watercolor Pencils, Faber Castell Pitt Artist Pens.

This painting was inspired by Illustration Friday's prompt, Packed. At first the image in my head was of someone burdened with all their baggage, trying to fly despite the heaviness, and then that was replaced in my head by this image, a red suitcase, and the song "Leaving on a Jet Plane." In fact, I sang that song all while I painted (except for when I was watching the Presidential Debate). I was told that it seems wistful, but it doesn't feel so to me. She's packed her bags with all she needs and is off into the future. I'm not sure if the train is going the same direction she is or if it's not, but I feel certain there's a broad ocean on the other side of those mountains. A sea full of life and opportunity.

This whole painting went differently than many others. Instead of fixing the colors after they went down, I thought about what I wanted before hand. I wanted a rosy dawn tint to the sky, but going through my paints, I couldn't find the key. Then I looked at my pencils. Lately, I've been drawing my sketches with the watercolor pencils, they add a little smudge sometimes that I like. This time I had the brain storm-- why not use the pencils to add color to the paint??? They're water based, so they will blend a little, but not completely. So I colored in the red sky, then washed it with a wet brush to make sure it would give me the right effect, and then on went the paint. I really like that it is sheer enough to let the underpainting show, but also took on some of the watercolor pencil pigment. Layers. Interacting media. Experimentation.


I had thought also about making the mountains purple, but when I had the sky in, I didn't want to jar the nice peach skin blush with a contrasting color. Still wanted a little purpley tint, but didn't want to go all the way. So, hey! Extend the experiment. Color in the land with green in the front, blue in the middle and blue and red (also known as purple) in the back. Voila, the sheerest tint of color to the tan. I did the same on the girl, too, but I liked the wash effect so much, I left off the layer of tan I had been planning.

It is interesting that this painting actually uses more colors than any of the others, but I think it's the most muted of all the paintings. I suppose it's not the colors used, but the way they are handled. I enjoy the experiment, and wonder where it might lead. Particularly with the added addition of the detail of the train. I like the mutedness with the pop of sharper color.

So. What is in that bag that she is carrying?

Here's something that I have been thinking about lately, the things that we need, the things that get us where we are going. I'm pretty certain that the things in that bag are the things left when we purge all the crap we collect all of our lives. Only the best, most beautiful, most beloved, most important things.

The surprise I'm finding is that the things that are left are not about the successes we've had. I think they are about the things that didn't quite work out the way we planned. The failures. The missed opportunities. The times we were not strong enough or brave enough.

Oh let me stop being metaphorical.

I think that I am exactly where I am supposed to be, on the verge of achieving my dreams precisely because I've been knocked around by life.

I am thankful for being poor growing up, because it taught me how to be creative with the available tools at hand (see how not having the right paints forces me to find new ways to use the medium I have.)

I am thankful that my college advisor dumped me in the middle of my poetry honors project, saying I couldn't do it, because it forced me to keep trying, struggling to prove myself right, even while suffering from the blow to my confidence. And it probably kept me from applying to an MFA program for poetry, and had me turn my poetic tendencies to my prose. I think I'm a better fiction and essay writer than I am a poet, but it's because I actually am a poet, even if only a mediocre one.

I am thankful that I never got my wish of being a precocious author who published to great acclaim before she was thirty, because I have learned SOOO much in the last decade and I think it has made me a better writer, a better artist, and a more whole person. I think that last one is the most important. You can be an artist without being crazy and/or addicted to whatever.

What else? I am thankful that the writing for a living was too scary for me and so I turned to teaching, because I don't know if anything has taught me more about myself, about people, about living, about literature and writing than teaching did. And I am even thankful that I burnt out on teaching, because it gave me a chance to turn what I had learned to the creative process... and it made me more marketable. Now, I can't just DO stuff, I can teach you about it while I do it.

I am still dealing with this one, but I am going to look for what I am learning from my current situation. I am grateful that I lost my art mojo while pregnant and nursing my kids (that's almost four years) because my life lessons had a chance to sit and marinate in the fallow period. And I am grateful that I had to work my way back, because that makes me much more conscious of the creative process. And I am grateful that we are in a constrained financial place, because it gives me the motivation to focus on a career, and the time to focus on this right here in front of me, rather than, say, socializing or shopping or adventuring all over creation.

Come to think of it, I don't think that train is going where Flying Girl is going at all. She is off the track. She is limited only by her vision and her desire and her gumption.

Go Girl Go.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Flying Girl in the Garden, or Jungle

Flying Girl in the Garden, or Jungle. 9/25/08
Golden Fluid Acrylic

Sometimes, all is not clear. The horizon is obscured. The sky is shadowed. Sometimes the path is not visible.

But that does not mean we are lost.

Life is not really as simple and clear cut as it seems it should be when we start making plans and think about our dreams. Sometimes we have to take detours. Sometimes we have to reevaluate our directions. Sometimes, things suck.

And that's okay.

Let's take stock of where we actually are. Let's look around for the beauty in the moment, for the lessons in the struggle. Maybe this struggle is there to give us the tools to manage the next step in our dreams. Maybe it is there to make sure we really want what we think we want, or to serve to keep us from taking our blessings for granted. Maybe our jungley life wants us to stop! and pay attention!

Let me tell you, I live in a topsy turvy world where night is bright and lost is found. Bad can be very very good. And good can be the slacker's way out.

As for this painting. The idea came so clearly, while I was out in the garden with the kids. I sketched it out even as I watched the kids get dirty and discover the wonderful world of mud. And yet, the execution of the easy idea turned out to be one of my most difficult.

When I put down the sketch, I was already wary. So many details. Trees and bushes and leaves. So different from the clarity of the pure skyline of the other paintings. After the kids went to bed and I could take out my paints, I knew it was going to take a long time.

And goodness I hated it. The more I painted it, the more I hated it. Too much fuss, too much detail. Too crowded. Too confused. All through Earl, the Office, and CSI I painted. And I think I took it into syndicated sitcoms, too. Mess with this, mess with that. Change the background. Paint out the greenery. Darken the girl. Outline everything. Break the heaviness of the jungle with background. Fix the negative space.

EVERYTHING changed... except for the palm trees... that actually worked, and maybe that was where the concept to adjust the rest of the painting came from. Focus on what was working, adjust the rest.

To tell the truth, this still isn't my favorite painting, but I can see the value in it. Emotionally, it might be a little more personal, less intellectual, and that might be why it felt confused, why it felt uncomfortable.

And I understand now, that's okay. It doesn't all have to be smooth sailing with a balmy sky. We can handle the undergrowth, we can deal with the work of hacking through the wilds, if we focus on where we need to go and where we are, right now.

Do you know, for instance, how lovely a semi tropical garden smells? And how the shade cools from the heat of the sun? And how you can watch life find a way to persevere and flourish?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Flying Girl Leads the Way, 9/24/08
Golden Acrylics and Faber Castell Pitt Artist Pens

I've been thinking about Flying Girl a little, (okay, a lot) and one of the things I realized from doing all these paintings and writing about them and looking at them, is that in reality Flying Girl (me) is not actually alone.

