Fall Fashion: Sweater Vests…FOR BIRDS! (An Illustration)

It’s that time of year when the birds start to look a little…chilly.

Poor guys. I see them in the morning, all fluffed up and huddled together on the telephone wires. Their jabbering fills the frosty air while I sit indoors, drinking my coffee, feeling cozy and warm.

If I was a better knitter, I’d knit tiny sweaters for them all.

"Fall Fashion Line: Sweater Vests for Sparrows" illustration of birds on telephone wires wearing sweaters, by Jacque Oman Clinton. So Cute!

“Fall Fashion Line: Sweater Vests for Sparrows”, ink and watercolor, 2016

That’s all I’ve got. Thanks for stopping by! Have a great weekend, my chickadees.

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Looking for Rainbows

“Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud.” – Maya Angelou, Letter to my Daughter

A rainbow landed on my painting

A rainbow landed on my painting

work in progress - watercolor "chipped paint" painting (nothing like painting paint!)

work in progress – watercolor “chipped paint” painting (nothing like painting paint!)

I saw a lot of rainbows this week – both indoors and outdoors. They came from rainstorms, sprinklers, and window prisms, and each was a welcome gift of hope and joy. The more I payed attention and looked for rainbows, the more I saw them.

A lot of things in life seem to work like that — you see what you choose to see. So why not choose to see rainbows?

Sometimes, at the end of a rainbow, you find a pot of gold. And sometimes you don't. But it's still a rainbow, and that's the real treasure, anyway.

Sometimes, at the end of a rainbow, you find a pot of gold. And sometimes you don’t. But it’s still a rainbow, and that’s the real treasure, anyway.

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New Website + Upcoming Art Show

Friends! My new portfolio/professional site is launched! You can click on the “portfolio” menu option on this page, and the link will take you to my portfolio site. Now you can see samples of my best work, organized by category and easy to browse through! Hooray. Check it out! Eventually I’ll synch it up better with this site, add an e-mail sign up, and work out the remaining little details, but for now, I’m happy it’s functional and easy to look at.

BIG NEWS! Last week I got a nice surprise when I was invited, out of the blue, to be a featured artist in RAW Boston’s upcoming Art showcase “REVEAL”. RAW Boston is part of RAW Artists. Here’s what their website has to say about them:

Raw is an international organization run by artists FOR artists. It’s mission is to provide independent artists within the first 10 years of their creative career with the tools, resources, and exposure needed to inspire and cultivate creativity. Raw ventures to provide the platform for artists to be seen, heard, and loved. Their showcase events feature indie talent in visual art, film, fashion design, music, performance art, hair and makeup artistry, and photography.

On August 25th from 7-11 PM, I will be showing and selling originals and prints, alongside many other talented Boston area artists, at Mixx 360 in Malden, MA. Tickets are $20 and you can buy them here! The event will have live music and art performers, a fashion show, an art show, craft and artisan vendors, drinks, and much more. I’m excited to go and meet other young artists and to see the fruits of so much creative labor. It’s usually quite inspiring to be around passionate people who are doing what they love.

I have to thank my husband and everyone else who has been encouraging me, from the start, to keep sharing my work online and beyond. It is because of all the sharing (on Behance, Instagram, Etsy, etc.) that opportunities like this have started to arise. If you have something you’re doing that you feel is worth sharing with the world, DO it. This is a great time to be an artist.

I recently met a local photographer, the multi-talented Joey Phoenix, who is going to take photos of some of my larger work so I can get prints made for the show. While digging through my stockpiles to find the stuff I want her to shoot, I found this old gem (I’ve shared it before, but…it’s worth another share because it makes me smile):

Albrecht Durer and Renoir's Cat

It’s a remnant from college. I combined an Albrecht Dürer self-portrait and a Pierre Auguste Renoir painting to make Dürer holding a cat. I think it would make great prints, but I don’t know what the legal boundaries are on works like this, since I essentially just copied the paintings of two of history’s great masters.

I’ll admit it: more than once, in moments of self-doubt/existential crisis, I’ve considered shifting gears and focusing on painting “regal” cats. I’d build up a body of work of classical, Napoleon-esque felines looking heroic with columns and ruffled collars and all that. But someone else is already doing that, and who am I kidding, I wouldn’t be able to focus on such a small sliver of subject matter for very long.

And that’s all I have to say about that. Love to you all. I hope summer is treating you well.

