Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Remember Your Dreams and Find Your Wings

Flying Girl Flies at Night or Remember Your Dreams
Golden Fluid Acrylic

So yesterday was my Fourth Year Blogoversary. It's hard to believe I have been blogging so long. Actually, I started the year before, but I've been with Warrior Girl for four years, and it began when I began my journey with motherhood.

I don't think it's a coincidence that I started this blog right before the new year. I think it was the New Year and the reflection that came with it that had me sit down and pay attention to where I had come from and where I was going. Thus Warrior Girl was born.

To mark that day, last night I sat down with my paints, something I hadn't done in a comparatively long time, considering my every day painting habit of the previous few months, and I let Flying Girl loose to wander.

Remember Your Dreams was what came out.

That's really what this blog has meant for me, I think. It came at a time when I had forgotten all those dreams I had once had, lost in procreation. Maybe these things don't happen to every pregnant and nursing mother, but to me they did. A big part of myself got lost. Two kids later, and four years, I think I've gotten back to myself, in no small part because of this blog and the community I discovered here.

Maybe it shows you how lost I was that I was writing this blog for 3 years before I even got a reader or two. It wasn't until last year around March where I really started putting effort into this blog, writing regularly, commenting, finding communities where something clicked, people who I saw as kindred.

That's what this year was for. And that brings me to the other painting I did last night. I guess I was ready to paint again after my Holiday hiatus.

Flying Girl Sends the Call, or Find Your Wings
Golden Fluid Acrylics

Yeah. That was this year, as I explored my creativity for the first time in 4 (maybe longer) years. It wasn't easy. It might look easy at the end point, when all you see is the output, but it took so much work, both mental and physical and so long, and so many baby steps. It's only when I look back at the beginning of this year that I can see how far I've come.

And I did. I looked at my journal from a year ago. I could barely read it. I had forgotten what I horrible state things were in. I was in. Sometimes, it is easy to forget how hard this year has been. I mean, really, really bad.

And I am so glad.

By focusing on positivity, on happiness, on beauty, on meaning, on lessons and productivity, on moving forward, I was able to gain so much more than I would have if I had focused on all the really sucky things that happened this year. I don't even need to give details, just imagine your own sucky things, or worse ones if you had a good year.

And I wonder also, if this year had not been so hard, would I have made so many leaps and bounds forward in who I want to be?

I say this, not to gain pity for my hardships or congratulations for my successes. I say this for everyone else.

It is possible.

No matter how bad it gets, there is hope.

You can come back. You can discover your wings. You can remember those passions, even if you have to go digging around in your childhood to find them.

So thank you for coming on this journey with me this year. I don't think anyone's been following since the beginning of WG, but there are a few who saw the start of my rebirth.

And it has meant so much to me.

I wonder where we will fly next.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Manifesting the Dream, Baby

Mommy Octopus

Just some dreaming going on about what I'd like to create in the next year.

She's got her baby, there, not as if she can just forget the babies, you know. And she's got her food-- that's the caretaking portion of life, not just feeding the kids, but herself. She also has her paintbrush, because she's got creative needs, too. And then there's the laptop... for the writing that she loves. Don't forget the love... that goes for all kinds of love, romantic, familial, platonic. The giving and the relationships. Did you notice I skipped that hand full of money? I was just saving it for last, because it is the portion of life that I have usually ignored. I've often felt that my art or writing was not worth money. It was just something I loved to do, not something I could turn into a career. Whenever money connected with art or writing, I got scared and ran back to my private journals, where I could sketch and write poetry and stories without any danger of being evaluated and told I was NOT WORTH IT.

This year, I am worth it, and so is my work.

My portfolio project is slowly taking shape.

I am creating a kind of curriculum for myself, although it is still in rough format.

I've decided to share my process and my planning with you, so I can be held accountable for my work, but also so you can benefit in the work I have already done. If some of these plans work for you? Take them. Adapt them to your needs.

(This is the overarching idea of my project, a state that I am living into while I create.)

(What I want to have accomplished by the end of the 12 weeks)
To create a professional portfolio as an artist and writer with the aim of sharing my vision with the world and receiving compensation for my work.

(This is the meat of the project. What I want it to look like.)
1. Finished, presentable draft of Mythos. @ 300 pages.
2. 24 finished and saleable paintings (not journal pages!)
3. Fine tuned synopsis of Mythos
4. Polished First chapters of Mythos ready to be sent to agents/publishers
5. Etsy store up and running and making money.
extra credit 6. Website
extra credit 7. Workshop

(These are the things I need to address internally as I tackle this project, the questions I have about myself and my work, fears, mantras, etc)
How do I move forward in the face of decades of feeling unworthy of $$?
How do I push myself without burning out?
How do I remember to relax and take care of myself?
How do I put myself out there and ask for help?
mantra: I am enough

(These are the questions I already have about how to accomplish the project. Things I need to research or learn along the way.)
How do I set up a website? How much $$?
How do I find an agent/publisher?
How do I market my work on Etsy?
How do I make my novel the best it can be?
How do I balance writing/art with business (and kids)?
What should a writing portfolio really look like?
How big of a project can this be given my limited time to work on it?
Who do I ask to be a critical reader of my novel.

