Searching for Letters Abroad

letters-abroad“There are places I remember
All my life though some have changed
Some forever not for better
Some have gone and some remain
All these places have their moments
With lovers and friends I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life I’ve loved them all”  In My Life” – John Lennon

Of late, the Full Moon has been my time of introspection. Urged on by the changing of the seasons, so it was again this month. The feeling of melancholy surrounds me as I see the leaves change colour and begin their spiral dance to the earth. And the progression continues with change as the only constant.

I have mentioned how much the Artistcellar Labyrinth series has inspired my work. Believing in Synchronicity, they came to me just when I needed them most. This time my chosen stencil to work with was Gonzaga. I love the clean straight lines. It would be a superb counterpoint for the elements I collected for the collage.

A new medium for me is the Deco Art Media Crackle Paste. Application is easy and all that is needed is a palette knife and patience to allow for an adequate drying time. I picked a piece of copper metallic writing paper for my substrate. As I spread the paste through the stencil I wondered how it would hold up. Would this technique be its demise? It’s an interesting process to watch. The thickness of application varies the size of the eggshell cracks. And like magic…there they were. I pulled the stencil away from the paper and started my clean-up. I’m happy to report, as with all Artistcellar products, cleaning was easy and the stencil held up beautifully. Quality, quality, quality!

Hearing “In My Life” on the radio brought back so many wonderful memories from a time before email. It’s no secret that I am a passionate lover of the written word. Letters, postcards…anything in the mail is nourishment for my Muse! I relish the anticipation as much as the delivery. Just to see an address in a familiar hand is uplifting. I wanted my theme for the collage to be the art of correspondence.

I admit I find it difficult to meditate. So many ideas, so many images interrupt what should be a place of quiet and wonder. By using the labyrinth as the focal part of my work, I am getting closer to quieting my mind. The Labyrinth pulls together my random thoughts. So the work you see here is an attempt at stream of consciousness meditation, for lack of a better phrase.

It was time to complete the collage. Drawing from my Book of Backgrounds (aka the Strathmore Mixed-Media Visual Journal) I selected other stencil designs I created: Halftone Dots, Seafoam, and Open Works from the Blocks series. Placing the images went smoothly…as if they knew where they should “live”. I allowed myself to feel, and to journey looking back at what once was with a definite optimistic view of the future. I recognize that accepting change is an integral part of the progression.

In my life all these places had their moments. And for that I am grateful.

Shameless Plug: The Labyrinth Series in addition to other works incorporating Artistcellar Stencils will be on show at the Oyster Mill Playhouse, Camp Hill, PA November 4 through November 20, 2016

MATERIALS USED:

In Finding the Moon

in-finding-the-moon“Don’t think. FEEL! It is like a finger pointing a way to the moon. Don’t concentrate on the finger or you will miss all that heavenly glory!”   Bruce Lee – “Enter The Dragon”

The Artistcellar Labyrinth series holds great inspiration for me. The variety of designs is an encouragement to slow down and listen, and to allow their voice to guide you. Or in the words of Bruce Lee, “Don’t think. FEEL!”

So it was, during the last full Moon, with my Strathmore Journal in hand, that I started my next design. I chose the Anasazi stencil. My heart was telling me it was the right one to use.

I stenciled directly on to the page in my Journal with Dye-Na-Flow Midnight Blue. By drying between applications I was able to produce a dappled effect of varying shades. Once the base was complete I layered lunar inspired colours of metallic acrylic. Warm highlights were added to accent and compliment the cool.

It is wonderful to experience the positive aspects of the full Moon by revising goals and setting intentions. Because of this powerful lunar energy, meditation is encouraged. I find just looking at the Moon introduces calm and stillness to what is usually a frenetic life. Mindfulness is highlighted. It is the perfect time to seek the benefit of walking a Labyrinth.

It was my time to put the work together. I’ve mentioned that I am compiling a great collection of images in my journal and from there I chose a watercolour swatch in shades of indigo. I also selected the Open Work stencil from the new Artistcellar Blocks series.  It has become one of my favourites!