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The Awkward Middle

This week, I find myself at the awkward middle point of several works in progress. I have this one acrylic painting in particular that has been driving me nuts as I try to find my way through it. I started it with great excitement, but now that I’m well on my way into the thing, I feel a little lost in the woods

work in progress

work in progress

Every project has its awkward middle point. Sometimes it’s a brief ordeal, but sometimes it lasts for months. It’s the point when the shiny exhilaration of STARTING something has worn off. You can’t really see the end point yet – and you’re not even sure if what you’re doing is going to work. When you step back to look at your progress, it looks raw and unbalanced. It’s like looking in the mirror half-way through a haircut. Or being caught mid-step, with one leg frozen in the air. It’s uncomfortable to stand that way for too long. You have to keep going or else you’ll fall over.

At this point, things can look pretty uncertain, possibly even ugly. Things aren’t going how you thought they would. It’s not the perfect picture you envisioned at the start. Instead, it has taken on a life of its own, and now you have to re-define your approach to it. You’re in uncharted territory, trying to figure out where to go next.

If you’re a perfectionist, or an all-or-nothing type of person (I constantly struggle with this), then the middle point can be quite a disappointment. There’s not much aesthetic delight in something that is half finished! It’s off-kilter, it’s incoherent, it’s vague. How do you psych yourself up to keep pushing through?

Instead of relying on the satisfaction of “finishing”, you have to rely on the satisfaction of doing. Finishing is nothing. It’s boring, it’s lack of movement. But DOING! – that is a thrill! It’s the gratification you get from facing a challenge, day after day. It’s the joy of letting yourself be curious about where this thing is leading you. Dress yourself up for adventure so that it’s a pleasure, not a fright, to find yourself in the awkward middle ground.

In fact, maybe the middle point isn’t so awkward at all. Maybe it’s the perfectly natural place to be. I mean, we spend most of our lives in the middle space, right? We’re growing up, but we’re never done growing. We’re learning, but there’s always more to know. We’re married, but our relationship is still a work in progress. We’re done for today, but we’re going to have to get up again tomorrow…

So, alright, alright…I’ll keep working, bit by bit, on this painting that has me feeling so stuck. I’ve got nothing to lose and plenty to learn.

And in the meantime, here are some things I DID finish this week (though even with these, there’s no feeling of “being finished” because with every design I make, there’s a bazillion more I want to do next…):

strawberry pattern

Strawberry surface pattern design for fabric, wallpaper, etc.

"Robot Guts" surface pattern

“Robot Guts” surface pattern

watermelon surface pattern design. (My what a trendy shirt this would make!)

watermelon surface pattern design. (My what a trendy shirt this would make!)

As always, THANKS for stopping by! Have you found yourself feeling awkward in the middle ground lately?

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Now Showing at ArcWorks Gallery: “Niche (Wall Shrine)” acrylic painting

On display (and for sale) now at the ArcWorks gallery in Peabody:

"Niche (Wall Shrine)", acrylic

“Niche (Wall Shrine)”, acrylic

It’s part of the juried show “Spring Fling”, going on from now until June 30th. If you’re local, consider stopping by to check out some of the other artists that made it into the show!

This painting is a continuation of a series of acrylic paintings I did in college. It’s about memory, nostalgia, and the passing of time. The jar holds memories from my childhood — of long humid summers, my grandpa’s house, and other moments that have become unrealistically beautiful in my mind. It’s about our tendency to make certain memories “sacred” and the romanticized light we cast them in. It’s a shrine, more or less, for the idealized moments of the past.

(Here’s a less dark photo)
Niche (Wall Shrine)

(and a close up)

(close up)

I’m considering doing some more of these. Since I last worked on this series, I’ve racked up some more memories to preserve! I’m also considering taking commissions from others who have memories they want preserved. Got any symbolic objects of special memories that you want me to paint? E-mail me if you’re interested in commissioning some jars!

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The Art of Spring, the Art of Winter

“Every Spring is the only spring, a perpetual astonishment.” – Ellis Peters

Iris (Dragon tail)

“Dragon tail Iris”, watercolor, 2011 (incidentally, a winter project)

So true. Year after year, winter gives way to tulips, violets, irises, dandelions… and it fills me with delight and wonder. The grass turns green and my energy is restored. Long days, bright colors…each year, it’s a reliable and welcome source of joy.

Winter has its inspirations, too, but they require more effort to find. Much energy goes into keeping a positive attitude, and I have to pump myself up to go forth and seek ideas that engage me. It takes a lot of work to gain and maintain the momentum needed to get simple things done. And it takes even MORE work to hold onto a sense of purpose about what I’m doing. The energy required to get up and seek inspiration comes at a cost, leaving little behind when it comes time to put those ideas to action.