(these are the tools I will need over the course of the 12 weeks)
Blog community
Casio Exilim Digital Camera
epson photo printer
babysitting (mom and stepdad, brother?)
naptime/early bed time
Sesame Street/movies
Golden Acrylic Paints
6 6x6 small canvasses
pad 7x10 watercolor paper

More Acrylic paints
More Pitt artist pens
More paper and canvases
More ink/paper for printer
more babysitting (ask!)
one day a week with no childcare duties
Packaging Materials
Moo cards and/or business cards
postal scale
paper cutter

(Who I will be held accountable to in order to reach goals. Who's waiting for my product?)
Blogging community
43Things community
Critical Readers
Etsy Customers

Boy. That's a lot of work. And there's more. After I looked at what I wanted to have accomplished, I started to break it down into what I would have done every 4 weeks, and then what I would have done every week. I'm only half through with that, but I'm also thinking about a daily/weekly schedule, so I can manage all my various responsibilities and not get crazy.

And you know what else I need? I want to have a goals list for the whole year, so I can make sure my overarching goals do not conflict with the goals of the project. I do not think they do, but I like to think ahead and see how things all fit together.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Preparing the Way for the New Journey

It's the end of the day here, of 2008. The sun is sinking below the horizon on this year. The photo is, however, from October. I haven't much been taking photographs the last few days, or creating. I've been doing holiday things, cleaning up the mess left by said holiday things and thinking about the future.

I find that I am getting caught in a bit of an overwhelm. This is easy to do when you have big plans and major transitions and important journeys to go on. The truth is I have no idea what my life will look like this time next year. I have huge projects coming up that are addressing fears I have long held. It is understandable that I would feel overwhelm.

But I don't want to get lost in it and fall off of my intentions.

So what do you need to do to get rid of overwhelm?

First thing, I think, is to change the attitude. Look at this upcoming unknown not as scary, but as exciting. This project is a game, not a responsibility that holds all the weight of my future. Think of the soon to be crazy busy year as a long series of opportunities and adventures. It isn't the destination that matters here, it is the journey.

Okay. That helps. But it doesn't get me all the way.

The next thing I need to is to get away from my old fears that are replaying their insidious messages in my head as I sit in my chair and tense up. How? How do I get away from those voices in my head? The ones that sound like my father and his fear of success, or my senior honor's project adviser when he said he didn't think I could do it, or all the common "wisdom" that says being an artist and writer is a foolish path? How to hogtie those demons in my head and give them the heave ho?

I treat myself as if I were a friend of mine. I treat myself as if I were a student of mine. I tell myself with my tough love to "KNOCK IT OFF" and stop feeling sorry for myself. I express belief in my ability to make it through, replacing the negative mantra of "I can't" with the positive one of "I am." Oh, if I were my student, I would give myself exercises to help me believe the truth.
  • List all the experience you have, the qualifications you hold, the education you've received that prove your ability to do this job. List what you already know, and use that as your spring board to your new challenges.
  • Draw a picture of those demons in your head that say you aren't good enough. Paint your fears and negative thoughts and give them form. Then tell them off and put them away, in silence. Hey, you can even go so far as to burn them. Watch them fade away in a puff of smoke and remember how that feels. Now you recognize them, you can tell them to shut it every time they start squawking.
  • Draw a picture or create a collage of what you want your future to look like. See it in front of you. Pin it down on paper so you know exactly what it is you are going after. Then do a backwards plan of what it will look like 10 years, 5 years, 2 years, 1 year 6 months from now. Or if we're talking a 12 week plan, then what does the end product look like, what should it look like at 9 weeks, at 6 weeks, at 3 weeks, at week one?
Actually, come to think of it, that last exercise leads me to the next thing I would do for me if I were my own student. I would create a curriculum.

Curriculum means the flow of the river. This curriculum that I would create for my 12 week Portfolio project would be a path that I could follow, a river down which I could swim, with all it's feeder streams and swampy places and river craft.

I would start planning my project curriculum by thinking about what I want the end point to be, and then working backwards to see what I need to accomplish by when. I need to take into account the project deliverables, the research that would need to be done, the supplies I would need, the resources that I could call on, the time frame within which I must work (not only the 12 week deadline, but also the time I have during the week/day to work on it.)

Frankly, I wish I had all the work I had done on curriculum development while teaching and doing workshops. It would save me a lot of trouble if I did not have to reinvent the wheel. I think it's all in storage, but now that I think about... I may have some of my curriculum work from the last creativity workshop I did.

Maybe my first actual assignment I will give myself is to find my curriculum format. Or perhaps make a new one.


What are you doing to prepare the way for your new adventures in 2009? What are you doing to get ready for the Portfolio Project, if you are playing, or any other project you have going on for yourself. Do you have any tricks and techniques to keep your spirits up and your momentum going?

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Ivy and Gabriel on the Stair Landing and a Project

Ivy and Gabriel on the Stair Landing
Golden Fluid Acrylic, Prismacolor Watercolor Pencil on Canvas 6"x6"

I painted this sometime last week. As a Christmas present. I was inspired by the double portrait I painted for a commission. I think I had been thinking that a portrait had to be painted in a realistic style. I was afraid that my more expressionist conceptual style wouldn't make for a decent portrait. I thought that I couldn't really do a portrait I don't know why I thought that. One of those long held beliefs that come from mistaken assumptions and keep you trapped in your one way of doing things. Oh, the list of "I can't"s is long. But I am working on knocking them out. One by one.

