"Jen (Jen)" - mixed media on canvas paper, 16" x 20".
Hooray! Thirty paintings in thirty days. Which followed fifty-two paintings in thirty days in Ireland. Which means it is time for a few days off and a bit of a rest. This is the fourth 30 in 30 challenge for me, and I can honestly say it gets a little easier each time.
Why do we do this insane challenge? For one, it is a huge discipline builder. It instills the daily commitment to paint. It is also an effective way to disempower the dreaded inner critic. There isn't time to fret over each piece when you're creating one a day. You simply focus on the piece, do your best, and move on to the next one. This challenge also requires a daily posting of the art, which is a spectacular way to get over worrying about what others might think. By the end of the month, you're just happy to have something to post before you collapse into a heap on the sofa! It is also a wonderful way to get feedback on a wide range of work in a short time. It always surprises me how people resonate with a piece I might not like as much. It reinforces the idea that our job as artists is to create the art, not to judge it.
Each time 30 in 30 comes around, I add one other component to the challenge: a self-portrait. This is something artists generally avoid, shun and refuse to discuss (cue covering the ears and shouting "la la la I can't HEAR you"). Of course, this means we should do it more often. So I end each 30 in 30 with a selfie of sorts. This time it's me and me! And in my painting pajamas to boot. Now, I don't actually wear fuzzy bunny slippers here in south Florida. But artistic license allows me to wear them in my self-portrait. Maybe next time around I'll let myself wear a fancy hat. :)
Here in the studio, Marvin the elk and Herbert the reindeer are hanging out with Sparky the donkey and a trio of cows. There is definitely a close-knit group in here, and none of them will admit to eating the last of the ginger snaps.
"Gobnat on the First Day of Autumn" - mixed media on canvas paper, 16" x 20". Click here to purchase this piece on Artfinder.
I am heading to Charlotte tomorrow for a wild and crazy art weekend! And one of the little perks of the long drive northward is the delightful glimpse of fall I'll experience with cooler temperatures and perhaps a golden leaf or two. Hooray! There is nothing quite like a sub 60 degree evening to make this transplanted midwesterner smile.
No matter how old I am or how much further south I live, fall is always exciting. It makes me think of college campuses, sweaters, brisk air, and a change of scenery. Even if nothing new is actually happening around me (here in the hot Florida sun), inside I feel re-invigorated.
Fall makes me want to learn something new - whether I take a class, pick up a book on quantum mechanics or watch a documentary on raising micro-pigs (is there such a film?), something about the back-to-school season wakes up my lazy summer brain and starts a craving for intellectual stimulation and knowledge. So I've signed up for an art workshop next week to stretch my creative self and also pulled out an anthology of plays by John B. Keane which I've been saving since I returned from Listowel. Ahhhhh. Delightful.
Gobnat (whose name is the Irish form of 'Abigail' and means "brings joy' is pure happiness and delight! She was the perfect companion for a fall (ish) day in the studio. She will have all the other characters in there singing kumbaya by the end of the day.
"Abstract Sunset" and "Abstract Sunset 2" - ink and acrylic on aquabord, each 6" x 6"
Our evening walks have been a constant source of wonder the past couple of weeks. It must be the effect of the rainy season, daily thunderstorms and rapidly changing weather patterns, but the sunsets have been glorious. More than once, I have tripped over something because I am so busy gawking at the sky, the clouds, the sun, the insanely unbelievable colors and how rapidly it changes from one minute to the next. There is nothing so wonderful as breathtaking sunsets to get me excited about going outside in the humidity and insects to work up a sweat.
And working up a sweat is a particular challenge when going through physical therapy and rehabilitation after an accident. As much as I would like to hop on my (mangled) bike or take a yoga class, parts of my body still aren't ready to participate. Over the last two decades, I've gone from runner to personal trainer to P90X warrior to yoga enthusiast to cyclist to...walker. And there is a temptation to feel badly about that. What do you mean, I shouldn't carry a purse larger than an envelope? And how is it fair that I can't do a push-up without my right arm collapsing underneath me?
But then there are the brilliant sunsets of the evening walk, the unhurried conversations with my hubby and walking partner, the ocean breeze which miraculously appears after 7 pm and the joyous feeling of my body working, supporting me and moving me around the neighborhood day after day. I've decided to be the most dedicated walker I can be - seriously grateful that I am walking at all, and knowing my body is getting stronger every day.
Besides, if the universe is going to keep giving me eye candy to entice me outside, well, who am I to say no?
"Luana on Ladies' Day" - mixed media on reclaimed wood, 6.5" x 9". Ready to hang.
Ever since Listowel, I have been obsessed with hats. It's Mary's fault, really. From the moment her new window display went up, filled with chapeau eye candy, I've noticed hats everywhere I go. Good hats and bad hats, hats on women, hats on men, even hats on cats.
And it isn't just me. I recently subscribed to the Listowel Connection (check out this sweet blog here) so I could have a little daily dose of my favorite place on earth. And it's been filled with the ladies' day women in stunning hats. Gorgeous! Something divinely refined about a woman in a fancy hat.