When I first came up with Flying Girl, almost, oh, TWENTY years ago, I was kind of alone. And my creative journeys were often solo journeys. Just me and my journal, you know.

But this is not the actuality of my life any more. And I am not solo. In real life, everywhere I go, I take my two littles. It is almost like the painting depicts and the boundaries between us aren't really there, connected as we are, inseparably.

Someday soon, I know my children will have more independence. They will fly on their own, but right now, they use my wings.

As for the painting of this, I had planned the concept out earlier. I've been thinking also about composition, seeing that I've kind of just been plopping these girls on the paper and seeing what happened, so this time I wanted to have a little more forethought in placement. I don't think I thought real hard about it this time, either, seeing as I didn't know what the horizon would look like.

It's kind of tricky coordinating the concept and the colors and the composition and the lines and the light and the everything. Doing this whole series is making me more aware of how many choices there are in the very simple idea of the Flying Girl Adventures. I'm also looking to challenge myself, and I am getting tired of the blue/yellow color schemes. And the pink is just not satisfying me. I rarely use purple so I thought, what the hey! I didn't plan that part.

In the end, I usually go intuitively, screw the plans. What color do I feel? Once I have a general color scheme down, what new color needs to be added? (This time it was green/yellow.) How does the brush want to be handled, sharp or soft? The horizon is almost always about meaning, an intuitive, mythical, archetypal idea that allows Flying Girl to learn whatever lesson it is that she needs next.

This time, I asked myself, (or was I asking Flying Girl?) where she was leading? And I imagined a long road, up into the mountains. But why would a Flying Girl Need a road? A difficult trip, made easier by flight? Now that I think about it, should I add in a thin, ribbon like road? It is a rather featureless mountain. I might still add a road. I might leave it be. I don't know. It's all a mystery, really until I get there.

Where is there?

That is another question I asked Flying Girl in this painting.

Do you know what she said?


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Flying Girl and The Lesson, or Bee

Flying Girl and The Lesson, or Bee. 9/23/08 Golden Fluid Acrylics and Faber Castell Pitt Artists Pen.

This has to be quick, before nap time runs out. Actually, that is fitting, because this painting was quick, done, as it was, after I had updated my goals list over on 43things. You can find me there, too, if you want. It was late at night, and I knew what I was going to try, thanks to Karen at Beelieve, and whose post I used as my visual source. I knew I didn't want to mess around with the multiple layers and fits and starts of my usual process. I just didn't have time.

I knew I would be doing just one layer of color, and that's what I did. You can actually see the paper through the paint. And the bee was drawn with the help of my beloved Pitt artist pens, using what I learned yesterday in the smudging and drawing experience. It was a quick and satisfying painting all together, but the last part to be decided on, was the skyline. I just did not know what the land should look like. City? Flat horizon? Hills? No idea. So after sketching the girl and the bee, I thought I would listen, as Flying Girl was, to whatever the bee had to teach me.

And what I heard was, "bridge."

Hmm. I don't know if I actually heard the word, or maybe I saw the image, but I asked for what lesson needed to be painted and suddenly I knew. A bridge. It put me in mind of the the George Washington Bridge, that stretched right outside the front door of my cousins' apartment building growing up, spanning the silvery Hudson River. It was always magical. And it also put me in mind of the famous and storied Brooklyn Bridge. There are few structures that more represent MY New York City than that bridge. And then again, the more personal Williamsburg Bridge, the bridge that led from my old apartment in Manhattan to my later home in Williamsburg. I still have never managed to achieve my goal of walking across the Williamsburg Bridge... although Ivy was very close to almost being born on that bridge (I think I would have named her Willamina Bridget if she had, never mind what S says.)

Then again, it's probably not an actual bridge at all.

What exactly is this lesson the bee wants Flying Girl (and me) to know? Is it something about transitions? Is it something about the woozying effect that crossing over from one world to another can have? Is it something about collecting nectar and making honey while the sun shines? I am not sure. Maybe all. Maybe none. Maybe that bee has something else to say to Flying Girl (to me, to you.)

Maybe listening is in order.


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Flying Girl Opens Her Heart, or Rose

Flying Girl Opens Her Heart, or Rose. 9/22/08
Golden Fluid Acrylics and Faber Castell Pitt Artist Pens.

Oh the struggles I had. Sitting down with an empty brain. Exhaustion. A blooming headache. Yet, I soldiered on. Took out my bag of paints, opened up my journal and flipped through it, hoping to find some vision within the thoughts on the page. Luckily, I had written out a poem posted by Lizabeth on motherhoodrevolution. The poem is by Hafiz, a Sufi master. Now I know nothing about Sufism, but the poem spoke to me, and it helped me to speak.

It Felt Love

Did the rose
Ever open its heart

And give to this world
All its

It felt the encouragement of light
Against its

We all remain



Fear is such a difficult thing in art. In life, really. It is so easy to be overwhelmed by fear, to hide from it, to let it win. It's easy to live in discouragement and negativity and self destructive mantras like, "I can't." That one is my personal favorite.

It is interesting to see how the deepest truths in the universe manifest themselves in multiple levels, many layers, from the smallest pinch to the largest life experience. The fractals of a rose can be seen in the growth of a galaxy or the whizzing pattern of atoms. The growth of a rose is nurtured by the warmth of the sun, the way the growth of a child is nurtured by the warmth of a parent giving him direction, the way the growth of a painting is nurtured by an artist's faith in her own process.

Because this painting did not start out in a happy place.

Which is odd, because I started it with a happy color. Pink.

In fact, the original painting was only done in pink and white... or to be more precise, various tints of Titan Buff and Cadmium Red Medium. And gosh it was pink overload. Cotton candy, baby girl ruffled pinafore gag me with a spoon pink. Okay, to be fair it wasn't that bad, but it didn't touch me. How to fix? Trust the process.

I "felt" gold, so I added it to the rose and the aura of the flying girl. Still, there was no edge to the painting. So I added the brown, which served me well before when I was struggling with pink. Still it bored me. Here you can see the result of last night's painting.
Sigh. It just felt off to me, but I was too tired and could see no opening into the picture. I considered posting it as is, as a discussion on how everything does not have to be wonderful, every piece does not have to be a winner, every move does not have to be perfect. I thought it would be a contribution to the discussion... but this morning, I couldn't leave it be. I thought the girl should be darker, not pink, so I searched out my brown paint, but unable to find the one I wanted and not really looking forward to cracking open the mess of paints, brushes, palettes, water, etc I realized I didn't have to. I could turn to my other supplies, my favorite Faber Castell Pitt Artist pens and I could draw. Yes I could draw a fine line and try out the brown, instead of fussing with paint. And I could test out the shade instead of just painting it in dark brown.

So I made my outline, and then realized I didn't have to go straight to brown, I could smudge it with tan... so I did, enjoying the rusty shade that came out. And then I realized I could smudge up the brashness of the gold rose... so I did. Now I love the look of the gold. It also reproduces better. And by darkening the rose and girl, halo didn't look so jarring and the skies didn't look so pink.