It takes a while to work on this. Sometimes you have to work on it very consciously, doing things like joining the Be Brave Project or taking on challenges that you think are too big for you. Sometimes you take workshops and make lists and read books on how to get rid of your fears and negativity. Sometimes that work goes underground, but is still going on.

I'll tell you one of the things that I have always been afraid of, and it is making my art and my writing for public consumption. Perhaps my blog has turned into my ongoing challenge to myself to take my work public, but it doesn't stop there. Perhaps it was just one step in the direction that I really want to go. As was nanowrimo and AEDM and the Big Draw and all the other things I have been doing.

Now I've moved on to the Portfolio Project, where I commit to twelve weeks towards building a body of work. I'm spending this week figuring out what I want my 12 week portfolio to look like. No matter what the particulars, I've decided that it looks like a professional portfolio. I no longer want to be an avid amateur, or a weekend painter or a novelist who hides her books away in files and lets no one read them. Not even a blogger who does what she does for free, always for free. Yes, I'm stepping up into the world of someone who values her work enough to be paid for it.

The portfolio project combines with all these other challenges I have undertaken and combines with all 38 years of my life to be the work of reaching my potential. It's fricking hard. But I am at a place where I think the hardest work, on allowing myself to be successful, is behind me.

Now that my work has been done on myself, I just have to set it all into action.

Instead of being overwhelmed at that thought, I am just going to do the work and go step by step, rather than head into the land of "I can't."

If you could imagine a land without "I can't," what would it look like? If you could tackle your next year and make it into a project that fulfills your potential, what would it look like at the end of twelve weeks? What would it look like at the end of the year?

Monday, December 22, 2008

Christmas Magic Continues

Ivy's fairy flower crown and fairy wand.

This was fun to make. I figured out how to do the flowers while making the fairy doll and her crown. A series of little circles in coordinating colors and various sizes, small, medium, large, and extra small. In some of the circles, I notched the edges with my scissors all the way around. Sometimes I trimmed the notches to look more like petals, sometimes I just left them.

Then I glued the circles together, using various colors and different color combos. Then I glued the flowers on a strip of felt that I measured to fit the girl's wee head.

I did lay out the flowers before gluing them down, so that I had a good assortment and could make sure that all the pieces had somewhere to go and I didn't end up with circles that were too big or too small for their parts. Sometimes a flower consisted of only two circles, sometimes three, sometimes four. Then I laid the flowers out on the crown, with the largest in the center and the mediums spaced out and the smalls scattered between them. If I'd had a light green felt square, I would have added leaves, but I didn't.

If I had more time or were better with a needle, I would have stitched them. It wouldn't have been that hard to tack them together in the center. It might also have been interesting to embroider or bead the centers of the flowers. That will perhaps be a different fairy crown for an older Ivy.
Gabriel's "Disappear-Appear" Wand

Here is the boys wand. I made one for him too, even if he's not getting a fairy crown. I am still debating the rest of his dress up costume. Not sure how I can make a robot costume, but I will figure something out in the next two days. Maybe I can do a superhero thing instead. Or maybe I'll do a super-robot thing. I have no idea.

How did I make the two wands?? They were pretty easy. I took four pipe cleaners in coordinating colors (matching the fairy stuff for the girl, and something a little more Harry Potterish for the boy) and bent the ends in then twisted them together until they were spiraled. Then I cut out two felt stars... I did free hand because I like the wonkiness of it, but you could do them with a pattern. A star shaped cookie cutter would be a good pattern to use. Then I glued them together on the end of the pipecleaners, using enough glue so they would stick.

Then they got different treatments. I took my silver embroidery floss and split it into three strands (so it would fit through the needle) then sewed it through the center of the blue star, around the pipe cleaner end and back through the center. I tied the ends of the floss together with a double knot. I repeated that on the other side of the star, so both sides would have the silver rays.

The girl's wand wanted thin green ribbons to match the tutu I made, and I couldn't sew that through the star, so I tied two ribbons just underneath the star and knotted them on. Then I did the same for two pieces of silver floss, making sure that I knotted one strand each on each side of the star, so the silver and green rays would spread out evenly from the wand. Magic is even, you see.

I decided on the pipe cleaner in the first place because I didn't want any hard sticks in there to whack people with. I don't know how long these will last... it depends on how hard the kids are on them... but they were so easy and cheap that it's okay if they get messed up. I think making these wands would be a pretty good project for kids to try, but not really ones as young as mine. The crown would be fun for older girls to make, too. Making felt flowers is pretty easy. You could do anything with them.

Friday, December 19, 2008

A Breather (and then dive in again)

Yesterday morning, I looked out of the window and discovered we were in a cloud! So I stepped out the front door, with barefoot children following, and walked around the corner to take a photo.

Yesterday, I also took a breather from creating. I sketched some ideas, I made some lists and researched some ideas, I worked on packing up an order, I posted and I even wrote a little installment in my group story project, but I didn't make any new products. Hmm. Looking over that list I can see that I did a lot. It was a day where I thought I did nothing but surf the internet and it turns out I was still working, still making, still producing. That's very interesting. I'm trying to find ways to relax and not work so hard... without guilt and anxiety.