The Bruce Lee Estate recently released a series of his 1968 pocket notebooks.  He filled them in neatly written script noting appointment details, affirmations, and his philosophy on life. They are inspirational. Reading through them, you can’t help but see how his life and work were intertwined…the fluid with the sharp, the public with the personal, and the strong with the sensitive. But above all, he had the power to still the mind and allow his spirit to soar. He found the compliment in opposites.

I kept his quote foremost in thoughts while working and allowed the collage to build itself. I wasn’t thinking of technique but rather was permitting the elements to find their own home. I allowed myself just to feel. When my collage was finished, I knew I had discovered a place of deep stillness. And once there I too did not will miss all that heavenly glory.

MATERIALS USED

The Flying Lesson / mixed media

This is my illustration for a book my daughter, Sarah Hill wrote. An excerpt is posted below.

This is my illustration for a book my daughter, Sarah Hill wrote. An excerpt is posted below.

“Hey Mom,” she said, “Can you teach me how to fly?”

Diana looked up at her and grinned, relief flashing in her face. She clearly wasn’t up for more talking either.

“You sure that’s where you want to start? It’s kinda scary…” Diana trailed off for a moment. “But a lot of fun.” Kayce grinned back.

“Yea let’s start there. I mean once I master flying, I’m pretty sure I can handle anything, right?” Kayce asked nervously. Diana raised her eyebrows, but the smile stayed on her face.

The teenager and the woman stood up and walked out of the room, Diana’s arm over Kayce’s shoulder. “Well it’s not quite that easy, kiddo.” She said, leading the way to the back yard. “But this is definitely the fun part.” Kayce’s heart raced, both thrilled and surprised her mother was so willing to let her attempt such a dangerous lesson right out of the gate.

“Don’t be scared,” Diana said, reading Kayce’s mind. “On Falconera they dropped us off of cliffs when we turned 15.” Kayce’s jaw dropped and her mother grinned and winked. Together the two of them entered the secluded yard, which backed up to the woods and fanned out in a wide, pie-piece-shaped property that hid the other neighbor’s houses on the cul-de-sac behind protective thickets of tall pines.

A few moments later, Diana was standing in the middle of the yard, legs hip-width apart and crouched, her arms out as if preparing to be tackled in a football game. Excitement shone on her face, as if she had been waiting to share this with Kayce her whole life.

“The first thing you need to learn is landing,” she said, still crouched. “Getting up is the easy part, believe it or not, but landing softly isn’t. Falling is not fun.” Kayce assumed the same stance as her mother, and the two women looked as if they were about to start a wrestling bout. Diana crouched low and jumped high in the air, but peaked no higher than a normal person of her stature. However when she was on her way back down, it was almost as if an invisible force was slowly lowering her to the ground.

Kayce jumped experimentally. She landed with ordinary gravitational force.

“It’s a mental thing,” Diana said. “Philippa, Anna, and I all taught ourselves to fly and land differently. I imagine landing on a giant deflating balloon where I can control the pressure. If you picture something sturdy beneath your feet, your body will react that way.”

Kayce concentrated and jumped again, this time with force and effort. Same average rise, same average drop.

“Philippa imagines jet boosters on her feet like rockets. Anna pictures a hook picking her up. I can’t really explain what makes it work. You just have to get there in your mind.” Kayce scowled at her mom and jumped, trying to imagine her mother’s balloon raising and lowering. Then she imagined jet boosters, hooks swinging her into the air, nothing worked. Her heart rate was starting to pick up with the physical effort and the frustration.

When Kayce’s feet touched down again in yet another ordinary jump she let out a frustrated “ugh.”

This went on for hours, Kayce and her mother hopping in the backyard, Diana periodically demonstrating flight on her own, Kayce’s teenage temper flaring after many, many failed attempts. The two of them were both sweating in the summer heat, their dark ponytails frizzing in the humidity and their stomachs rumbling. Diana was just about to suggest they break for lunch, which should have been several hours ago, when Kayce let out a low, angry scream.