Phew! Saved again by taking the risk and not being afraid that it wouldn't turn out. And how well I know that fear, how many years I have struggled with it. To tell the truth, I am painting all of these Flying Girls in my journal, a small book, a private book. I am still afraid to paint large, still afraid to paint on canvas, still afraid to set it up and make it public. Afraid to commit to the professional statement of "I am an ARTIST." In all caps. Not artist in her journal or amongst her friends. A real one. An artist out there in the big bad world.

Yeah, I'm posting it, but we all have our comfort zones. This doesn't bother me, it's just like another journal to me, but to make art for public consumption? For people to buy?


Hey. I didn't know this post was going here. Dang it.

You realize don't you that I have been thinking of opening up an etsy shop and putting all my little flying girls up there for sale, don't you? You realize don't you that all of your encouragement is helping me get my courage (hey, why have I never made the connection that "encourage" comes from "courage?") up to make that big step? I hope you realize that seeing myself through your comments and posts is helping me...oh!


Monday, September 22, 2008

Flying Girl Searches for Fellowship, or Clique

Flying Girl Searches for Fellowship, 9/21/08, Golden Fluid Acrylics

This was a simple painting. Prompted from Illustration Friday's "Clique." Sky, earth, the girl, and the small circle of people below. I suppose in my mind, I was thinking of certain circles of bloggers who keep managing to go on these amazing outings with awesome women, and I would love to be doing something similar right now but am just not in the place to do so. Right now, that is.

But I didn't read the prompt from that place of exclusion that you might think of cliques. The HS cool kids. Exclusion. And I don't feel like I am really on the outside of those bloggers I admire. Well, maybe a little, but I don't think it says something fundamental about who I am.

Whatever my inspiration, when I painted it, boy did it feel plain. Everything seemed so flat and bland. So in walked my, "what can I do to mess this up/fix this" brain and instead of adding detail and shadow or deepening colors or sketching out features or writing words I said, "I think I'll try to pale-ify it even more and washed it with white.

Woosh! Something clicked. (haha. click. clique) and it started to make sense. I liked the ephemeral quality. I liked it being indistinct. It was a touch too pale and cool, so I thought it could use another wash of color, and searching through my bag o' paints found Quinacridone Gold and added water to make it even sheerer (I could have used gel medium, but that would have meant going upstairs to get it.) A wash of that solved the coolness and added an almost antiquey look and dirtied it up a bit. I liked that. And last touch, a halo of white around the figures.

In the end, it is unclear what is actually happening here. Is Flying Girl flying, or standing? Is the group/clique flying or standing? Is that the ground or is it the sea? Is it the horizon or a range of mountains in the distance? I like that the boundaries are indistinct. Maybe that's the way human relations are in life. There is no black and white, really, no us vs. them, just souls trying to make the best of what they have.

Is Flying Girl going to meet these people? Are they waiting for her? Or is she simply flying by, watching, from a distance?

Who knows? The answer is unclear. The outcome is hazy. Magic eightball... what will become of Flying Girl?

Ask again tomorrow, when you turn in for the next installment in the Adventures of Flying Girl... same flying time, same flying channel.

(Oh, and did I mention how much I didn't want to do this painting? I even thought about posting one I had already painted but didn't much like as my daily painting. But I thought that would kind of be cheating. So I sat down with the paints to see what I could do, to see how long I could keep up this painting a day. Will I do another tonight when it has to compete with the new season of Heroes? Who knows, the answer is unclear. Tune in tomorrow, same flying time... you know the drill.)

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Flying Girl Finds Her Voice, or Storyteller

Flying Girl Finds Her Voice, or Storyteller.
text in random order:
no end
of her dreams the girl
there was a girl
as she discovered her powers she
only beginnings
once upon a time
than she ever thought
and there was
and farther
to fly
and new
she learned how
travelled the world
flew higher
in search
over and

One more Flying Girl, in Golden Fluid Acrylics and Faber Castell Pitt Artist Pens.

I had originally meant this to be full of colors, but I didn't have enough of the right colors and I also wanted that pale, limited palette look. Plus, when the clouds appeared (they weren't in the original vision) I liked the idea that the stories told floated off into the world to provide rain or shade, to make the land fertile and soothing, so I wanted to keep the story cloud close to cloud shades.

This was an easeful painting. Not easy, because I had to struggle with the colors of the word cloud a little, but calming. I think the paleness helps. I started the sky with more white than I thought would be good, and it turned out to be easier that way than the multiple layers trying to lighten things up. I guess not everything has to be intense. I'm sure there's no metaphor there.

Also easeful is the inspiration. It's another InspireMeThursday goody. Prompts are nice sometimes. What am I going to paint tonight? My brain is kind of empty. Oh wait, I have the Illustration Friday prompt waiting.

A Story In (Mostly) Pictures

Before bedtime milk and adventures. (picture by mama)

G wants to take a picture with the camera (picture by AiAi)

Mama and Ai Ai, G gets away...(picture by G)

...to go on a jungle picture safari (by G)
Uh oh... Mama says picture time is over. (by G)

"My choo!" translation, me too. (by Mama)

Sitting on mama's lap learning to take pictures (by AiAi)

Bob is up there somewhere. (by AiAi)

No one has ever seen Bob, but he's up there. (by Mama)Sundown. Bedtime. (by Mama)

(It's fun to see what the kids see, even if they don't quite have the chops to handle a camera yet... someday they will. Just ask G.)

PS As a little added post, I was just over at Martha's blog (I do loves me some Martha Stewart) and she had a whole show on bloggers. I wasn't there, although it would've been fun, but she also has a post on her blog about starting a blog and a contest to be put on her blogroll. I just think it's pretty awesome that some small blogger somewhere can be a satellite in the Martha Stewart Universe. Check it out.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Flying Girl Lets Go, or Rapunzel

I am sitting here, after putting the kids to nap. I can hear the boy upstairs rearranging furniture, but that's what he does, before he falls asleep. He's probably playing Spiderman.

I am sitting here, after straightening up, eating my lunch and thinking about my post. Which picture do I want to publish? What lessons have I learned? What direction am I going with all this flying?

I have been painting a picture a day, at least, for the last... I'm not sure, since Strange Land, Yellow Sky. I think that's a week. I didn't plan to do it, well, not technically... or perhaps I did.

I think it was a month ago when I told Kelley over at Dragonfly Reflections, that I would join her on her journey of 100 Days of Sacred Art. After reading her posts and writing some of my own, and commenting and reading others comments I realized that to follow strict guidelines of rules and everysingledays and making myself into a perfectionist nut was not the way for me to go in this challenge, so I kind of stopped trying to do the every day, or even to think about it every day.

But perhaps I didn't really stop thinking about it. Perhaps it just went into my subconscious, or onto my long list of things I'd like to do someday but actually ended up being something that I was working on without my even knowing that I was working on it. Even after I lost my camera and lost my momentum on trying to do this project, something was still working on it.