ANY WAY, funny segue. While I'm trying to relax, I've just taken on a new project. The Portfolio Project, it's called, and it's the brain child of Jen Lemen and Jen Lee. The idea is to commit the next 12 weeks to creating a body of work-- a portfolio.

It's up to each individual who's playing to define what that body of work should look like. 50, even 100 paintings? A publishable draft of a novel? 15 great poems? Morning Pages every day? 84 photos? Some will be great, some will be not so much.

This reminds me of a couple of the projects I have done lately, nanowrimo, AEDM and my own personal challenge where I did a Flying Girl everyday, and ended up continuing on for about 2 and a half months. After taking on those projects, there has been a transformation in my life and in the way I interact with the world. Not the very least being the absolute explosion of my creativity.

If you come on my blog and say, "Oh, she's so creative. I wish I was that creative. I could never do all that stuff," I would just like you to read back in my archive a year or two or three. Or four. In fact, my first entry here is when I was pregnant with my 3 year old, and bemoaning the fact that I was unable to create. That drought continued on for three years, until I took up the project of regaining my creativity. Since March. And most of this huge output of art and writing? It's all since Summer. If I can do it, you can do it. You can do YOUR version.

For me, I think I'd like to take the Portfolio project and have it take me from my previous work, most of which was done in my journal, or in the privacy of my writing corner never to see the light of day, to work that is designed to be shown, to be sold, to be published.

I've said it before. 2009 is, for me, The Year of The Business Woman, and my business is the creative.

What about you? What do you want next year to be about for you? Would the Portfolio Project help you get there? Do you want to play the game of the Portfolio Project with us? Join in. Everyone's welcome.

Some things to think about for the beginning of the project, from Jen Lee's Podcast, and elaborated on by me.

Accountability: How will you be held accountable for doing the work. Will you blog about it? Will you have friends join and work with them? Will you tell your family about it and have them bug you for the rest of the 12 weeks? Will you start your own little workshop once a week where people come to share their portfolios in process?

Definition: Define what you want your product to look like at the end of the 12 weeks. How many paintings/poems/pages/photos? Be specific, give a number, not a subjective state. Plan backwards. That means take the number of products you want to have in your hand and divide by the number of weeks/days. That's how much you have to do each week/day. Don't forget to be realistic with that number.

Schedule: Look for time in your daily routine to get your Portfolio Project done. You can't get it done without building in the time. I personally found time at the end of the day, while watching my wind-down tv for the night. That's when I painted (which is why I lost my down time, but that's something else I have to work out). But maybe you can find some free hours (haha) or more likely, maybe you will have to rearrange your routine to get things done. For instance, do you REALLY need to check all of the blogs in your googlereader in one sitting? (Rowena, I'm talking to you.) Also, look for short blocks of time in your day. You'd be amazed at how much can get done in a mere fifteen minutes. Maybe you can tuck your project into your already busy day, but more likely, you will need to shake it up. Ask for time from family. Get a babysitter. Give up the weekly meeting with the girls. Sacrifice something on the altar of your creativity. (no, no drama there.)

and lastly
Just do it. It will never get done if you don't just do it. Commit. Sit down at the computer. Pick up your brush. Steal those ten minutes every morning for your morning pages. Carry your camera everywhere. Close that door on the world and open up the one inside of yourself.

In the wise words of I really don't remember who:

Writing is the fine art of applying ass to chair.

Get that ass in gear.

So you wanna play?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Fairy Doll

Here she is! Ivy's Fairy Doll. All dressed and ready to go to the Fairy Ball, and sitting with a picture of her Fairy Godmother, who was the inspiration for her.

I really can't believe she came out as well as she did. The robot was a learning experience. And my stitching improved by the time I got to Fairy.

Fine the dress isn't sewn well, but I was sick and tired of sewing by then. The doll is pretty good. And I like that I made my own pattern. I like that I could take two Martha ideas and combine them. Or rather, I took one Martha pattern after realizing the other Martha pattern wouldn't serve my needs, and then I customized it. So really, it isn't a Martha pattern at all. It's a Rowena pattern. I cook the same way. I never leave a recipe as is. I just look for instructions on the mechanical parts, and then I add chipotle or about six inches on the limbs.
Here she is close up. Look at her little face. Not bad for winging it.

I've forgotten all the embroidery I ever used to know, so I did my best. She might be a little lumpy and crooked, but I think that adds to her charm. The hair was very difficult. The easy part was choosing two shades of golden brown embroidery floss. It adds some realism, I think. The hard part was sewing it onto the head without making it look awful. Those braids are tacked down so that they don't flip up to show her bald, lumpy heady. Poor baldy. The little flower crown helps to hide some of the lumps that peek through the hair. The flowers are attached to a ribbon and tied on, so they don't actually have to stay. It's just a fairy costume, in truth. She can take off the wings and tutu and crown and just be a girl doll. But momma will have to make a new outfit.

I like the little flowers. They were the creation of an evening of experimenting with my felt and scissors. I'm planning a crown for Ivy to coordinate with this little bitty one. I'm almost done with that. And then I have an idea for no-wire fairy wings. Don't know if it will work, but if it does I'll show you how.

The next intimidating gift up is the boy's robot mask. Robot crown? I'm not sure how to make him a dress up robot thing without having a mask that covers his whole head. This will take some designing.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Dress

Last night, in the midst of sewing my almost 2 year old's Christmas doll, I said, "I hate sewing. I like painting much better." It might have been because I do all my sewing by hand, and my fingers were ouchie and probably growing needle calluses.

