Thursday, April 22, 2010

Branding My Shoes

I decided to kick off the my week of "working for keeps" by taking a risk in my art therapy practice. Recently, I had the opportunity to work with a young patient of about 13. Her nurse came up to me in the hall and lightly catching me by the arm, said "Adelle wants to paint her tennis shoes."  "Shoes hmmm?" I always enjoy a challenge like this in the midst of hospital hustle and bustle.  "What would I need to paint some tennis shoes, Converse cotton canvas to be precise?" I thought fast.

I would need:
•some acrylic paint thinned slightly in a variety of colors
•2 (at least) emesis basins (those kidney shaped bowls that are standard hospital issue.)
•several toothbrushes. Raid the supply room.
•What to do about the floor? Grab a plastic isolation gown and some medical tape. Spread it out like a tarp, and tape the arms and bottom firmly to the linoleum floor.

Adelle and I hunkered down on the floor and I experimented with my flick and spray techniques. She didn't have much experience in this area, but caught on quickly, expertly flicking the first layer of yellow drops on her orange shoes. A shy tween, she was hesitant at first, especially because our activity attracted the interest of the residents and the nurses who came in and out of her room and couldn't resist asking the obvious "What are you doing?" She smiled and flicked her toothbrush, spraying flecks of yellow. I was impressed. The shoes were looking great and with an additional layer of red and cerulean blue, they appeared as if a professional had created them. Which got me to thinking. Most likely Adelle (not her real name) had a lot more experience with Internet shopping than I and more than likely, Converse was marketing just such a shoe. I went home and checked it out on my laptop. Sure enough, there was an option to "make" your own shoe". I spent a bit of time changing the colors and patterns on my virtual shoe, but in the end, concluded that doing it in the flesh was  better.  I searched around the house, looking for a pair of my daughter's old Converse tennies to spray. Too late, I remembered that they'd gone to Goodwill in a paper sack. What to do? The answer came to me this morning from my friend and coworker Janelle (her real name) while we were sitting together. She stared down at my worn Dansko clogs (standard hospital wear) and noted the multiple flecks of white paint on one of them. "You ought to collage those" she said "you know, create your own brand." "A beautifully painted pair of clogs", definitely a keeper of an idea. I'll be painting, collaging and posting. Care to join me anyone?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Back to Basics

Have you ever had that experience where you try to sort out what part of your art is driven by the desire to "show and sell"--and what part is just you, pure and simple? (As if one could easily separate those parts.) I'm at that point in my collage work. Just for right now, I want to strip my work down to basics. I want to remove the glaze of "made for exhibition." In order to figure out a plan, I spent an hour in conversation with my friend Beth Rommel. Beth lives in Florida and we met in Alyson Stanfield's Artbiz Blastoff course where we discovered we had the right mix of things in common; two twenty something children, a certain whimsical bent in our artwork, and the same intense commitment to art that we brought to raising children. Beth, always the mistress of new ideas, came up with one that I'm going to give a trial run."How about just painting something you want to keep?" she asked. As she said this, I saw myself at eleven, crouched down on a creek bank in back of our house, digging out clay and discovering that earth clings to itself and can be shaped into vessels. It's that purity of discovery that I plan to pursue. Stay posted. Literally.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Generating Ideas

How do we come up with ideas? Where do they come from? Today our assignment in the Blog Triage class is to come up with at least 20 ideas about which we can blog. In the spirit of sharing that is the hallmark of social networking I decided to write them down here, in my blog, and share them with all of you. I have only one proviso: if you want to write about any of them yourselves, PLEASE GO AHEAD! These are ideas that I am curious about and either want to tackle, or, just as much, read someone else's take on them. And if you think about it, no two people are going to write about the same subject the same way.

So here goes. Top of my list this morning:
•1) The Middle Age Brain and Art. I just listened to Terry Gross interview Barbara Strauch on "The Surprising Strengths of the Middle Aged Brain. How does this affect art making? How many of us can relate to this?
•2) Taking an artist's retreat for a day
•3) Creating an artist's retreat for a group of like minded artists
•4) Going to an artists' retreats in the Western United States (can you sense a theme developing here?)
•5) Working green: finding and using sustainably made art supplies.
•6) Taking a tour through a local artist's studio and writing about it.
•7) Interviewing my artist friends (you know who you are!)
•8) Asking one of these same friends to interview me (I would love this because I love questions.)
•9)  Interviewing a local art therapist in private practice and looking at what an art therapist can offer an artist.
•10) How to turn your ideas for classes into a reality privately or very publicly. (Working on the latter!)
•11) Creating art programs for underserved populations.
•12) Choosing a medium I love and arranging to tour an artists' studio who works in this medium. I would love to tour a mosaic artist's space and a jeweler's (Lynn and Tracey, are you listening?).
•13) Blogging about our local open studio tour.
•14) Blogging about an exhibition in the making--I've already got mine picked: an art quilters exhibit that will open in 2011. I haven't started on my pieces yet so this makes perfect grist for the mill.
•15) My transformation this summer into a still life painter for an upcoming exhibit.
•16) What do you do when you know you need to go in a new direction, but you're not sure how to get going?
•17) New ways to incorporate art making into the fabric of your life.
•18) How to create a portable studio anywhere you go.
•19) How to incorporate my computer into my artwork without it staging a hostile takeover.
•20) How to fit art making into smaller blocks of time.
That's me in the picture above trying to figure all of this out!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Rx for Weary Artist: Art Opening