But I’m human, with a brain and a knack for adapting, so I’ve figured out how to deal with winter, and it’s enjoyable in its own, temporary way. I’ve found it to be an optimal time for doing slow, obsessive projects that require most of their planning upfront (like the Bittersweet paintings). I put effort into finding an idea that excites me, and then lay out the parameters before beginning. I make the big decisions beforehand, and I take care to outline a satisfying, doable trajectory. This way, I only have to rely on “feeling inspired” at the beginning, when the idea takes root. Once it’s set in motion, I can then rely on the more predictable appeal of hard work to see it through. I wake up each morning knowing I have something to work on, and knowing HOW to work on it. What inspires me in the winter, then, are things that are meticulous, detailed, and that will expand my technical mastery. During these times, the joy of creating relies heavily on the satisfaction of physically doing the work — of engaging with the materials and obsessing over the details – and of falling into a comfortable harmony with a world that seems quiet and still.

But something shifts in spring. Nature is less stingy, and inspiration literally grows on trees. Unlike Winter, Spring heaps energy onto my plate like a grandma feeding pork chops to her grandsons. It gives, and gives abundantly. Suddenly, I’m awash in life and meaning, and it’s begging to be expressed.

It’s not just the flowers that sweep me off my feet. It’s the change in daylight, the singing birds, the nostalgic smell of warm asphalt and mulch, and the re-emergence of my neighbors from their winter dens. I don’t have to scrunch up to keep warm. There is no bracing myself against the biting wind or staring at the ground to protect my eyes from the sun’s harsh angle. Now I can expand, breathe, and let myself feel my body as the sun warms my cheeks and the wind knots my hair. That reconnection to body and earth reminds me that I’m a part of this beautiful universe, and it is from that that my sense of purpose is re-awakened. Life matters, moments are beautiful, memories are precious…etc. All of this fuels my creative drive, amplifying the persistent need to “capture” and express these bountiful moments so that others may feel the goodness I’m feeling, too.

But of course, this comes with its own challenges. Because now I’m FULL of energy and ideas and purpose, but it will scatter all over the place if I don’t take some measures control it. Then I’ll end up good and tan, with lots of dirt on my bare feet, but winter will come and I’ll have gotten nothing done.

So usually, things go like this: For one week, I let myself frolic, untethered, through the creative whirlwind (and pollen induced blur) that arises during those first days of TRUE spring—those days when nature comes back to life and I can walk outside without a jacket. My imagination goes wild and I usually don’t sleep much because I’m on a roll brainstorming about the nine million projects I’d like to undertake.

I become like a hummingbird that can’t stop flying because it has to keep finding more delicious flowers to drink from so it can sustain its crazy metabolism. Only, instead of nectar, I’m drinking inspirational fodder, which I need to sustain my hungry creativity. I let myself flit around, delighting in my ideas, stockpiling energy and inspiration. I write long lists of potential projects in my notebooks. I take a lot of ugly reference photos. I write down specific feelings, thoughts, and words that will help me remember. Though I create very little, it feels very productive.

I don’t hold back and I don’t take the season’s change for granted. It is a welcome restoration to what feels like my more natural state: that state in which my zest for life drives me to explore my curiosities and try to recreate them on the page. (I say it feels like my “natural” state because when I’m in it, I feel like I’m thriving. It seems to contribute to my well-being somehow). For that precious week, I indulge my exuberance. And then I try to settle down and get back into a work routine.

My cache of ideas, gathered in that first burst of Spring excitement, becomes a sustainable energy source. This makes it easier to maintain a productive routine. I go to bed and wake up excited about my projects. I cherish my routine because it moves me daily, bit by bit, down the list of projects I have in my head.  Of course I know I won’t be able get to ALL the ideas on my list, not in one season or in one lifetime. But that is a WONDERFUL motivator because it means I’ll always have something to do. There will always be a reason to keep trying, another carrot dangling before me. Life won’t get dull unless I decide to stop listening to my curiosity and creativity (which, in all likelihood, seems impossible since these things are inherent to being HUMAN). This is an excellent incentive to take care of myself and to honor my days, because I want to keep having that creative experience of seeing beauty and getting lost in it.

Thanks goodness Spring will come again next year, and with it, more ideas and energy. With such knowledge, I can buzz forth, landing on the flowers that catch my eye, relishing the freedom of Spring’s abundant generosity. I’m free from worrying too much about “keeping up with my ideas” because there will always be enough. Yes, as long as the years keep turning, there will be enough.

(What are these lists of new project ideas, you ask? I guess you’ll have to keep coming back to see!)

Iris (Dragon Tail) framed(One last thing: Thank you for reading this. I fear that my posts may be beginning to sound redundant. Certainly I’ve written about spring before. But each year, I learn and grow so much, and as I come to understand myself more, life becomes better and better, artistically and otherwise. I hope you know that I only share these personal insights because I think they might be helpful to you on your own path, not because I love to talk about myself. I think we all benefit from seeing how other people pursue a meaningful life, and I’m just as interested to know how YOU do it! So if you can relate at all, to the change in seasons, or anything else I said, please DO share in the comments below!)