Painting is much quicker. And I have a better facility. Give me a pen and I can whip up an idea, lickety splickety. See? Look at the sketch I have above for my idea of what the dolly's dress would look like.

However, sewing, I'm working on the idea for a week. Hagrumph.

Let me give you a little background.

I don't sew. Or I haven't since I was 13 and trying to make a night gown with my grandfather's sewing machine. It was hard and I gave up. But my grandfather was the kind of person who rescued abandoned chairs, stripped, stained, recaned and reupholstered them. He was the kind of guy who built a sailboat from scratch in his boat barn and sailed down the Mississippi into Tampa bay. If you gave him some fiber glass, some bits of wood and a bolt of fabric, he could make you boyfriend. Well, okay, not really, but he could make you a boat.

My grandmother, on the other hand. The grandma on the other side of the family, really could sew. In fact, she was a seamstress in a sweat shop in what, 30 years later, would turn into the hip and trendy neighborhood where I lived. My grandmother used to sew my dolls dresses all the time. Whip whip whip. There was a dress. I believe I probably tried to sew some of them, too. And I distinctly remember creating a stuffed thing with my sister. We named it Shmoo. My grandmother also taught me how to crochet and embroider.

I never really took to any of the needle crafts. I'd fuss around with a cross stitch and then drop it. Same for sewing, crochet, embroidery, macrame, knitting, etc.

So I have a broad and beginners base of knowledge about sewing dolls and their doll dresses, a DIY ancestral attitude, and a year of HS fashion design where we learned the (very) basics of dress construction.
And this is what I came up with. My little girl's dolly's dress... how lucky that the prompt for Inspire Me Thursday is Dress?

Doesn't look much like the sketch, does it? And yes, it stands up on its own.

Well, I realized my sewing skills and my fingers couldn't handle the gathering of the fabric. And then I remembered that I wanted to make her a fairy doll, anyway. So I went back to the tulle I had leftover from Ivy's tutu, and made that into a skirt. Doing it reminded me of when I made my sister's veil from her wedding. I made a crystal bead and silver wire tiara, too. See, there's that inherited DIY thing again.
Here's a teaser of what the doll looks like, unfinished. Hair, still unbraided. Without a face or flowers.

I'm kind of pleased with the way she turned out. I combined a couple of different patterns and took what I learned from making the robot, and let myself be inspired by my Flying Girls.

And just so you know, I tried the dress on her, and she looks FABULOUS. But I'm saving that picture until I get all the ribbons and details on her.

So there you go. You don't actually have to be good at something in order to create something awesome.

You learn as you go. You make mistakes and fix them and change your mind and discover something better and then... then you get proud of yourself.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Cape Cod Double Portrait (finished?)

Cape Cod Double Portrait (finished?)
Golden Fluid Acrylic on Canvas, 16"x20"

I think I got it.

I really needed to sit and look at it for a while.

I wanted to keep the simplicity and abstract qualities, but it felt so unfinished. Just felt like an underpainting. Even the kid told me it wasn't done.

Maybe I'll check with him after nap is over and find out his critique.

By the way, "nap" is a euphemism.

He's just locked up in his room, looking at the Toys R Us circulars, running around his room like a robot/dinosaur/superhero, and occasionally coming out to yell, "pee pee!" and stripping off his pants on the way to the potty. Luckily Ivy can sleep through this.

Wait, it's been about 10 minutes since I heard a crashboombang coming from his room. Just like it always gets darkest before the dawn, it always gets louder before the crash up there. I think he's out. Sounds like he didn't wake up Ivy with his last ditch effort to resist The Nap, so I have maybe a half hour to an hour before she wakes up.

I believe that means mama gets a shower, after all.

edited to add: The boy says it's good now. I swear. I can't believe his artistic sensibility. Sure, I encouraged it, but it's all his. Children are amazing.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Robot Doll At Last

This is the first stages of the robot doll. First we have the painting, then we have the sketch, and the modifications of the Martha Stewart doll design, then we have my own pattern, on graph paper. I'm not a sewer, I'm a messer. I'm messing around with fabric here, and doing it all wrong, I am sure.
And this is the evidence that I was doing it all wrong. Well, that's what I thought. There were times when I was SURE this robot doll was a lost cause. The stitching is a horror. It looks more like Frankenstein than a robot. I could not figure out how to attach the feet and hands to make them look like a robot, not a poppet.

Then I went on to etsy and searched robot softie to see how other crafters had dealt with the issue.

Turns out, none of them did anything as elaborate as I was trying to do. I mean I was trying to MAKE softie wheels to add to the legs. Crazy. I sewed them and stuffed them and pinned them to the legs and ran screaming in horror.
In the end, I just sewed the arms and legs closed and added felt wheels for the feet and felt clamps for the hands and a felt face and a felt chest plate, and there was my robot.

Did I say it already? Simplicity is best.

Remind me about that when I am twisting my plotlines in my novel.

Friday, December 12, 2008

In Process: Cape Cod Double Portrait

In Process: Cape Cod Double Portrait
Golden Fluid Acrylic on Canvas 16"x20"

Some of you may remember the study I was working on a little while ago. Well, here's the real painting. I am extraordinarily relieved that the client picked the second layer of the painting. I really liked the more abstract version, rather than the one with more detail.