But hats aren't just for the ladylike and the fancily dressed! Oh no! In another synchronistic move by the universe, a link to an incredible etsy store landed in my email box. Hats covered in fish? A venus flytrap headpiece? Or how about "The Kitten Ruined My Fascinator" - a hat with a cat leaving long scratches across the top! Fantastic! Apparently, hats can suit any occasion you can possibly imagine! (Check out MaorZabarHats on etsy here)
So it was no surprise when Luana (whose name means 'content, happy') appeared on the wood this day, nattily dressed in her finest hat. She sent me marching into my closet, looking at my own selection of hats, which consist largely of baseball caps and straw shade hats for gardening. Apparently I have a huge need for a hat with an artist's easel on top, or perhaps a larger hat covered in ducks? Luana will make sure I find just the right brim for my noggin.
"Alligator Alley" - ink and acrylic on aquabord, 6" x 6". View this piece at Ciel Gallery in Charlotte during the month of October.
Only six days left in this month-long art extravaganza!
This piece was inspired by last weekend's drive across Alligator Alley from Plantation to Bonita Springs. The alley is a flat stretch through the Everglades, Indian reservations and a panther sanctuary. Nothing but marsh and reeds and sky across the horizon. You can see storm clouds miles away; walls of gray flashing with lightning and showering rain from the sky to the ground below. Water birds, raptors and crows all along the road and perched in the barren branches of trees hover surrounded by water teeming with fish, snakes and alligators.
The Everglades filter into the lakes of our neighborhood, sometimes depositing gators, snapping turtles and otters into the suburbs. The lakes are filled with fish, waterfowl and kayakers - the perfect place for wildlife and humans to co-exist in south Florida.
Unless you are a certain Muscovy mama duck with her new babies.
This particular family has determined the mud puddle at the end of our driveway is the ideal habitat. Despite a system of lakes literally one yard's length away, these ducks have taken up residency in their own version of the suburbs. The ducklings plop down in the mud and stay there for hours, occasionally finding a worm or bug to nibble on from their resting place. When our garage door opens, they all run the length of the driveway to greet us, gathering around our feet like the most excited welcome committee on earth. And they don't leave until we give them a treat. And we can't leave until they are safely off the driveway.
So now we have this crazy dance of running ducklings, humans running back in to grab the food bucket and shooing them into the yard and depositing enough food to keep them busy while we back out of the garage in a hurry before they decide to run up to our feet again in their little welcome ritual.
In our back yard, the wildlife of the Everglades. In our front yard, the modern, suburban duck family. There is a meaning tucked into all of this somewhere. But all I can think of right now is how very well one mama duck and a handful of ducklings have trained us into feeding them in the front yard. Sigh. We might need an intervention.
Now I am truly wondering...how many of you lovely readers hold the reindeer to be your animal totem or animal spirit guide? Coolest spirit animal of all, right? How many have reindeer tattoos? How many are running out to get one now? Well let's learn a bit about what wisdom the reindeer holds.
The reindeer reminds you to stay on track with your goals. Stick to your own plan and don't sidestep for the whims and dramas of others. Trust your own instincts. The reindeer gives you protection while traveling, endurance to go long distances and the tenacity to get things done even when it isn't easy. When a reindeer appears in your life, it might mean it is time to step up and care for the herd, to guide them in the best direction. The key role of reindeer energy is guidance - for yourself and for others.
Nowhere is a red nose mentioned in any of my research on this magnificent beast, but ironically, Rudolph was a guide for Santa's sleigh, and the message of the reindeer is guidance. Now I just love it when the universe adds whimsy to wisdom like that. :)
"Answered and Asked" - mixed media on cradled wood, 12 x 12 x 1.5. Ready to hang.
This wasn't the piece I intended to create today. But an artist friend threw down a challenge, and I found it resonating all morning. I was compelled to explore the topic.
In her recent post, Patricia Steele Raible asked: "does setting boundaries benefit us or keep us from crossing lines that might make a difference?" (Click here to see the full post. ) She later asked for a response and call from other artists. Hmmmm.
Boundaries have been a touchy topic most of my adult life. Mostly because I have trouble establishing them, and when I finally do, they are more like castle walls than lines in the sand. I know that when I do set boundaries, I feel a sense of relief and strength and self-care. But I am often inflexible, so the boundary can also prevent forgiveness and reconciliation later on. As much courage as it takes to erect a boundary, I believe it takes more to remove it again.
And it isn't just metaphorical boundaries, but the real ones, too. Fences can be a sweet relief from cantankerous neighbors or unsightly views, and create an oasis of visual bliss. But they also send a message of exclusion and unwillingness to mingle. Removing a fence or privacy hedge can make you feel vulnerable and exposed if you've become used to seeing it there.
So as I was mulling this over and working on the art, it all came together for me. A effective boundary (real and symbolic) is like a street sign. It doesn't really fit the landscape, so it stands out and asks the viewer to pay attention, pause or stop, and make a decision. Fences can be climbed, and doors can be broken down. Or they can be respected and require a change of direction. In this piece, the fence floats in the middle of a field. It suggests a boundary, but doesn't enforce it by traveling the length of the landscape. It's a "soft" boundary. It asks to be respected, but doesn't block the way.
For me, the late-blooming concrete block wall building maniac of boundary setting, learning to set a soft boundary early on would allow both a benefit (establishing that something needs to change a bit) and still provide a route to reconciliation and improvement before irrevocably blocking a path.
That's the answer, at least for today. So now I ask you, dear reader and creative people, where are your best boundaries, and why do they work?
Jen Walls and her imaJENation