“Maybe I can’t fly” Kayce huffed, refusing to meet her mother’s eyes when Diana sat down across from her. Kayce glared at the ground, wishing for some kind of reassurance from her mother but not knowing what she wanted to hear exactly. Up until now, Diana’s mothering tactics have been very positive. Lots of, “You can do it!”s and “Keep trying!”s but Kayce could tell by the silence that her mom didn’t want to lie, and with the exception of Kayce’s inherited super hearing and whatever that was that happened at the hardware store, they had no idea if she had any other capabilities or if she did, what they were.

“We don’t really know what you will be capable of. You might not be able to fly. So much of it we’ll just have to wait and see. We already know you have some pretty amazing hearing, and that thing at Home Depot was definitely speed.” Diana said kindly.

Kayce picked at the grass and tried not to be disappointed. She was a plain old ordinary teenager this time last week. It shouldn’t be that big of a deal to her that she can’t fly; she just found out that was even a possibility.

“Come on.” Diana said, reaching out to her daughter and helping her to her feet. “I have an idea. You have to trust me on this, okay?”

Diana turned Kayce around and wrapped her arms tightly around Kayce’s ribcage. Her face pressed into the back of Kayce’s sweaty neck, and together the two rose slowly into the air, about six feet up with Diana carrying Kayce.

“Mom…” Kayce said nervously, gripping her mother’s hands. Diana tightened her grip reassuringly, and then lowered another foot or so.

“Is this better?” Kayce swallowed and nodded quickly. “Now I’m going to let you go. If you fall, it won’t hurt you, maybe just a bump or a bruise and I owe you a new pair of earrings or a gift card or something. But whatever enters your mind in the instant I drop you, hold onto that, okay?”

“No wait… Mom I can’t do this.” Kayce’s heart thudded and she was sure her mom could feel it beneath the grip on her chest.

“Just try, Kace. I’m not going to let you get hurt.” And with that, Diana let go.

Immediately, Kayce’s back and shoulders warmed, like they had been hit with a direct beam of sunlight. The world was suspended. The hot breeze that was blowing through the trees stopped but all Kayce noticed was the force of what felt like giant wings on her back. Invisible, powerful wings had emerged from her back, right below her rib cage and held her suspended in air. The air did not stir, but the force was there nonetheless; leaving her suspended in midair, inches from her mother’s still arms.

Move up, willed Kayce, and the invisible wings propelled her, carrying her belly-first a few feet up and away from Diana.

Now down, she thought, and she lowered, but lost control and fell too quickly. Her stomach plummeted and her heart raced and the thought of the strong, sturdy wings was replaced with panic as the world resumed its normal pace and she crashed to the ground.

Diana was at her daughter’s side immediately.

“Oh baby I’m so sorry!” She cried, quickly inspecting Kayce’s limbs for broken bones, her skin for scratches. Kayce held her head for a moment, she definitely hit it pretty hard on the ground, before sitting up and saying,

“Mom I think I did it.”

Diana looked skeptical. “You dropped like a rock, Kayce.” Diana said, then realizing the statement sounded harsh, asked, “Why do you think you got it?”

“I don’t know. Everything just kind of stopped and I was able to clear my mind and concentrate for a minute.” She paused, afraid what she was about to say is going to make her sound crazy. “On wings holding me up.” Kayce stood up and brushed off dried grass and dirt. She subconsciously clenched her fists by her sides and looked determinedly ahead at her mother, who looked back at her with eyes full of doubt and pity.

Wings, thought Kayce. I have wings and I can fly.

Her feet left the ground and she saw the shock and delight on her mother’s face, but ignored it, her focus not even broken by the rush of adrenaline and fear.

Up, Kayce thought, and she slowly lifted a few more feet off the ground. Diana flew up to match her level, one knee lifted, her excited smile showing the slightest hint of worry as she studied the intense look on her daughter’s face. Kayce wanted to tell her mother that she knew what she was doing, but was afraid speaking would break the connection to her wings.

Okay, down, Kayce thought, and she started to fall she quickly like before. Slower! She thought, slower, slower… and sure enough, the imaginary wings slowed and she gently touched the ground. Diana touched down next to her.