It was almost like my soul was trying to find a way into the project. I needed a route that was authentic and timely for me.

I knew I wanted to paint more. I knew I wanted to be spiritual. I knew I wanted to focus on my soul. I knew I wanted to start a creative business somehow. I knew I wanted to be engaged in a dialog about this. I knew I wanted to join creative challenges. I knew I wanted to find my voice. I knew I wanted to experiment with style. I knew I needed a key.

And... here she is. Flying Girl.

How did I find her? I kept showing up, even when I couldn't do the Sacred Art Everyday. I kept showing up even when I had bad news and big fights and bumps in the road (it may have looked like I was taking a break, but I think the conscious choice to take off was me showing up for my soul that needed rest.) I kept showing up when I continued to search for inspiration in other artist. I kept showing up when I continued to step up to the art challenges and allowed myself to go out of my comfort zone. I kept showing up when I took on the Be Brave challenge, even if I wasn't as brave as I thought I should be every day. I kept showing up when I stuck all my paints in my little beach bag and took it with me, looking for a space in my space where I could TRY.

I kept showing up for the inspiration to come, and the inspiration showed up for me. And the doors opened for the journey.

Of course Flying Girl is me. Just like every character I ever wrote is me. And not me. Where am I going? Where am I flying with this girl? I think I have finally found the way into my etsy shop.... something that I have been putting off for a year. Well, I did have a lot to do this year and a lot of changes to deal with. Maybe I also had a lot of discovering and uncovering and recovering to do.

I am still all sorts of discombobulated about how to manage the business and the printing of the shop, but at least now I have a place to begin. Oh, and if you were inside of my head, you would see all the flitting ideas, like butterflies, that want to come out. It's like fricking Capistrano (that is where the monarchs go, isn't it?) But perhaps, just like the inspiration needed time to grow and develop and transform, the new butterfly ideas also need the time to find their strength.

I hardly know.

I do know that this latest painting is inspired by a challenge I found somewhere (I lost the link) to create a collage, I think from a fairy tale. Interestingly, this was the easiest painting so far. I never hated it, never struggled with it, but I was always looking for the shape of it and what it called for next. It's not the collage that the challenge called for, but the challenge was outdated anyway. I just followed the challenge which turned into an inspiration and out came Rapunzel from her tower, shedding her locks like a butterfly sheds her cocoon. Getting rid of the weight that holds her down, letting go of the old ideas that held her captive.

Witch? What witch? Rapunzel was the one who locked herself away, in fear and self preservation. Prince? She don't need no stinkin' prince, the power of freedom was always inside of herself. How long were those scissors sitting on her windowsill before she noticed them? How long before she realized how heavy those golden locks were? How long before she saw how wide the sky and how warm the sun?

Time to let go. When do the self imposed walls and rules imprison you? What locks hold you back? Is that a key in your hand?

Friday, September 19, 2008

Flying Girl Searches for Dawn, or Lotus

Flying Girl Searches for Dawn, or Lotus. 9/18/08

I almost feel a little embarrassed about posting another Flying Girl painting. I have even more waiting in the wings. I really have tapped some sort of inspiration. I think I was looking for this. I think I was working on trying to tap that well with the Hand paintings, and this was what happened. Flying Girl. I might try to go into my files and show you all the first Flying Girl painting. I did it when I was in college. I did not know how long the image would continue to echo in my life. I'll have to find the original.

Where did this idea come from?

I can barely recall. Ideas are coming fast and furious. Sometimes they come in the middle of the night. Sometimes they come while I'm chasing kids around, hoping for a moment to grab a piece of paper and write or sketch an idea. Sometimes they come when I am searching on line. Sometimes once the kids have gone to sleep for a nap or for the night.

This one, I can't remember when the initial idea came, but I do remember when I painted it. I've discovered a perfect time to paint. After the kids have gone down, once the house has been straightened and I have been fed and had the chance to snack on some ice cream or treat myself with some sherry. I sit down on the sofa with my bag of paints and turn on some tv, something that only needs half of my attention, a quarter, even.

That's when I paint. It gives me the time to both relax and be creative.

This one was a little stressful. I liked the idea so much that I didn't want to ruin it.

But ruin it I did. Many times. All the wrong colors. Lines too thick and clumsy. It never matched the image in my head, not once. Not. Fricking. Once.

But I didn't give up. I kept smooshing more colors on, trying another layer of sheer or of shadows or of texture. Tossed in the dark, changed it to light. Went all in with the gold paint, even if I wasn't sure it would work-- but it did.

I know there was a moment when I thought all was lost when I added the pattern in the sky. It was, it was a last ditch effort really, and when I saw something coming from it... it turned into a kind of dahlia pattern, perhaps a bit of a mixed metaphor with the lotus, but I liked it. Then I turned the sky lotus from yellow to blue and it almost became opalescent. Then I had to darken the ground, so I tossed in green to cover the tan that I originally had, which ended up being harmonious with the blue and the jarring tones that had been there faded and the painting rested.

I don't know how these things happen sometimes but they do until they feel right. I don't even remember what my original image was. I think it was something much more subtle, more realistic even that what came out, which I think was more visceral. But perhaps there is a lesson in this. Nothing ever matches the image that is in our heads. Maybe it shouldn't. There is no place, really, for the perfection that is our inspiration. Maybe what needs to happen is that we open up to the scariness of uncertainty, open up to the attempt to capture something true-- not ideal, but real.

Come to think of it, my creative process for painting and my creative process for writing are becoming more similar. It starts with an idea that I may or may not sketch out, and then I just jump in and start writing/painting. But each layer of paint is like another draft, where I allow the story that is to have more weight than my idea of what the story should be. Story, painting... whichever. Looking for the truth that lies beneath the words. The reality in the imagination.

Maybe that can give me a little faith that my novel will turn out just fine.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Flying Girl Follows Her Heart

I have a new painting, or rather, two versions of a new painting. This one is called "Flying Girl Follows Her Heart."

I like it. I like the title, the theme. I don't know if I have the final version. I think I might have to paint it a couple of times to get it right. Or maybe I just have to go over it and fix the smudgy lines. This painting isn't really as out of focus as it seems. I have just gone over the outlines so many times in so many colors that the edges are all fuzzy. Red, pink, ochre, yellow, white, orange, naples yellow, gold.

Yes it's all those new colors I have been using. Well, the red is an addition. I had forgotten how strong red can be. How it takes over whatever you add it to, and you need to add red sparingly, drop by drop.

This painting came to me in the tossings and turnings of insomnia. It just popped right up in my minds eye, and I leaned over the edge of the bed to grab my journal from its resting spot on the floor and sketched it out in the middle of the night. The next day I painted it. But I didn't paint the picture at the top. I painted the one at the bottom.
And again, it took me so many layers to get some colors that I was semi satisfied with. But it turned out, upon reflection, I was only semi satisfied. It was too pink, too bright, too brash. Sometimes that can be good, I guess, but not for me, not right now. I have been leaning towards a limited color palette, and this one... it just didn't feel right. Even though when I showed it to my kids, they both loved it and started grinning. G even told me he did not want me to paint the pink sky white. I think he likes the brights.

