from crayon box to powering my soul… color defines me

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In the Studio with a MOMA MOOC

The second course I signed up for on Coursera.org is much more experiential than the Learning How to Learn (LHTL) course I wrote about 2 posts ago. I took a leap and signed up for “In the Studio: Postwar Abstract Painting”. We’re exploring the Abstract Expressionists of the New York School. I knew 2 of the artists by name, the rest are new to me, which is exciting. I still think about my favorite undergrad classes: Art History 101 and 102, which pushed us to experience an onstage presentation, a play, a musical, an operetta, an art show, sculpture, and architecture.

Forty years later, I am studying art again. Through my latest class at http://www.coursera.org we have learned a bit about Barnett Newman, who’s pieces were huge, often 18 feet in length (at left below). My exploration resulted with this interpretation of his process I call “Grounded” (at right below):

Newman made what he called “zips” and I practiced a couple of different types of zips on my much smaller version (11 x 14″). The course instructor is Corey D’Augustine, artist and curator at MOMA. I naively presumed this studio exercise would be simple; Corey made it look easy, however I was surprised at how difficult it is to try to ensure your lines are straight. I used all acrylics: Raw sienna covers the entire canvas, then I taped the left zip and covered everything with yellow ochre. Next I taped the 2 right zips. I mixed Payne’s gray with Titanium white & gloss medium for the thicker of the two stripes and use straight-from-the-tube Payne’s gray for the thinnest stripe or zip. Finally, I used Naples yellow with palette knife for far right imperfect edged and textured zip.

Next up was Willem de Kooning. I think his work is interesting because it changed so much over the years; there is not one phase of his work that I can readily conclude is de Kooning’s style.

I used the same color palette as Corey did in the studio exercise video. I couldn’t find Titanium Buff so I tried to create my own flesh tone; it is a bit darker and pinker than I expected. This is my first experience using oils and I liked mixing in linseed oil, varnish, and mineral spirits, even water. My favorite parts of the de Kooning process were the charcoal pencil and the removing processes, like scraping, scratching, and rubbing off with turpentine on a rag… love that look! On the downside, I hated the clean up process of oils. I’m a messy artist and my hands were covered in oil paint. I just threw away my yogurt cup “bowls” and inexpensive brushes. I think I’ll stick with acrylics for future studio exercises. I like the final result, but am clueless as to whether it’s “finished”! I named it “Macaw” for the colors and textures.

Look for more from the class as I continue to explore in upcoming blogs…

The Impressions We Make

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Since facebook has started bringing back memories of what we posted 3, 4, even 5 years ago, I am sure that I’m not the only one who has been tickled to see something we posted but had already forgotten. A few years ago I met my friend Rosie. I was gifting my mixed media paintings to the local area Starbucks Coffee shops, like these prints on canvas now availalbe in my Etsy shop:

Rosie saw one in our neighborhood Starbucks, asked about it and they handed her my business card. Rosie called me and asked if I would be willing to show her how to create her own mixed media art.  I was so excited to meet her and create with her. She made this gorgeous, colorful collaged Christmas tree. It came back to me on facebook as a memory from 2012.

My friend Rosie’s first mixed media collage – not quite dry yet so some areas of glue still appear white

A friend sent me a photo of the mini album I created for her when Margo was surprised by her now husband’s proposal. Remember this? she asked in the text. I laughed! Yes, I remember creating it, but more importantly, I was so warmed to know she still had it around and would share the pic with me.

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Margo’s Marriage Proposal Captured in a Heart-Shaped Mini Album

Another canvas I created came back to me recently in a totally unexpected way. I participate in an annual breast cancer fundraiser. At this year’s Think Pink Crafting Extravaganza, formerly known as Survivor Crop, and my 12th of 15 years participating in this wonderful event, breast cancer survivor Kendra spoke to us about her experiences; her journey with chemo and then radiation treatments was harrowing.