“Well done, Kayce!’ Her mother was beaming. “I am SO proud of you! It took me months to do what you just did!” Unable to help herself, Diana pulled Kayce into a close, tight hug.

About the story;

Sarah wrote it for the intended audience of teenage girls. She worked at Emory University a few years ago in their outreach program for teens. Teenagers need to see how good relationships work so they can have their own good relationships in life. Reading helps teens figure things out when they don’t get enough guidance from adults, or don’t have good role models at home.

The mother is like Wonder Woman, from another planet. The girl’s dad is Human. The story’s teenage girl is a human, alien hybrid who is discovering she has some super powers.

About the collage.

Sarah told me she didn’t want angel wings on the girl. I agreed, but couldn’t decide how to do the wings. I had it in mind for months, then saw the Latin Ballet and was blown away. They had dresses with yards of pleated fabric attached to sticks which they held in their hands. The fabric was attached to the back of the dresses at the other end. I wished I could examine the dresses more closely. They were so beautiful and graceful as they floated across the stage with their wings. Then I had the idea for the wings, but couldn’t decide how to make them shiny and almost transparent. I considered mylar, but couldn’t find what I wanted. Sarah suggested nail polish and I thought that might work for the wings.

This collage has acrylic on canvas board. acrylic on mineral paper, pastel on different types of pastel paper, oil paint and nail polish

 

Learning To Be True

the-last-letter-janis“You can destroy your now by worrying about tomorrow.” – Janis Joplin

I was just a kid, making my bed and listening to the radio on a Saturday morning. The opening notes of a song caught my ear, but it was when I heard the raspy, passion filled voice, I knew I was experiencing something exceptional. At the time I didn’t know who was singing, and I didn’t know the name of the song. But the vocalists’ raw emotion, the way she held a note…releasing it at just the perfect moment…captivated me.  The song was “Piece of My Heart” by Big Brother and the Holding Company. The mesmeric voice belonged to Janis Joplin. The memory of the first time I heard her sing will forever stay with me.

We all know her story…leaving Port Arthur, Texas to discover who she was as a woman and an artist, of her addictions and her need for pushing the limits of her rock-and-roll lifestyle.  But rather than dwell on the tragic I want to celebrate all that was triumphant.

As a confirmed letter writer myself, I loved reading Janis’ correspondence to friends and family. This Janis is the one that inspired me through my awkward (are they ever anything but!) teens and into my twenties. Janis kicked open the door for women in the arts. She showed us anything is possible if we follow our dreams to our authentic self. Her drive to succeed on her own terms…caressing the vulnerable and the beautiful…lead to many mishaps but also to great discoveries.

The quote is a favourite of mine. Before words like “mindfulness” became part of the lexicon, Janis was already a believer. As I’ve recently been working with the wonderful Artistcellar Labyrinth series, my heart and my work have found a brilliant resting place in being fully present and not destroying my “now”.

The newest member of the Artistcellar family is Blocks. I couldn’t wait to start creating! The variety within the four piece set is excellent. I was especially drawn to the Open Work and Cross T designs. I wanted to give my work a 1960’s vibe so I chose to stencil with the colours of the era: hot pink, purple, acid green. It was fun to dab my acrylics through the stencil and see the combinations. I even stenciled a single colour knowing I could add it to my art. As with all of the Artistcellar products, clean up was a snap leaving the stencils in perfect condition.

I enjoyed building the collage. I wanted to give the work a vintage feel and started with a tintype background. I added the layers including the stenciled images, newspaper clippings, date stamps, painted dryer sheets, and finally the image of Janis. I chose this particular photo because she looked fearless, happy and ready to take on her next adventure.

It is easy to be drawn to the heart-rending story of a creative who died before their time. But if there is one thing I’ve gained from following Janis’ much too short career it is this: Be true to yourself, as a woman and an artist, and you will find authenticity waiting to be discovered in that special piece of your heart.