As he should. He's a kid. What's not to love about bright colors and smiley skies?

I like the adventure of the painting. I like the process. It is about the end painting, in a way. It's about making something that you keep turning to look at again (I do keep turning back to Strange Land, Yellow Skies, which may be why I wanted a more yellowy, milky sky for this one.) But it is also about how you get to that end painting and about where you go from that end painting, what inspiration you get from it, what new step in the journey you set out on.

I suppose these Flying Girl paintings are pretty autobiographical. They are my journey. In some ways they are very literal, and sometimes metaphorical. I like the narrative element of that. I like the randomness of it, too. There's no telling what story will pop up next in Flying Girl's life.

It's kind of exciting to see it all happening. Wait... you mean I'm not in charge?

Monday, September 15, 2008

Island: Night of the Flying Girl

The prompt for Illustration Friday was Island, and I immediately had a vision of those islands we find ourselves on, which isolate us from the rest of the world. Are they self imposed? Mostly I think. We have the tools to get off the metaphorical islands, if we would only take a look at the talents and blessings we have as our own.

This is another Flying Girl painting, although she is firmly planted in the earth this time. Maybe that's the talent I am talking about. She has the ability to fly, when she believes she does, and really, if she can fly, that distant island where there is company is not so far off after all.

This is another painting that took a really long time and a lot of layers to find it's heart. It started out in day time, and I tried three different shades of blue before finally settling on the scumbling of white over a darker blue. Then the sky went dark and just cried out for more white to unify the painting, so in the stars went. I like that the distant island with the skyscraper is shadowy. The tropical island also went through many incarnations, starting out more detailed and then getting a muted layer. I guess this painting wasn't about the details, but rather about the shapes and feeling. I am liking working with the layers, though. Somehow it feels more authentic when I really work the paints, rather than just lay down whatever color I have available. It's all about finding the right shade, even if I have to search it out or make it up.

I did this painting while watching a movie (Dan in Real Life) and feeling kinda crappy with some sort of burgeoning cold. I like to have a movie in the background when I am painting, sometimes. I think it might help me get my mind off of my doubts, kind of put me into a sort of trance, where I can just paint without worry. Almost like the way I used to doodle in meetings. The doodles would give me something to focus on while the meeting yammered on, and the meeting would take my mind off my own issues, letting my intuition fly a little.

Intuition. Faith. Doubt. Talent. Experimentation. Falling. Flying. Acceptance of who we are and trust that we are strong enough to survive and thrive no matter what occurs.

Flying girl does not always fly, as you can see, but she can. Tomorrow, maybe she will.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Yellow Sky, Strange Land

This is my entry for Inspire Me Thursday's latest prompt, Yellow.

A toughie for me. Colors are very important to me, and I have always been a blue/purple/black/gray/raspberry, even lime green kinda girl, with a recent fondness for orange. Over time I have moved away from all the bruise colors and into the sunnies, but yellow is really the last hold out. I had a studio/playroom painted the color of Morning Sunshine (Benjamin Moore) and that was great, but I still wince at some of the brighter yellows. Although, I have professed my recent love for gold, and that's just a metallic yellow with a touch of earthiness.

Maybe the real value of these prompts is the way they get you to do things you wouldn't normally do, things that are outside of your zone of comfort.

I had to look through the IMT yellow links to find a bunch of color schemes using yellow before I realized yellow wasn't just bright, traffic sign yellow. The creamy shades caught my attention, particularly when paired with a sky like blue. I like the multiple shades of yellow, from cream to ochre. In fact this painting was done with Naples Yellow, mostly, a bit of ochre, a lot of white and a smidge of cadmium yellow medium. And if you click to enlarge, you might even see the small shot of cadmium red medium in the skyline. The blue is cobalt turquoise. All Golden Fluid Acrylics, which I have loved for a long time.

It's interesting, this going out of your comfort zone. You'll notice I stayed with a comfortable old image (Flying Girl) while being pushed into the yellow colors. And that's a good way to try something new and potentially frightening while still feeling as if you know slightly what you are doing. If you change too many things at once and jump too far into a strange land, you can definitely feel like you are over your head and seize up, unable to go farther. Well. I didn't quite intend for the title of the piece to work its way into my creative lesson for the day, but it did. Maybe next week I will be able to enter a whole new strange yellow land because I have built up a scaffold slowly, getting comfortable with the strangeness?

One thing that I thought was interesting about doing this painting was the process it went through. I started out with just some blue (actually it was left over from a previous attempt at using yellow in a hand painting, which I haven't finished yet) and I thought that would make a good background for flying girl. But I wanted to try a new thing with backgrounds and outlines, too, so I drew her in and then thought, oh, let's use some more yellow, and filled in the sky with yellow. So the flying girl is actually the background, interestingly.

I have also been paying attention to outlines, lately, because I want to use them, but I don't want them to be harsh, sharp outlines. After clicking through so many illustrations lately, I thought I'd try to blend my outlines a bit and I did so here. And then I really liked what I was doing and I felt pleased with the painting. But as I continued on and added more paint and tried more things... well lets just say, I got to the point where I was ready to scrap the thing. Ugh. It was horrible.

But that is precisely where you need to get sometimes.

The point of strangeness. The point of being unsettled and uncomfortable. The point of nothing left to lose.

Because then you are free to say yes. You are free to try something you might have been afraid of before. You are free to make a mess and ruin things and experiment and follow the fleeting ideas that you wouldn't, if you were trying to hold onto something you had.

So that's what I did, and instead of hating the painting, I ended up really loving the result. Rocky journey. Lovely ending.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Observe! Compare! Contrast! Describe!

I'm going to take a break from the mom paintings and write a little bit about the kid stuff we're doing in Warrior House. It's interesting that at the same time I am starting to do creative projects with my kids, I am becoming more creative in my own art. Coincidental? I don't think so.

This is a project about Ice, and melting and something called "reversible change." Where did the idea come from? From television? My best friend and my best babysitter. Actually, there's a new show on PBS called Sid the Science Kid. I'm loving this show, maybe it's the teacher in me, as I can see the week long curriculum themes. Maybe it's the couldhavebeen idea that I have had of being a biologist or a paleontologist. Maybe it's because I watch my kids jump up and dance when the characters do. Maybe it's because the questions on the show get G to start discussions or get interested in things like growing and decay and melting.

The other day Sid the Science Kid experimented with ice and melting and G and Ivy were so very interested and all of a sudden I thought, "Hey! I can do that!"
I think that's the key, that I-can-do-that attitude. That is where creativity comes from.

For a long time with my kids, I was too tired to even think of the possibilities. Too tired to jump on the doing that it takes. But perhaps the doing of the kid stuff feeds the doing of the art stuff. And perhaps the doing of the art stuff gives a mom enough energy and focus to do the kid stuff.