She spoke of how difficult it is for people to talk to someone when they are sick. People look away, pretend they don’t see you, fail to acknowledge your existence, mostly because they don’t know what to say or how to act around cancer patients. Friends fail to call, you’re sick, in pain, scared, and lonely, so lonely. Other people come into your life, like the wife of one of her husband’s co-workers. Sandy listened to Kendra and was a resourceful and caring sounding board. Sandy is one of the Think Pink Crafting Extravaganza organizers.

After talking to us as a group, Kendra visited with many of us as we crafted all day in our fundraising efforts. When she made her way to our table, she stopped to sit down by me. I had just finished a mixed media canvas using Simple Stories new Hope Collection of patterned papers and matching stickers. I call it Breezy:

Kendra talked about my Breezy painting and how it reminded her of the collage she has been gifted with.She told me how she had it hanging in her bedroom and when she was too sick to get out of bed she would look at it. She said it was fascinating because each time she looked at it she would find something new; there were layers and layers of messages and images in the painting. She said she loved it and how much it had helped her.

I asked Kendra who the artist was, but she didn’t recall. I asked her what the collage was of and she told me it was 3 women; it was breast cancer survivor art. You know how they say you can just sense where something is heading, the goosebumps appear on your arms and it becomes really quiet all around you as you focus in on just one person or one thing? Well, that’s what happened to me. I then asked where she’d gotten the painting and she told me that Sandy had given it to her.

For several years, I would make mixed media collages for the Silent Auctions at this breast cancer fundraiser. I recall creating one with 3 women on it and wondered if Sandy had bid on it and won it at one of the auctions? It was so rewarding to know that a collage I had created and donated to a previous year’s silent auction had been bid on and won by my friend, Sandy, and then out of the thoughtfulness of her heart, Sandy had gifted it to the lovely breast cancer survivor sitting next to me,telling me her story, Kendra.

I told Kendra that I thought I might be the artist and asked her if she would send me a photo of the canvas, and I’d also love a photo of her with the painting and she agreed.  I was close to tears, but it really didn’t hit me until the drive home that night. We raised almost $20,000 that day and the tears poured down my face driving home. It means the world to me to know that my art can have this kind of an impact on a total stranger.

My hope has always been that my colorful, whimsical and, sometimes. quirky view of the world through my art will touch emotions in others. Unbeknownst to be, I certainly had. I couldn’t be more proud, so I’m off to paint more! Happy Thanksgiving 2016 everyone!

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Kendra and the 3 Girls Survivor Collage

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Halloween Just Might Come in a Tin

As many of you know, I love to recycle or upcycle stuff. I had been collecting empty Altoid mint tins for a mixed media canvas class I intended to teach at a local scrapbook store, but unfortunately the store, like so many other small independently owned shops, has closed. We are down to only one or two scrapbooking stores in San Diego county and it’s disheartening. If you aren’t already familiar with the 3/50 Project, Saving the Brick and Mortars our Nation is Built On, please visit their site here.

So last weekend while participating in a pet rescue fundraiser, I created 15 miniature Halloween-themed tins from ribbon, stickers and beads I had sitting around my studio with my stash of creative goodies. What can they be used for? Spare keys, spare change, business cards, or even that emergency chocolate supply you want to keep handy, just in case.

 

Want to make some yourself?

Here’s how: Starting with a clean mint tin, I printed vintage witch photographs on full sheet label paper, trimmed them down to size and adhered them to the top of each tin.

Next, I realized that the tin had the mandatory nutritional information on the bottom, so I added photos there, too, to cover it up!

Using a hot glue gun, I adhered ribbon to the top outer rim of the tin creating a skirt for each tin. I have one with this crinkly old ivory ribbon that reminds me of the inside lining of a coffin.. how appropriate for Halloween, right?

I added stickers and jewels, flowers and glitter glue dots, rhinestones and mica flakes using liquid glue and pop dots for a raised or 3D effect.

Lastly, I added “feet” so that each tin would stand elevated off of a surface. I used matching beads, ensuring that the ones I chose had a least one flat side to keep them level. Using my hot glue again, I glued 4 beads onto the corners of the bottom of each tin. In the photo, the first tin on the left in the second row was photographed upside down so that you can see the amber bead feet.