So here I am, with the simple painting.

I do not think it's done. It still needs some work, but I think I just need to spend some time on the simplicity.

I am resisting going off on a different tack, one that has to do with subtly patterned backgrounds.

I have noticed that I have a tendency to want to complicate things... like I was doing with the robot doll, who is still to come. But simplicity is often the best. So I am going to remember to relax and let the flat color blocks to stay and be simple. Like air and seagrass.

Darn it. My three year old just came up to me and said it was too plain and needed "more painting." Now he wants "more blue." "More white." "More black."

I said, "Haven't you ever heard of Rothko?"

He just laughed. "Wofcho. Hehehe."

Damn. I'm raising an art critic.

Save The World, That's All

"Is...Was" detail [Final panel in triptych]
September 2001
Acrylic on Paper

It's no secret that we are going through some tough times in the world right now. Everytime I turn on the television or open a newspaper, there are more stories of doom and gloom. I've myself have been in serious financial turmoil for the past couple of years. They keep saying the worst is yet to come.

I should be scared.

But I'm not.

I'm not stupid, but I do have a different way of looking at things. Instead of seeing the current difficulties as the end of the world, I see them as the transition between this era, and a new one. Granted, no one really knows what this new era will bring, but somewhere inside of me, I have faith that this new world will be a wonderful transformation.

Financial disaster is not a new experience. Not for me, not for this country, not for the world. Growing up in poverty, I learned the difference between really being poverty stricken and just being poor. The difference is hope. That is all.

A person without hope is trapped in their place of destitution. A person with hope can see the blessings and possibilities even in having an empty refrigerator or not being able to afford those needed shoes/heat/housing. It doesn't mean we don't struggle. It means we create with what we have. We create happiness, we create a better situation, we create opportunities.

It's not a coincidence that I chose for this post a painting I did after 9/11. Because it's all about what comes out destruction, loss, pain. And it's also about using art to find that meaning.

One of the things I have become very clear on in my current time of constraints, and through my past struggles, is that art will save the world. Okay, well, art is ONE of the things that will save the world. And it just happens to be MY thing, the thing that I have to give the world.

I'm not just talking about Picasso or Van Gogh or Rembrandt. I'm not even talking about my art. I'm talking about art for everyone. I'm talking about helping others discover the art inside of themselves. When we believe we can create our visions and make them come real on paper, it gets that much easier to create our dreams and put them into reality in the world. When we look at our thoughts and feelings and fears and hopes and give them the respect of listening to them and turning them into something tangible, we begin to understand who we are and what we are made of.

My path in life, is, I think, to inspire people to see the power inside of themselves.

I used to think I just wanted to write books. I thought it was a selfish wish. Then I became a teacher of inner city kids, and I watched the transformative power of art in action. IN ACTION. I saw broken hearts healed. I saw the search for enlightenment. I saw blossoming self-confidence. I saw the recognition of the soul. I saw goals being reached. I saw so many different powers grow in the students I taught. Some friends and I started a women's workshop using art, and the same thing happened. It was amazing and it was evidence. Art can save the world. No matter our circumstances, through art, we can find hope and make a new world for ourselves.

I still want to write and to paint, and I want to share my art and writing with others, but in addition, I want to open a business-- one that is about empowering people through art. This coming year, this is the year when I take the steps to no longer follow someone else's path, but to carve my own.

These ideas have been floating around in my head for quite a while. More than a decade, actually. And now they are closer than ever before. Classes, articles, e-books, chapbooks, blogs, workshops, both online and IRL, inspirational products, like cards and prints and booklets. This is just the tip of the iceberg, but goodness, the ideas make me smile.

So why post about it now?

Well, aside from my plans to focus 2009 on "The Year of the Business Woman," (that would be me, folks. A radical departure from my self-identity in any other year) I am also entering into an HP Giveaway over at Living in Theory, Stop Drop and Blog and at Merlot Mom. They want to know what I would do if I won the booty. How I would help others. This is how I would use that booty to help others. I would start my business. And my business is to empower others.

Oh, there is one other difficulty with this business. My partners, those friends I mentioned, with whom I've been working on this project for years, well, they're spread out over the U.S.-- Virginia, New Orleans, New York, Connecticut, and many of them have been going through financial difficulties of their own. I would do my best to make sure that they all had what they needed so that the whole world could benefit from their wisdom. The printer, the laptops would find their way to those women, software. It's been very hard to organize things when not everyone has access to a computer regularly, and my old computer needs to be replaced to step up into the world the way I want to, but whether or not I win this giveaway (we all know the chances are slim and get slimmer with every entry) I am still going to tackle this dream. It's a dream of helping people discover their own dreams. It's worth the struggle.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Christmas Cookies

I stayed up very very late last night making a robot (still to come) and some chocolate chip cookies out of felt. I used a cookie cutter as a template, and cut circles out of tan and light brown felt, but didn't worry about them being perfectly round, since cookies never are. I glued the two circles together, then snipped "chips" out of the scraps of the brown felt and glued those on. If I were channeling Martha Stewart, I would have stuffed them and sewn them together with a blanket stitch and embroidery floss, but I already made a vow not to be seduced this season by The Martha. Anyway, whatever I do, my three year old and almost two year old will tear apart (it's a promise) so I'm okay with glue. They are really cute, and G did ask for cookies for Christmas.