As an adult, you forget sometimes that kids are awed and entertained by the simple stuff. How often do you take ice for granted? How often does it annoy you when it is on your sidewalks, or your dinner for the night is still frozen when you should have defrosted it yesterday? How often do you drink a glass of something with a cool clink in it, and just think of the drink, not the miracle that is the reversible change of ICE.

All I did was take two kid size plastic cups, fill them with water and toss some grapes in there before putting it in the freezer and letting it ice over during nap time. All I did was fill a couple of pop bottles with water, and set the ice cups out in the garden on the cement pedestal (it used to hold a sundial, but we removed that before someone could get poked on it, and it makes a fine stand for experiments or for taking photos of art works.)

The kids were thrilled to just be allowed to pour glasses of water and watch the ice melt. They got to touch and taste and see, hear the glug glug of the water, smell... well I don't know what there was to smell, but they were sticking their faces in the ice cups to lick them, so I bet the smelled that frosty smell. Sure, yeah. I think ice smells frosty. All five senses. Curiosity. The ability to MAKE SOMETHING HAPPEN. Playing in water. Eating frozen grapes. These are all good good things.

In fact, as I was just looking for the link, I realized how much PBS has given us to work with the show to encourage our kids to, in their words, "Observe! Compare! Contrast! Describe!"

How exciting. That isn't far off from art, you know. Art and science are both ways that we, as humans come to understand our world. Sometimes they are very close, very very close. Oh it does make me excited for some of the things I can do with my kids.

Hmmm... what should we do next?

Friday, September 12, 2008

Doodles and Scribbles

Here is one more piece in the Hand series. I should probably officially name it something more poetic, like "In the Palm of My Hand," or "Held in My Hand." Eh. Let me think about it. Right now, it's obvious it's a hand. So that's what it is.

This new piece is a collage using a painting that baby Ivy did. Crayola watercolors and Crayola markers on plain old white paper. Actually, I helped her paint. Sometimes it motivates them if I start a drawing out with a circle or a smiley face or a monster or a spiral. So those spirals you see there are my beginnings for her painting, which she then went to town on. I traced my hand and cut it out and then pasted it in my journal. And then filled the background doodles in plain old black ink.

It looks like it is just doodles and scribbles, but this was kind of an important piece for me. This is being mom. This is being more than being mom, it's being me. It's being an artist.

Symbolically speaking, I took my life as a mom, with my daughter's painting, and recognized that this is my life. That is why it is the hand. This is not only the life I have, this is the life I make. It is my story, as much as it seems that I have deferred my story for the sake of my children's stories. Can I make art of my life with babies? Yes. It is not as simple as it was when I was single, and would doodle a whole page while I was sitting in meetings or talking on the phone. Now, I barely have time or a free hand to doodle. If I try while there are kids about, they want to be in on it.

But that part of me, the freely creative, casually art making, passionate and dedicated thinker part, she hasn't gone away. She's still here, or maybe it's more that she has become me, who I am now. None of that intensity was wasted. Those doodles I drew are very close to what fills my notebooks from years ago. I reclaimed them.

I am right now, but I come from before. They are both part of me identity. There's really no point in missing the freedoms of being young and fancy free, and no point bemoaning the hard work of raising two young children... that, too will inform who I am to become.

Life is interesting. It is not one single painting that defines you. It is the string of painting done through out your life. It is the stream of artifacts you have left behind. It is the list of actions and choices you have made. It is a river and it doesn't stop moving, even when it seems to have been bogged down in the swamps.

I have been out of it for a few weeks. Stumped and unmotivated and not really wanting to work my way back into productivity. Some of it was external, but some of it was internal.

Something has lifted though, since then. I don't know what it is or what caused it. My brain has begun working again in a manner that it hasn't for three or four years. I am thinking up new projects. I am planning activities with the kids. I am filling my journal with paintings.

It's almost bizarre. For the first time in a long time, I actually have a back log of posts. I have pictures to post, some of paintings some of creative activities that I am doing with the kids.

This is the thing that is the weirdest for me. I have a degree in education. I wrote my thesis on integrating creativity into education. I was famous for artsy projects to help kids learn, sometimes even adults. And yet, with my own kids, I did almost nothing. I had no ideas, no motivation.

All of a sudden, I want to make cardboard robots and pop bottle piggy banks and I want to grow sweet potatoes in jars and make silhouette drawings of the kids and collage with them and melt ice with warm water and go on nature walks to make charts.

What the heck???? Am I finally coming back? Is it because I have been working slowly and steadily at bringing me back? (Those Hand paintings have served before as a ladder back to myself.) Is it because I allowed myself to STOP being creative and just rest and read and relax? Is it just a coincidence that my youngest just turned 18 months?

Hmm. I am actually a big believer on the toll that having kids takes on moms minds, spirits and bodies. I had no idea before how truly demanding it was. The hormones, the exhaustion, the attention. And maybe it also takes a while to learn the ropes of this mom thing. Whatever it is, I'm glad something has broken through, and I hope that by writing about it, I do not jinx myself. I am a big believer in jinxing, too. So.... *knock on wood.*

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Is...Was. My 9/11 Memorial

triptych, acrylics, water color and ink on paper.

This is my 9/11 post. It is the first year since then that I am very active on my blog, that I am involved in an internet community, and I want to mark this anniversary date.

But I wonder if I want to relive it.

Above is a triptych from my journal. I painted it in the days after those days, when the images were still fresh in our heads. When the smoke and the smell still drifted over the East River to those of us in Brooklyn. When you could still see it in everyone's eyes, the shock, the fear, the disbelief.

When it happened, I was teaching. I was responsible for some panicked teenagers. We were on 14th street, within view, but thankfully, the windows in my classroom faced north. What we saw were people on rooftops across the street, staring at lower Manhattan, screaming as the second building went down.

Dammit. There I've gone and done it.
It surprised me when I realized that I knew no one who had died. I knew many who were affected in many different ways, but no one who was in a building or a plane. But it almost didn't matter. I was affected. The whole city was affected.

Downtown was abandoned, it felt like a zombie, walking dead. In fact, I made some friends leave downtown and spend the day with me in Williamsburg, where the trees were still green, the sky was still blue, people wandered the streets just to know they were not alone. Strangers connected. We laughed, and it felt strange because it felt normal.
The day of was scary and stressful. But I was busy being a teacher. I was cut off from the media, I only had my Uptown windows, the reports of the kids listening to the news on their headphones, and my one, shocking peek out the back hall window to prove the rumors, one way or the other, that the first tower had fallen. We the teachers stocked up on snacks in case we needed to stay and shelter kids who couldn't go home. But we didn't need to. Parents started coming to retrieve their kids soon. I offered shelter at my home to a friend who needed to ride a subway that would have gone right underneath the fallen towers.

We drank beers in a garden cafe and talked, waiting for her husband came to pick her up, glad to be home in Brooklyn. We met people there. Every one was so open then. We met some strangers and they invited us to watch the sunset over the river, over the disaster, from their loft. I remember the President was on the tv, and I couldn't watch.
The next day was the bad day.