Remember to keep a cup of ice water handy when using your hot glue gun because it’s inevitable that you’ll forget and touch a spot of hot glue so quickly plunge the burning finger into the ice water to harden the glue and stop the burn… just think of it as a little witches brew you have on the side!

One other thing… I found my Halloween costume at WalMart in the women’s PJ department. It is so soft, comfy and was only $6! It’s a black night shirt with this on the front. The only thing that would make it more perfect was if it glowed in the dark!

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Happy Halloween!


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The Spark is ReIgnited!

This past year had been a bit of a challenge for me, as it has for many of us. I see, for example, the last time I wrote on my blog was 2015 just after my brother passed away from complications of Type 1 Diabetes. Since then, I’ve focused on taking care of myself, because, really, who else is going to do that for me, better than I will? I had a knee replacement and have been doing water aerobics and swimming laps several times a week. What a joy it is to be back in the water (must be the Aquarian in me?)!

Along with improved health, I’ve lit a fire under my creative side and have been happily creating new mixed media projects, many of which you can see in my Etsy online shop: CarlasCraft.etsy.com but, of course, I plan to share some with you right now – I hope you enjoy looking at these as much as I enjoyed making them!


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A Visual Feast

Last fall I signed up for a week-long Artist’s Retreat in Puerto Vallarata. It was one of those rare (very rare, actually) decisions where I put myself first and escaped from work and home and the everyday. Arriving on a Sunday, with my largest bag stuffed with art supplies, I found myself at the Hacienda Mosaico searching for a way in. Eventually, I realized that the hanger wire poking through the stucco wall was a door bell, connected to an internal bell that let those inside my new haven know that I had arrived.

Once inside, the stucco’d walls encased an amazing world of tropical trees and flowers, a charming blue pool and several casitas. We had a wonderful chef who served us amazing breakfasts at 9 a.m. and late lunches at 2 p.m. which I usually followed with a swim to cool off. We eventually went out on the town between 8 and 9 p.m. for a bite or celebratory dinner on the beach, our toes wiggling in the cool sand surrounded by tiki torches. The hacienda is filled with mosaic and brightly colored art.

Our week included art classes and free creative time where we share ideas with each other and experimented with color, texture and products. A trip into town to a little art supply store and to purchase milagros, Spanish charms, and sundresses. Another trip one evening for the weekly Art Walk, a musical event in front of the Cathedral, and to watch the sun set. Here’s what I completed during my little reality escape:

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With Gratitude

I’ve done training in the corporate world for years… harassment prevention, drug-free workplace, violence prevention, supervision training, conflict resolution, et.al. and I love it! I’ve taught Human Resources at SDSU College of Extended Studies Certification program, specifically Performance Management courses. But, when it comes to my creative work, I’ve invited co-workers to meet a couple of times and taught them what I’ve learned about creating mixed media canvases. Any donations they made towards supplies were added to my Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation fundraising efforts. As previously mentioned, I started dabbling with paint and texture about 2 years ago when I took my first ever online art workshop with Christy Tomlinson from ScarletLime.com.

Most recently, I have officially been unemployed from my “day job” for 4 weeks now and I am surprised at how busy I have been… looking for a job truly is a full-time job. The last time I was unemployed was in 1999 and that change motivated me to leave Louisiana and return to San Diego, which turned out to be the best decision for my career and for my son. Within a few weeks, I found an amazing job in my field working as H.R. Director for a small-sized electronics manufacturing company, I bought a home locally, and sold my home in Shreveport. I always felt the change was meant to be. So, with this current situation I keep reminding myself that I will look back on this one day and say it was the best thing that ever happened to me.

Meanwhile, I have a bit more time to focus on my art. Yesterday I taught my first “paid” gig centering around my canvas art. I have started a series of girl art canvas board classes that I teach at EverAfter Scrapbooks in Vista, CA.  These girls were inspired by my love of J. Ruth Gendler’s “The Book of Qualities” and the courage it took Ruth to get the book to it’s original printing by creating Turquoise Mountain Publications when other companies were not interested in publishing her work. Ruth lived in Omaha, Nebraska, where I grew up, and now lives and teaches art in Berkeley, CA. Read her Artist’s Statement to be inspired, too!