MATERIALS USED:

  • ARTISTCELLAR STENCILS: BLOCKS – Open Work, Cross T
  • PLAID FOLKART METALLIC ACRYLICS: Aquamarine, Champaign, Antique Gold, Amethyst, Plum, Rose Shimmer, Metallic Rose, Emerald Green, Peridot, Blue Topaz
  • PLAID ACRYLICS: Sunflower, Brilliant Pure Orange
  • REEVES ACRYLICS: Rose Red
  • NATURAL SPONGE
  • NEWSPAPER CLIPPINGS
  • STRATHMORE Mixed-Media Visual Journal 300 Series- 5.5″ x 8.5″
  • DIGITAL IMAGES – Purchased & Created

WARNING: DON’T LET THIS BE YOU!

no-coffee-pizzarroAre you like me? Does even the idea of running out of coffee strike fear in your heart? Are you just “not yourself” until you down that first…second…or third cup?

Rather than using street names, do your directions list coffee shops as landmarks? Do you consider a balanced meal coffee and a donut? Are you the person who is always polite to the Barista knowing they are creating your kind of magic in that cup? Then, my friend, we share a passion.

I recently sent off this Artist Trading Card to a friend who also proclaims her adulation for this beverage. The background and type are from newspaper ads. The truly distressed woman was sent to me from Germany as part of a paper exchange. I finished the card by rubber stamping on handmade paper.

No matter what you call it: Joe, Java, Brew, Cuppa, Liquid Delight…word to the wise: Never, ever run out of coffee!

Bringing Power To Your Life

travel-brings-power-labyrinth“Travel brings power and love back into your life.” – Rumi

TRAVEL: To go from one place to another, as on a trip; journey.

From the time I was a child the word “travel” was the genesis of my wanderlust. I couldn’t walk past a travel agency without stopping to look into their store window. Gazing at posters showing incredible scenes of cities that seemed so far away only fed my desire to travel.  I wanted to learn about the lives of the people depicted in those posters. I wanted to see for myself the towns and cities that looked so enticing even when viewed through a plate-glass window. I wanted to put pins in a map of all the places visited.  I knew I was destined to live a nomadic life.

And I have been lucky. I have visited almost all of the places that sparked my interest. And I found when traveling my journey enriched not only my physical but my spiritual life as well.  And this is why I am in love with the beautifully crafted Artistcellar Labyrinth series. Let me tell you about the journey I wandered in creating this collage.

Starting with my Strathmore Journal, I covered a page with Dye-Na-Flow Midnight Blue fabric paint using a 1” foam poly brush. While still wet, I splashed on Dye-Na-Flow Magenta followed by dripping rubbing alcohol into the wet die. As the page dried a soft floral pattern emerged.

Although I liked the effect, I wanted to see how the dye would react on Mineral Paper. But this time I drizzled on a bit of rubber cement before coating the paper.  The beauty of Mineral Paper didn’t disappoint! I liked the way the resist seemed to flow with the dye one enhancing the other. Although the technique was the same, I now had two distinct looks. Where my journal paper produced a soft velvet effect, the mineral paper was watery and wonderful. Looking at the backgrounds, I couldn’t decide. Which one should I use in the final work?  As the saying goes “You can never have too much of a good thing”, so opted to use both.

In my last collage I featured the Chartres stencil. This time I knew Crete was the one to use and stenciled directly on to the page in my Journal beginning with Viva Decor Inka Gold. I liked the effect I got the last time I used this product and polished it when dry with a soft cloth. It then became a wonderful base for shades of Silver, Gold, and Rose Red acrylics. The final element added was a vintage map.

Just working with the Labyrinths allowed me to recall so many memories of my travels. I believe travel empowers you to wander with purpose and explore the passions that drive you. Travel does more than include the physical movement from one place to another. Travel also resurrects the desire to explore within and find love and serenity in just being present.