I woke up to my clock radio replaying sound bytes from those bad hours. I heard velvet voiced newscasters scream in shock as the buildings collapsed. I spent the day glued to the one tv station that I still got, the only one that did not have an antenna on the WTC. I saw again and again terrible images. I woke up from a nap with a vision of the buildings going down.

But life continued on. I did not have to go back to school, because my school, on the South side of 14th street, was in the disaster zone. The North side was not. I went instead to Union Square, the point above the blockade where people gathered to mourn, to wait, to pray, to remember, to talk... to not be alone.

My saving grace in that period was my friends. That, and my journal. I wrote so many pages. I wrote reams of poetry. I painted and drew to process everything. When school resumed, I took what I had to give my kids, and tried to help them process, too.

Yes. Life moved on. I recovered from my trauma. The flashbacks went away. The tears took longer. Something broke on that day, but it didn't break down, it broke open. Yes. I really believe it did. I could almost feel the universe jump into a different track, like when one of those old fashioned record players got jarred, and the needle skipped into a slightly different groove.

I still am uncertain where that track is going, but I am almost convinced that it has led to us taking our lives less for granted, to paying attention to the small blessings, the things that really matter.

Oh. And I was wrong about not losing anyone to 9/11. I lost no one that day, but a few months later (was it a year? I can hardly remember) one of my students, who lived downtown, under the shadow of those buildings, had an asthma attack while walking his dog and he died. He was 17. No one said that he was a victim of 9/11, but I'm pretty sure that living in that toxic air, all the days of the rest of his life had to have contributed to his asthma attack.

His name was Shy Ellison, and he loved to read although he wasn't a very good student. I remember him telling me that someday, he wanted to write a Vampire novel set in the Lower East Side, a novel about a young black Hip Hop Vampire. I thought it was such a good idea when he told me.

That novel will never be written. And Shy will never grow old.

This post is dedicated to Shy.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


This painting is inspired by the prompt at Illustration Friday this week; Clutter. I'm always a little late with their prompts, because it's kind of hard to squeeze the illustrations into my day with the kids. For instance, this painting took one naptime to paint the background, one naptime to draw in the shapes, one naptime to paint and color, and one more naptime to photograph.

Ahh. Such is the life of a creative type, stay at home mom of toddlers. I used Golden Acrylics, Acryla Gouache and Faber Castell Pitt Artist Pens. Oh, and I used Prismacolor Watercolor Pencils for the under sketch. I kind of like the way they melted a bit when the gouache went on top. I like the ghosty shapes.

That's the housekeeping bit.

But what's the point of this clutter idea? I don't know if you recognize her, but this is Flying Girl. She's having a little trouble getting off the ground. And it is possible that this pile of clutter is about to topple over and bury her.

Oh no, Flying Girl! What will she do? Tune in next time at the same flying time, same flying channel... no, not really. See Flying Girl is inside of us, she is us. She is our searcher's nature. She is our ability to rise above, to wonder at the possibilities of life, to be free and to reach our potential.

And also note that this pile of clutter rising so far above her head? Well, it's not really there. It's all ghosts and shadows. It's the past. It's the things that happened once, the things that we used to have and love, the things that used to define us but do no longer... and yet we still carry, weighing us down. Our baggage, if you will. If you notice, there is actual baggage at the bottom of the pile.

If we let it, that baggage can bear us down into the depths. But if we release it, there is all this space available to us in which we can fly.

I would also like to note that the things on that pile that I drew? They are mostly the things that I had to leave behind when I moved. These are what I had to let go, although I am still holding on. Hmph. Apparently, it isn't just about releasing and purging "stuff." It's also about releasing our hold on them. And our ideas about stuff. And our ideas about what they mean. And who we are. And who we were. And all those stories we have told ourselves about ourselves.

What kind of clutter do you need to release in order to fly?

PS I don't really know why I put those plants on that pile (I did leave many behind) and why they are green when nothing else is. Or why she is standing on a flower. Maybe it means there are still some things in our past that keep growing and hold us aloft.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Butterfly Hand and More

Another hand painting. This one is I think my recent favorite. Again, in gold paint, which I am attracted to, lately. Maybe it's the religious icon connection, all those altar paintings of saints and angels.

It started out gold, and then I discovered the butterfly and wanted to use it and I had to figure out what would make it work. The green served as a good balance between the gold and the blue of the background. And once I started the scrolling, it just took off. I also wanted to add some of the gold in the background to integrate it more into the picture, but didn't really want to fill that with scrolls either. So stars seemed to fit the bill. And in a new move for me, I gave them halos of green. I didn't realize it would actually seem to be halos until I did it. So here's to experimenting.

I did want to use a night time setting, since I had just done a very day time, sunny one. Oh, alright. I'll post that one too, although it is not my favorite. It does use gold paint, though. Hmm. I am on quite the gold kick.What does it all mean?

I guess it speaks to the cyclical nature of life, the duality of yin/yang. Maybe that's it. The bright expression of the sunny times, times full of action and experience, tied together with the necessary shadow of night. Times of rest and introspection. Times of transformation.

I have always been drawn to the shadows. For me, they are not scary. They are not bad or sad, although there may be elements of all those negative aspects in them. I believe in the metaphor of the butterfly. While in the darkness of her cocoon, she goes through the huge transformation of becoming what she is meant to be. And breaking out of that cocoon is such hard work. Oh, it's such a struggle, but without that struggle, her wings never grow right, she doesn't gain the strength she needs to fly.

This is why I find such value in the shadows, the dark times, the constraints of life. They are the things that give us the strength and character to live up our potential. If I had not been raised poor, I would be a very different person. As it was, I learned to make something out of nothing. If I had not faced loneliness, I would not have learned to stand on my own two feet, or to let go of my walls. If I had not been rejected, I would not have known how much I wanted what I wanted... or what exactly it was. If I had not tried things that did not ultimately work out, I would not have had the skills for the next step. It is all valuable. Nothing is wasted. We are who we are, dark and light.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Breathe/In Breathe/Out

Writing Says: IN... this moment I am alive. this moment I am strong. this moment I am growing. this moment I am grateful. this moment I am dreaming. this moment I am in action. this moment I am okay. this moment I am breathing. this moment I am loving. this moment I am perfect. this moment I am feeling. this moment I am loved. this moment I am beautiful. this moment I am moving. this moment I am aware. this moment I am creating. this moment I am getting up and starting again.

This is one of the projects I've been doing while I have been without a camera. I've been making hand drawings/paintings/collages/whatever I want to do with them. I like these drawings. It starts with my hand, and outline of it, but my actual hand, and this serves to remind me that my fate does indeed lie in my own hands. It is my action that creates my life. What I do, what I make.

For the drawings, I do an outline in my journal, and then let my intuition take me wherever it needs to go. I am led by my subconscious. By the issues I have been dealing with. By a desire to try something new. By the colors that pop into my head or are in my paint box. I am led by a thought or a word or an image.