The Book of Qualities by J. Ruth Gendler

The Book of Qualities by J. Ruth Gendler presents over 70 qualities — including Pleasure, Anger, Terror, Beauty, and Change — as everyday characters who live among us. Both personal and impersonal, the Qualities convey a variety of human emotions in a simple and entertaining manner; readers are inspired to reflect on their own qualities and communicate their feelings with new clarity.

The Book of Qualities Original Cover, Turquoise Mountain Publications printing 1984

The Book of Qualities Original Cover, Turquoise Mountain Publications printing 1984

I, for one, am grateful that Ruth Gendler persevered to get the book’s original printing published. This book has been a favorite gift of mine for friends and I read a portion of “Joy” from the book at my son’s dedication, 22 years ago! The book has been set to life on stage and I remember years ago purchasing a calendar with 12 months of Qualities, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I found two additional books by Ruth and have ordered them at my local bookstore. I also learned that the Book of Qualities has been translated into German: Das Buch der Lebensgeister: 76 Qualitäten, die in uns wirken – sehr gut!

I do so love the underdog-type story that turns out even better in the end. Along similar lines, Mannheim Steamroller had difficulty getting a recording company to promote their music, thus creating American Gramophone and the rest of their story, including their Fresh Aire series, one of my favorites Classical Gas by Mason Williams, and amazing holiday music we all love to hear, is more Omaha history! Their website talks of new Christmas music.

Back to yesterday’s class, I thoroughly enjoyed working with my class participants and the new store owners, Sandy and Kyle Christie. Some of these people I know from our fundraising efforts at Survivor Crop and a couple were new acquaintances; all of whom were a delight to have in class. I was so enchanted with how everyone encouraged and complimented each others’ efforts… it was quite empowering! We took photos, of course, and delighted at how unique each completed canvas turned out.

I was tickled that we ended right on time, everyone completing their projects. I was also thrilled that many of the class members signed up for December’s Joy Girl canvas. The class will be at EverAfter Scrapbooks on Sunday December 8, 2013, from Noon to 4 p.m. Call the store to register… I would love to see you there! Here’s Joy Girl:

December Joy Girl Canvas Board Class

December Joy Girl Canvas Board Sample
Quote reads: “Joy is a girl who loves the scent of cinnamon and evergreen”


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Cook for a Cold, Paint for a Fever

Summer colds are the worse. We should get colds when it’s cold, not when it’s warm and sunny and you want to be outside playing in the sun, the grass, the surf, the lake, just outside. My  cold started last week and carried on through the weekend. I found comfort in cooking in my crock pot – let’s just fake it’s winter and imagine it’s cold outside.

I made apple-cinnamon oatmeal with the apples whose skins were starting to crinkle but were still crisp and sweet inside; goodbye peel, hello breakfast. Then, I created chicken soup with udon noodles by adding pearl onions, shelled edemame, freshly sliced mushrooms and bamboo shoots, flavoring it with a splash or two of fish sauce and soy sauce. Served up with either a dash of rice wine vinegar or chirashi hot sauce (or both) – yum! Comfort food. Actually, I made it a bit salty so today I bought a potato and threw large chunks  of it in the dutch oven with the soup and let it simmer the salt away. Now, it’s truly yum!

So, I cooked for my cold and when I got bored with reading or watching movies, I painted. Sunday afternoon I stood outside wearing shorts and a tank top, bare feet soaking up the Southern California sunshine, hair unkempt, a clean face, painting. At the same time I realized that I was sweating, soaking actually. Hmmmm – must be a fever! Keep painting, shower, repeat. Here’s what I created when I felt like crap – actually the act of throwing paint on canvas and creating made me feel better. They are unique one from the other, but that’s probably just my being in a funk, feeling lousy and wanting to feel better.

Snowy Flight

Snowy Flight

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Fever