Did I mention I stayed up until two doing this? I don't know why I did it. Upon retrospect, it was a pretty bad idea, since the kids got up early, leaving me about four hours of sleep.

But in truth, I've been having trouble falling asleep. Having trouble switching gears. Having my mind spin around, even though I know I should go to bed. It's been going on awhile, at least since the beginning of December.

In conjunction with this, I have been conspicuously silent on the novel and painting front.

Yes, I've been creative. I've been making presents and being a creative parent. I've been enjoying myself on Burning Lines.

But, there's something else going on under the surface.

Kelley on Dragonfly Reflections talks about this sleeplessness being a "growth spurt."

I can't even really articulate what is happening inside of me, but I have experienced these times of sleeplessness and floating anxiety more than once in my life. Something is happening.

Don't really know what, although I am beginning to get some ideas.

Something about living into my dreams. Something about being the conductor of this little choo choo. Something about going all the way with my intentions. Many small thoughts are swimming around in my head, trying to conglomerate and become a new universe of being.

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Two Robots

Good Orange Robot with Bubbles
Golden Fluid Acrylic on Paper

This is the continuation of the Boy's present. The Robot Christmas. This will be his painting, and it will go along with his stuffed doll that I am making. I did not get orange fabric, so, either I will have to use some old kids clothes, or make it blue. Or black, but then I wonder about the "goodness" of the robot. Maybe blue.

Yes. Many presents to make. All children? Why is that Rowena? Well, because children don't have the capabilities of turning on a computer and checking out mommy's blog. Don't want to give any secrets away, now, do I?

Robot Prototype
Home Made Play Clay

This was not part of the Robot Christmas... or it wasn't planned that way. We (the kids and I) were perusing etsy, looking for robots and dogs and cats. Lucky us when we found them at the same shop.

But once we saw them, and someone made the connection between robots and the balls of play clay in someone's hand, there was nothing for it but to make a robot out of play clay. Perhaps I should get some Sculpey and make some that will last and not crumble into flour and salt dust. I haven't made anything with Sculpey in a long time, but I used to love it. Figurines, jewelry, beads, assemblages. I once made a box with an antlered deity bust on top, and a flock of blackbirds inside. Man. I wish I had a picture of that one, but it was pre digital cams for me, and I gave it away... as a Christmas present.

Anyway, I still have (for the kids) a fairy crown, a fairy wand, fairy wings, robot mask, robot chest plates, laser gun, Robot doll, Fairy doll, felt cookies....hmm. I think there's more, but the boy just woke up, so my blogging time is up.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Tutu and Striped Birdies

This is my Christmas gift for Bunny.... not the bunny in the picture, my little girl-bunny. And the gift is not the bunny. The bunny is just the model. The gift is the tutu. I made it. I'm kinda proud, because tulle is not my medium of choice. I got the instructions for no sew tutus from Chasing Cheerios. I made it with white, lavender and blue tulle, and tiny green ribbons, that added a nice brightness and shimmer. And the stretchy headband, just like Chasing Cheerios suggests.

I used 20"x3" strips of tulle and tied them onto the headband with a slip knot. That's it. Then I slip knotted the green ribbon every three tulle knots.

I think my headband could have had a bit more heft to it, and I think it could have been made attached to a ribbon to tie around the waist, instead. And maybe I could have layered the strips of tulle so it would be less airy and more substantial, but it's good for a not quite two year old.

Maybe I should make her a sparkle crown and wand to go with it. And to go with the pretty fairy tutu.... I think I'm going to give her a print of my Fairy, or Believe painting. I was going to make something new, and then I realized that painting would fit perfectly. So, no need to rebuild the wheel.

When I was a little girl, I always wanted a tutu. I think it's because I had a Degas print in my room, and wanted to be a ballerina. Or a fairy.

I also made the little birdies you're seeing all over the blogosphere. The pattern is at Spool. Look, here they are as Christmas ornaments.

Usually you see them made with mixed floral prints, or even nice organic cotton, but I decided to use my kids' old clothes. These here were made with their Old Navy striped pajamas. I liked them so much, I put them on both kids, girl and boy. So, sentimentality had me choose the cuddly striped for my first attempt at these. I'd like to make more, but take a gander at that stitching.

I'm not very good. And I don't have a sewing machine, so I'm doing it by hand. And rather than use them for ornaments or mobiles or wall art, I'm giving them to the kids to cuddle. When G first saw them on line, he wanted to hug it. So. That's what I'm doing. Cuddle birdies in the stockings.

As for my writing... the boy's naps are getting shorter. My list of things to do is getting longer. I spent much of the first week of December making lists. I'm afraid the novel is going to have to simmer for a while. I don't like putting it on the back burner, but I'm a little too stressed out, and a little too occupied. I have faith it will come back. Like Soulbrush said in the comments, it's nice to take a break and then have something to come back to. I see I will soon be able to come back to both my novel and my personal paintings.

Christmas is really such a busy time of year. Not only making and socializing and family... but also I feel the new year coming, and for me, that is about thinking ahead and making plans. Planting seeds that will fruit in the coming months.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Make a Robot Gift

Robot with 8 Arms, 8 Legs and 8 Antennae
pen on paper

Where have I been? What have I been up to?

