Monday, April 24, 2017

Art Shows

As members of the Temecula Valley Art League we are offered many opportunities to exhibit our art. It's not so easy to put yourself out there in the world. To feel confident enough about what you are creating to share it with the world and display your heartfelt canvases among the works of other artists, some of whom have been in juried exhibits, have sold their work and been displayed in galleries.

Eventually though, as an artist who creates in the confines of your own room, all alone, with only the muses to sing to you, the time comes when you have to get out there. In April Frank and I had the chance to display our work at a monthly exhibit in Old Town Temecula. Putting our work out in the world was a challenge, not to mention trying to maneuver the hooks and wires needed to hang canvases from the racks we were provided. But it was a lot of fun!

We finally got everything hanging up securely and to the tune of a live jazzy/blues band we wandered around the vast space looking at the work of other artists. As with any endeavor in this world there were many who were better than us and others who were not as good. And in the middle is a pleasant place to be in terms of artistic talent.

We also got to meet other artists and chat about the creative process and the opportunities that exist in our new home town to share our art and meet other creative people.

I know we will be exhibiting more often and we both look forward to that chance.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Blogging, Art and Networking

I know, I know, I said I wanted to blog more often. Well I'm working on it. We did go away for a few days to Paso Robles, another one of California's wonderful wine country regions. And we spent some hours walking on the trails along the coastline at Moonstone Beach. But with the mobility of electronic devices travel may no longer be an excuse not too blog. Though too much food and wine might suffice.

Well I'm back now and ready to talk about art and all that.

Frank and I attended a meeting of the Temecula Valley Art League last night and my discussion with the current President of the organization prompted this blog post. It's related to networking and publicity.

The TVAL monthly meetings are a lovely blend of pot luck dinner, business meeting and artist demonstration. When we moved to California from New York I researched several arenas for networking with artists and the Temecula Valley Art League came up. We've only been to two meetings so far and just became official members but already I see the potential. Not only for networking with local artists but also as a way for me to get involved in something that I feel passionate about. Besides art making I am very passionate about promoting the arts, especially for children.

TVAL is presently looking for new board members and that announcement prompted me to talk to the President and find out how I could volunteer my services. Aside from taking on some responsibilities for doing tasks the organization needs to be done I also want to brainstorm ways that I can offer new skills and services to the league. They need a new publicity person and I might take that on if I can do enough research about how to go about it. I want to promote art for everyone not just promote my own art making which is more of a personal hobby than a profession.

I'm taking it on, along with other clubs or groups that sound interesting and I hope this blog will also be a forum to publicize events and happenings at the art league here in beautiful Temecula.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Why a Marriage between Poetry and Art?

Many might ask why I choose to marry art with poetry. There are two answers to that question. The simple answer is that I needed a way to combine my two favorite creative outlets. For a long time I struggled between wanting to make art and wanting to write. Being a very black or white person I operated under the false assumption that I could do one or the other but not both. Having little creative time back in those years of full time work I felt that doing both well was an impossibility since I could barely find time to one or the other. If I was writing it was in slivers of early morning, or late at night when my brain could barely function. I needed all the time I could muster to get any worthwhile writing accomplished. There was no room for art.

Yet, art kept singing her siren song, luring me into the deep waters of mixed media and art journaling. It was a lovely place to drown except I kept feeling I needed to be more focused and responsible about my writing. After all a novel doesn't get written in snippets of time. It could take years just to create a first draft.

But then poetry came tiptoeing back into my life. From the time I was a little girl I loved reading and writing poetry and who can't write a short poem in a few corners of the day? So I immersed myself in reading poetry again and began to write more poems. I took a few online poetry classes and started sending poems out to literary journals. But still here was my muse tossing paintbrushes at me and smearing bright colored paints into my thoughts.

And then came the "aha" moment!

Sitting in a garden at the art museum I began to see art journals and canvases that married my poems with art. How the words could swirl through a design or sit humble but strong as an element on the page. I had found the answer to my creative dilemma. I could write poems and make art and put the two together and never worry again about where to put my creative focus.

And that is the simple answer--just finding a way to enjoy my two creative loves at the same time.

The more complicated answer is that art and poetry are a spiritual practice for me and giving up either one was like praying to a demi-god. It just didn't fulfill my need for spiritual connection. In order to embrace my feelings for spirituality I needed to enjoy both art and poetry.

That longer explanation for this marriage of poetry and art is for another blog post. And definitely some more art to show you.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Turning Poems into Art

be still
be silent
for your heart
and soul
to sing

As words swirl across the page in blue ink I can't help but imagine what they would look like incorporated into a piece of art. I've made attempts in the past to add my own poems to my art work and some of them have actually turned out okay. One problem is that I use different styles and I need to refine my style so my work will become familiar.

In the image above I worked out something in my art journal in hopes of getting as style down that I like. I believe working out the plan in my journal before committing to canvas will be a big help.

For this page I used Fresco Finish chalk paint applied with a brayer and added a few stamped designs to bring more interest to the background. For the focal images I stamped them onto various mulberry papers and cut them out. Once adhered with gel medium I used bush markers to add shadows and highlights. I printed the poem on mulberry paper too and attached it with gel medium. I was happy with it mostly for the colors. Even though my paintings have become more bold and bright, when creating art for my poems I prefer softer muted tones.

I was happy with it so I did it again on a canvas.

This time I printed the poem on deli paper and I believe in the future I will use deli paper to print all the poems and to stamp the images as well.

I feel challenged to create a series of poem-art canvases for an exhibit in May. I like the idea and this will give me two different art modes for exhibiting. My bold and bright abstract paintings and these softer pieces with poetry and art. The particular canvas above is 8x8 inches which I like but I ended up buying a bunch of 10 x 10 inch canvases that were on sale at Michaels so I will use those for the exhibit.