This triptych, coincidentally, matched the prompt for Inspire Me Thursday, so yesterday, I finished the paintings. Pink and gold came into my mind... the color of the light I used to visualize when I did yoga meditations. Then the pink and gold painting seemed so out of character for me. I am not a pink and gold kind of person. I couldn't figure out what to do to it to make it feel more "me," so I took a bathroom break and when I was washing my hands, I peeked in the mirror and saw my face. And there was my answer. Dark brown. The color of my hair, eyes, eyebrows. So I finished my painting with the darkness of burnt umber. I like it. It also works with my idea of light and dark being necessary parts of a whole.

I still don't know if this triptych is truly "me," but I do need to remember to breathe. Breathe in the energy, refill the well, release the bad, breathe out, allow my light to be free.

I also don't know if my pictures are all that great. Gold paint does not make for good reproductions, but I do like it.

Saturday, September 06, 2008


This crazy woman is Mama. Photo taken by the Wildboy. Crazy eyebrows courtesy of my father's latino genes (time for a trimming.)

I finally got my new/refurbished camera in the mail, so hopefully I will be back on the visual posting soon. I never did figure out the rest of the visual technology, being content, instead to sink into a less than productive period of introspection. Introspection, that is, different from my regular introspection which ends up on the world wide web.

The camera, however, is not the exact model and I am having adjustment issues. It feels wrong. It's too light and too thick and the curved edges are on the wrong side, and it's not shiny enough. And there are all these icons on the screen that I don't know what to do with.

Disgruntlement and grumps.

I noticed I had the same attitude when they introduced the new Facebook. I didn't like it. The colors were wrong. The information was in the wrong place. I didn't understand the various buttons and clicks. And where did my Buffy page go? Come to think of it, I had the same grumps about it when they redesigned 43things, too.

Mama is a creature of habits. Change does not go over well. It doesn't matter if the change is good, it still feels wrong. I still automatically feel uncomfortable. But it does not mean that the new thing is bad.

After a few weeks, 43things started to feel natural. And facebook is no longer the alien site that I first thought... although I still want my Buffy on the first page. And I'm pretty sure that the new model of my camera will soon become second nature. I can already see that there is more flexibility with it. Those funny icons do things that I like!

Change is hard. It's scary, even if it's for the best. It's disorienting. You have to learn new things and figure out how the new system works. There are times, when we reach a state of affairs that are untenable, when the present system just does not work and we find ourselves eager for change... a new house, a new job, a new... mmm... president??? In those instances change is invigorating. Even the change of the seasons usually comes at a time when we are so ready to be done with the heat of summer or the cold of winter that we are eager to see the changing leaves or the rain. But then again, maybe those kind of changes are things that we are accustomed to and have developed our own ways of dealing with. Maybe we have to go back to school when Summer is over, but we also get to buy new school supplies and start wearing sweaters again.

I am still looking for ways to welcome change. Or maybe welcome the dissonance that change brings. Just get used to things? Pay attention to the benefits instead of wah! I don't understand this thing! Or maybe just accept that I don't have a handle on everything in the moment, and that's okay. Or is it an adventure to enjoy? That's hard for me sometimes, to shift my thoughts from fear to adventure.

How do you deal with change? What kinds of changes challenge you the most? What kinds do you take in stride?

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Uh Oh, or The Past Rises Again

I'm getting glimmers of an idea. A novel idea. A novel novel idea... oh who am I kidding, it isn't that novel, not for today's pop culture and not for me. But it is starting to excite me.

I'm thinking this is the direction I'll go for November, for Nanowrimo. I already mentioned it, but the ideas are starting to billow and fill up. I still have two months to go until I start it. And I like it that way. What that means is that I have to sit with the ideas, as exciting as they are, I can't just up and start writing out of inspirational juice. What that means is that they will keep bubbling. I'm mixing my metaphors and I don't care. I have two months to think about characters and setting and plot. I can draw maps and sketch faces, do outlines and interview my heroes. I can create idea webs and play with the thoughts setting just on the edge of my cloud of consciousness. Oh, what fun.

What has inspired this latest creative bloom? It's a book that I finally picked up and started reading. I am really late on the bandwagon. The teenagers are gaga over it. There's a movie coming out this Fall. I avoided it because I thought it would be badly written and painful to read, but I'm finding myself caught up in it after only a few pages. It reminds me of being an awkward, too pale, too shy teenager, although no fascinatingly mysterious stranger saved me from certain death.

I do love Young Adult fiction. I love teen movies too. There are reasons why I chose to teach HS and not elementary. I think this November I am going to write YA. I want to do something fun and simple (meaning not an intergenerational saga following a million characters around a planet) probably in the first person. I want it to be a coming of age story. And I am thinking of incorporating parts of a novel that I was working on while I was a teacher. That one was a regular adult literary kind of thing, but I struggled with it for so long and then had a computer failure which lost chapters of my writing. I gave it up... but I think it might be ready to come back from the dead. No, that's not a hint that I am writing a vampire story... although it's not that far off the mark.

I have shades of worry that people will think I am writing this book to capitalize on the trend of teen paranormal fiction... but I'm not really, just being led by my inspiration and loves and history with books and fantasy and the stories I have already written, or have always wanted to write but have not. Oooh, wait! I can incorporate that dream I had so long ago. It tried to become a story but petered out and lost focus.

That is where this story idea is coming from. All over. A book I just picked up this afternoon. A quote that I read in passing. Talking with other writers about what kind of stories I like. A dream from fifteen years ago. A novel I gave up on writing five years ago. A setting from here. An ending from there. A theme from that one. An antagonist from this.

Sometimes I think the many many ideas I have had do not have the muscle to make it through to the end point because I rush to capture them. I get so excited about the concept that I think it is enough to take me through. Lately though, I have come to realize that a long work of fiction is actually about drawing from many different pools of thought, many different inspirations and complications. Novels, even the simple ones, really need to be complex and intertwined to sustain the length. I think this idea has the legs to withstand a two month incubation period. I think if it didn't... it wouldn't have the legs to sustain a novel.

When I was younger, and maybe not so young come to think of it, I used to think that I had trouble coming up with ideas to write about. It was hard for me, and sometimes I would start writing before I really had an idea I was passionate about, simply because I wanted to write SOMETHING. But when I look back at my lifetime of writing, I tried to write my first novel when I was 15, 23 years ago, I see how many ideas I did have. Few of those ideas made it all the way to the end of their story, that's true... but I am coming to understand that those stories did not disappear. They are still with me, and perhaps the work I did as a fifteen year old is still fueling my stories today.

Activity: Go through your old files. Read your old stories, your poems, your essays, your notes. Flip through your journals. Look for inspiration. Take notes on the best of the ideas. Put post it notes everywhere marking things you might like to use for new projects. Keep a list of ideas that give you a shock down your spine and make you blink rapidly. Remember the things that inspired you when you were younger, and let them inspire something new.
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