I've been taking a break from Flying Girls and Oracles and Painting, but I have been crazy creative.

As soon as AEDM and Nano ended, I remembered about Christmas.

I switched over from my personal art to gift making. And also making things with and for my kids.

So far this month, I have made play clay, made play clay snowmen with the kids, and a Santa Hat, and a Christmas tree. I have made a crown... which was supposed to be for the girl, but she didn't like it, so it became an evil robot king crown. I love duct tape, styrofoam and cardboard. And a Halloween cape.

I made some softies for the kids presents, I made chicken soup from scratch, I made snowflakes with the kids. Lots of making, many things that I am still working on.

And I also made a song with the melody from "Silent Night" but the words altered to be about children sleeping through the night until 8am. That morning they actually slept until 8am? Coincidence or the magic of the Christmas Season? You decide.

Oh, and I designed the above Robot... destined, with his fellows, to become a Christmas gift painting for the boy-- which is why I'm using this for Inspire Me Thursday's prompt of "Make a Gift". This is his Robot Christmas. Ask him what he wants, and he says "Robot!" In fact, he helped me design the above robot. He drew a sketch and told me how many arms, legs, eyes and antennae it should have. I complied. I'd show you the sketch, but it got colored in. The complete painting is still under wraps. Hmm. And I'm going to make a softie robot, based on Martha's doll (Ivy will get a doll softie) and I think I need to design that robot before I start on it. Hmm. Much more gift making to do.

I don't know how much personal painting I will get to do this month. And I haven't even touched my novel. For shame.

Well, it's okay to take a step back now and again... although I did want to keep up my noveling. Hm. Grump.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Into The Woods, or Flying Girl Goes on Her Own Two Feet

Into The Woods, or Flying Girl Goes on Her Own Two Feet
Golden Fluid Acrylic.

Look at this. She's not flying.

Feet on the ground?

Here's to hoping. I think she's got what she needs. I think she doesn't need to live on dreams and ideas, but is close enough to the goal to focus on the here and now, and it won't be too long before she can see through those trees and find her way there.

This was inspired, by M. Heart and one of her lovely photo. Thanks for the inspiration, darling. Hope you don't mind I stole your walk for my Flying Girl.

Did you notice I took a break yesterday?

Didn't write. Didn't post. Didn't paint.

Okay, well I painted last night, but not the night before. And I didn't post here, but I've been spending a lot of time over at Burning Lines... where I've been having a lot of fun contributing to a group story. Oh look! There's another installment. I wonder what they've done to my favorite characters this time and if I'm gonna have to bring someone back from the dead. It's like watching a tv show, but being able to have a hand in the outcome.

What else did I do yesterday and today? I made play clay and the kids and I made some snowmen and a Christmas tree. I had G draw what he wanted for Christmas. He drew many many robots, cookies, and a train. Ivy, when you ask her what she is drawing, just says, "draw." as if it's obvious it's a drawing. I also roasted a chicken. Woohey. Plus, I've been doing a lot of planning. I've got some major, real projects coming up and I have to get on the ball and figure out the steps I need to take. It's a challenge, but I think I am ready.

Just like FG, hmm?

Monday, December 01, 2008

Girl Learns to Fly, or Saying Yes

Girl Learns to Fly, or Saying Yes
Golden Fluid Acrylics on canvas. 6"x6"

I had fun doing this one. Inspired where? By what? Don't know. It came from all over, like, for instance, the softies I want to make for my kids for Christmas, or from various artists on etsy, and probably from half a dozen folks on my googlereader. It was like the soup was just simmering all day and turned out to be this. Plus, when I had done my sketch, I turned to my uncle and said, "what color shall I paint the bird?" And he said, "black and gold." and I nearly fell over in response. Those were so not the colors that I would pick by myself, but I saw in my head what it could be. So I gave it a go.

I do not know what kind of bird this is. A bird of imagination, I guess. And the girl surprised me by being a girl, and brunette, and in pink. I had thought it would be a boy in red and white stripes. Here's to the creative process. When the gold and black bird arose, the rest of the idea had to change.

As for me, I feel lighter now that nanowrimo and AEDM are over. Even nablopomo... which I could not sign on to and so was not officially doing, but I still had it in my mind to post every day for a month. I feel my mind flittering off into the future, whether that future is 24 days away, or next year, or 2 years from now.

I'm thinking Christmas presents. I'll be making a lot, I think, so may not post paintings that are going to people who may discover them. I'm thinking about my night time creativity routine. I'm thinking about finishing and revising my novels, and about finding an agent. I'm thinking about setting up my etsy shop... yes, I've been thinking about that forever, but it's getting closer. I just received my printer this afternoon! I've been thinking about pulling together all those ideas that have been floating about my head for eons and making them come real.

This is about manifesting.

And I realized recently I am pretty good at manifesting the reality I want to be living. All that needs to be done is I set my mind to it-- it's called commitment, people-- and take the proper steps. That's all.

And saying "yes" when life offers up opportunities to grow.

PS I've got two new sites where you can find me. Burning Lines, a group writing experiment, and my new blog, small and heartfelt, which is where I am putting all my "stuff." Not what I am creating, but the stuff I am loving: sites, photos, art, fashion and decorating, recipes, crafts, even some wedding and holiday hosting ideas.
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