MATERIALS USED

PLAID FOLKART METALLIC ACRYLICS: Rose

REEVES ACRYLICS: Silver, Gold, Rose Red

DYE-NA-FLO: Turquoise, Midnight Blue, Magenta, Sun Yellow

VIVA INKA GOLD GLOSS PAINT

NATURAL SPONGE

SOFT CLOTH

1” FOAM POLY BRUSH

RUBBING ALCOHOL

RUBBER CEMENT

MINERAL PAPER

STRATHMORE Mixed-Media Visual Journal 300 Series- 5.5″ x 8.5″

LABYRINTH SERIES STENCILS FROM ARTISTCELLAR

DIGITAL IMAGES – Purchased & Created

Walking The Labyrinth

WALKING THE LABYRINTH 6 x 6

“Say not, ‘I have found the Path of the Soul’. Say rather “I have met the soul upon my Path’”-Kahlil Gibran

Have you ever walked a Labyrinth? Have you thought about it, but perhaps don’t have one near enough to easily visit? If that’s the case, new addition to the Artistcellar stencil collection is for you!

Unlike a maze with twists and turns designed to challenge the walker with the possibility of misdirection, think of a Labyrinth as an empathetic guide. Regardless of design, the winding paths all lead to a single point. The objective of a maze is to reach the center. The objective of a Labyrinth is to reach your center.

Labyrinths embody the saying “It’s all about the Journey”. Not aligned to any specific religious tradition, the beauty of walking a Labyrinth is its ability to slow you down and allow you the opportunity to seek comfort and wholeness for your soul.

We are fortunate to have a wonderful Labyrinth at the Unity Church of Harrisburg. Built in 2007 it is of a medieval or Chartres design. I have walked it and continued my journey in their Peace Garden, always leaving relaxed and renewed. This is the reason why I was delighted to receive the new Artistcellar Labyrinth stencil series…and so happy to see the Chartres design is included. And as with so many things in life, it came at just the right time.

This Summer has been a whirl of activity…some wonderful experiences and others less so. But one thing is certain. I need to slow down, to regroup, and to revive. Having the stencil in my hands was the first step in the right direction.

My Strathmore Mixed-Media Visual Journal has become my “go-to” at the moment. I like the size and quality of the paper. The Chartres stencil was a perfect fit on the page. My stenciling efforts are now part of a growing collection of images ready and easy to use.

I had a general idea of the elements I wanted to include in my final design. Looking through my box of acrylics I chose colours in the purple family: Amethyst and Plum and gold for an accent. I wanted a slightly worn feel, so I began stenciling with a natural sponge. Although the colours complimented each other, and I liked the texture, something didn’t feel “right” about it.

After cleaning the stencil I went back to the box of acrylics to choose shades of green: Aquamarine and Blue Topaz. And suddenly everything fell into place. The texture and colours worked just as I imagined. I added further highlights of sunflower and Viva Inka Gold which I burnished with a soft cloth to a brilliant sheen. To complete my image, I placed it on a background mixing the sense of earth and a sky sprayed with stars.

And there it was…the Labyrinth just as I envisioned it. A sensation of well-being washed over me, just as it does when physically walking the winding path. Still, one aspect of the work puzzled me. I’m normally not a great lover of shades of green and usually don’t feature it in my art. But here it worked. And thinking it over, a thought came to mind: The Heart Chakra. Of course…just working with the Labyrinth stencil guided me to reach my center. And there I placed a Heart Chakra symbol.

I have read of the use of “Finger Labyrinths” for meditation. After creating with the Artistcellar stencil I firmly believe it works. I would like to share this with you. Please feel free to download my art and walk the Labyrinth with me.

And why not try your hand using the new stencil series in your own art? As with all Artistcellar products, the quality of the stencils opens the door to creativity for years to come.

Will you walk the winding Path to find your center? I’d love to hear about your adventures.

MATERIALS USED

PLAID FOLKART METALLIC ACRYLICS: Aquamarine, Blue Topaz, Champaign, Antique Gold, Amethyst, Plum

PLAID ACRYLICS: Sunflower

VIVA INKA GOLD GLOSS PAINT

NATURAL SPONGE

SOFT CLOTH

STRATHMORE Mixed-Media Visual Journal 300 Series- 5.5″ x 8.5″

DIGITAL IMAGES – Purchased & Created

 

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