Have you ever felt after a long day of encouraging other people to make art ("yes, you can!") that all you wanted to do is go home, crawl into bed and pull the covers over your head? Um hmmm. I know you have. Yesterday, I found a different remedy. After freshening up, downing a pita pizza, I headed out with my sister to the Artery, our gem of a cooperative gallery. Our styles of approaching a gallery could not be more different. My sister loves to spend time looking at each artist's work (and at the Artery there's much to see) while I behave like a red tail hawk, ricocheting from one wall to another, looking for something that speaks to me and all the while, comparing, contrasting and commenting. Out of necessity last night I slowed down. I sipped my lemonade and I discovered a feast for the eyes. As I slowly wandered through, taking in intricate strands of wire jewelry,  a gorgeous raku amphora and the ceramic ware of someone who truly adores cats, I ran into a number of friends. What surprised me (a confirmed introvert), was how much I enjoyed these small snippets of conversation. It was as if, by slowing down, each of these meetings became its own small piece of ephemeral art. I think I'm going to try this scrip more often! Artwork by Melissa Wood, copyright, 2010

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Blog Triage in Action!

I began this blog last year with a desire to make my journaling as an artist both manifest and public. Devoted to journaling as a teenager and young adult, I chronicled my adventures, loves and art school experiences. I continued journaling in graduate school, but once the adventure of family began, my commitment to journaling waned. Several months ago, inspired by an on-line course I'd taken with artist business coach Alyson Stanfield (, I signed up for the 4-week Blog Triage class with Alyson and Cynthia Morris ( and My goal: to build a more vibrant, meaningful and engaging blog for you, the readers.Welcome!

Yesterday, class began with our first homework assignment: "Describe the people you want to visit and read your blog." Who are my readers? All of you wonderful folk who've so far signed up to follow are people with a passionate love of art making or a desire to help others, especially children, create art. In spite of that, the question caught me unawares. Today I learned the answer at an awards breakfast for Children's Miracle Network, a national organization whose efforts fund my work as an art therapist at UC Davis Children's Hospital. The room was filled with people who had one goal in common: to create meaning and miracles for children undergoing a myriad of medical challenges. When a teen stood up and told her story of battling cancer three times over, there was not a dry eye in the place. When I drove away, I realized "I want to write a blog that attracts people like you who are reading this now. People who are passionately dedicated to meaning making; whether it is making artwork that is shared in exhibits, or, introducing others to the pleasures and life-saving qualities of art making. I envision you ranging in age from 17 to 100, because art making crosses the lifespan. My personal motivation in making art is "tikkun o'lam," the Jewish spiritual practice of "repairing the world" and I'm looking for you; like minded readers from across the country and indeed from around the world.  I celebrate the differences between us, but I choose to focus on the qualities that we all share in common. You, my readers, might also be avid readers of literature, ancient and modern and enjoy exploring art through the lens of mythology or psychology. You understand the beauty of finding meaning in the smallest details of life and it is my hope that, even if you are not initially comfortable blogging yourself, the desire to share experiences and engage in discussion would help to meet any challenges that arise. (I know that was true for me!) I think that sometimes the desire to express ourselves is strong enough that even we more introverted persons are moved to take a risk and put our fingers to the keyboard and speak.
Pictured above: "Blue Buddha," detail, copyright, 2009

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

"Friends" Exhibit at the Artery

I have a friend Sara Post, whom I've mentioned before (and am likely to mention again). We met in 2005 at the very first SoulCollage®
Facilitator's Training in the mountains above Santa Cruz, CA. When we discovered that we were both artists, had both lived in the same town for many years and shared a love and appreciation for all things mythological and archetypal, we became good friends and have been exchanging ideas, art and artistic adventures ever since. Recently she asked me to participate in a show at a local cooperative gallery, the Artery. Her subject line of the e-mail read "Friends Show at the Artery." I love the magic of artists' friendships and the art that comes out of them, so I agreed. The show opens this Friday, April 9th at the Artery in Davis, CA and runs through April 20th. There will be an exciting range of work, including not only wall artists but also fabric, ceramic, glass, wood, and jewelry artisans. The following are a few of the other participants: Melissa Wood (oil and graphite), Stella Stevens (water color), Judy Catambay (clay), Anne Syer (giclee print), Naoko Bautista (oil), Beth Grundvig (pastel), Pam Berry (fiber art) and Pat Meade (woven Alpaca).

Pictured above: In Balance, 2010, Hannah Hunter

Thursday, April 1, 2010

New Series

I began a new series about a month ago at the suggestion of my friend Beth Rommel. Actually Beth suggested I just experiment for bit because I'd painted myself into a corner (something we artists so often do). The experiments morphed into a succession of pieces each containing multiple images of Buddhas. I began thinking about the  abundance the images suggest, which in turn led me to thinking about abundance in general. Visions of "amber waves of grain" and the goddess Lakshmi began dancing through my head. I'm eagerly awaiting my package of panels from Dick Blick and the weekend, waiting to see where this new idea will carry me.