So much going on in my mind right now about poetry and art so hopefully that will encourage me to post more often on this blog. 

Have a bright and poetic day.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Learning to write poetry from the masters

Early morning. The sun gives the horizon a tentative kiss. I shuffle in pink moccasins to the kitchen to prepare 8 ounces of honey and lemon water to hydrate and soothe my parched soul. After a few minutes of meditation in the silver gray solitude of this new day I turn on the light to read.

I am often in the process of reading several books at once but divine dawn is reserved for poetry, or poetry related books, or inspirational reading that centers me and reminds me to be mindful of each glorious moment of my life.

This precious morning I cozied up to the following books.

The first book was Mary Oliver's new collection of essays. "Upstream." Oliver is my poetic idol. Her knowledge and experience with nature in all its beauty and destruction is unparalleled. She describes flora, fauna and experience in intimate details, images that shock and surprise the reader. And she takes those details and connects them to a larger universal connection that exists among all life whether we acknowledge it or not. She makes me gasp. She makes me pick up my pen and journal to write my own thoughts or to copy down lines from her poems or essays I don't ever want to forget. Reading Oliver is a gift I give myself, ever grateful for the magic of her thoughts and words.

The second book I read this morning is one of a pair I just discovered while perusing "How to Read a Poem" and "How to Write a Poem" by Tania Runyon. I was attracted to these books because they are based on Billy Collins' poem "Introduction to Poetry." Collins is one of my other favorite poets and I love the poem so I ordered the books straight away and was not disappointed. Runyon offers several facets of a poem to explore, each based on a verse from the Collins poem. She then sets the reader a series of questions to ask about a poem based on that verse and gives you several poems to practice the process. The poems are wonderful and turn the book into an annotated anthology that enlightens the reader of poetry. So far I am enjoying the first book and look forward to seeing what she has to say about writing poems. 

I love finding new books of poetry or books about poetry that inspire me and help me learn. Perhaps one day some reader or poet will open one of my books and become inspired too.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Art and Poetry as Spiritual Practice

I grew up with no religious training or spiritual practices. Holidays like Christmas and Easter were celebrated because they were fun and were reasons to bring family together for good food, laughter and card games. I didn't attend church or synagogue except for rare transitional events like weddings or funerals. I grew up fine but always with the feeling that something was missing.

Over the years I tested a few religions, tried them on to see if they fit but they required too many alterations to be the right style. I had been told so many times that religion was silly, or wrong, or so much nonsense that I just couldn't find one to suit my needs. And yet, I kept searching for a spiritual practice that would make me feel complete.

I tried yoga, tried to learn meditation and Buddhism, and even spent a weekend at an ashram with a friend to see if there was anything there that could become my spiritual practice.

Over the years yoga and meditation gave me some peace of mind and an excuse to enter the solitude and silence I so desperately require in every day. But it didn't seem enough. And then I discovered something. As a child I had a spiritual practice but didn't know that's what it was. I had poetry and nature and art. I would lie in the cool morning grass of summer and watch the clouds roll by. I would observe the plants turning green in the spring and flowers exploding in an unbelievable variety of colors and shapes. At some subconscious level I must have absorbed all of nature for being the miracle that it is. Mother Nature was my goddess but I didn't name her as such until well into midlife.

Slowly I came back to my childhood passions. First it was poetry--reading and writing poems became my expression of spirituality. A connection to emotions and thoughts that sleep beneath the heart and are difficult to recognize and arouse until I spent many quiet mornings sinking into the rhythm and meaning of poems or watching my own feelings sprawl across the white page in waves of blue or purple ink. 

In later years I discovered I still had a passion for art. I started out scrapbooking then moved on to collage, art journaling, mixed media and painting. I learned techniques through online classes, books and magazines. And finally I had a spiritual practice I could relate too.

Ultimately I needed a way to combine these two creative modes of expression. And though I'm not quite there in a consistent way I started this blog in the hopes I could develop a daily practice of art that incorporated my own poems--or lines from poems by poets I love like David Whyte, Mary Oliver and Mark Nepo.

Here are two samples of my attempts at adding my own poems to my art work.

I'm trying to develop an artistic style that will work and can be consistent so people will recognize the art as mine. I have long since refined my poetic voice and I believe it's fairly recognizable to those familiar with my work. This is definitely an ongoing project but it has become my spiritual practice and I am grateful for that.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

It's raining here in southern California and I hear that's unusual but since we just moved to the west coast a few months ago I have nothing to compare it to. So I am taking advantage of this gray Sunday to formulate my plans for blogging.

I had considered starting a whole new blog based only on poetry and calling myself the Zen Poet but that presented a few problems. First of all I would lose all the art I've posted here and second it would limit what I could include. So I've decided to stick with this blog because I can write about poetry and art and just sort of follow my heart. I hope to have more informative posts and to blog more frequently.

Today's post is about stepping out of my comfort zone in relation to art. I typically have a simple style with soft colors or neutrals and not too many layers on my pages. Doing many layers in one piece just never appealed to me. But I began taking some online courses with Mimi Bondi, an Australia based artist whose book "No Shenanigans" inspired me to get creatively uncomfortable. There are e-classes that match each chapter of the book and Mimi is an amazing teacher. Her free youtube videos are amazing and very accessible and I recommend them.

These are two new journal pages that I created with guidance and inspiration from Mimi. I'm not totally pleased with them but I am pleased with the stretch I made to work in new ways with paint and ideas. I even managed to let my fingers do the painting and get pretty messy in the process!

I encourage you all to step outside of your comfort zone and create something using new materials or techniques and if you have't made an art journal page or painted the way you did when you were a child I certainly encourage you to try it out. It's lots of fun and it makes a rainy Sunday brighter and more colorful.