 

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Creativity, Works in Progress, and How to Handle Fear.

The “essential effort” of artists “is to catapult themselves wholly, without holding back one bit, into a course of action without having any idea where they will end up.” – Anne Truitt, Daybook: The Journal of an Artist

This is a watercolor painting of some tangled bittersweet branches that I’ve been slowly working on for several weeks now. It’s still a work in progress, as you can see.

Watercolor Bittersweet, Work in ProgressBittersweet Watercolor, Work in Progress

The going has been slow, due to starts and stops along the way. Once, I had to put it on pause so that I could finish up the commissioned wedding stationary I shared a few weeks ago (and I’m not complaining! It was a great project). Then, when some oral surgery left me surprisingly wiped out, I took another little break. And yet another time, my momentum was interrupted by a spontaneous and much-needed trip to Arizona (again, no complaints!).

But more than once, I stopped because of Creativity’s pesky little companion: Fear.

Fear is an inevitable part of making art, brought on by the inherent unknowns that characterize the process of creation. And, with the exception of brain damage and other physiological malfunctions, it is basically impossible to eradicate it. As artists, though, we can’t make progress unless we learn to accept that Fear is there and to learn to do our work regardless of it.

There are already many things trying to steal time from our projects: Appointments, trips, holidays, social obligations, chores, headaches…etc. So why on earth do we let internal obstacles get in the way as well?  Well, I suppose it’s because Fear is good at making himself seem big. He’s crafty. He knows how to make compelling arguments that strike close to home. What are we to do?

It helps to understand that it’s all just rhetoric. Fear starts chattering the moment we face a new project:

I don’t know how this is going to turn out. Will this even work? What if it’s a waste of time?

And he keeps it up at each step along the way:

Is this what I’m supposed to be doing? What if I mess up and everyone hates it? Maybe I should stop before I invest too much time in a failure…

Fear will do anything to get us off track. He starts with the basics, telling us how dumb our ideas are and pointing out how unqualified we are for the job. He tells us we’re too tired and too sore to spend another day at the easel. He measures us up against all of the other artists whose work is better than ours.

Then he gets existential. He tells us that it’s not our art that stinks, it’s us. Period. And then he goes on to suggest that perhaps art is pointless altogether, and that our pursuits contribute nothing to the world. “Other people are doctors, doing surgeries and saving lives. And you’re painting twigs?!” He said to me the other day. He reminds us, untruthfully, that everyone must surely be watching and waiting for us to FINALLY DO SOMETHING AMAZING with our lives…that it’s our last chance to prove our worth before ….something terrible happens.

I’ve even heard Fear go so far as to suggest “Kid, if you mess up this painting, it’ll mortally wound everyone you love.” WHAT?! C’mon Fear, that’s going too far.

Yes, thankfully, when Fear reaches that point, its pretty easy to call his bluff. (I mean, even I can see how irrational it is to suggest that an erroneous mark will cause the death of millions). But what do we do then, once we recognize what’s going on?

For starters, we seek the community of fellow creators, both living and dead. It’s helpful to know that other people have been there, too. I’m reading Anne Truitt’s Daybook: The Journal of an Artist right now, and every page makes me feel connected to other artists throughout time. “For me,” Truitt says, “this process is mysterious. It’s like not knowing where you’re going but knowing how to get there.” I read this, and I feel understood, strengthened, and soothed. Hearing other artists share their thoughts about fear makes it feel less personal, which diminishes its power to paralyze.  Go to the library and borrow a book, read an artist’s blog (ahem), or go to a museum. Join a local artist community. Any of this will help bring clarity to our thoughts and foster the determination needed to continue working.

Because ultimately, the only REAL solution to the stagnation of fear is just that: to get to work. “No excuses, no explanations” my mom likes to say, borrowing a quote from Julia Child. And she’s absolutely right (as mothers often are). Fear will make excuses until he’s blue in the face, offering millions of reasons why we can’t get to work. He’ll demand that we explain ourselves, that we rationalize why our ideas are worth the effort. But meh, whatever. It gets to be an old story, eventually.

So yes, Fear will greet me, day after day, but I won’t let it freeze me. We’ve developed a working relationship, Fear and I, just like author Elizabeth Gilbert did (see her book, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear). Nowadays, in my ripe old age of __ (fill in the blank), I tell Fear this: “Thanks for sharing your thoughts, but I’ve got work to do.” And then I get to work as soon as possible, before he starts talking too loud. I don’t worry that ignoring Fear will hurt his feelings, because I know he’s not going anywhere anyway. He’ll be around for the next project, and the next, and the next, which is why I might as well teach him his proper place in this relationship. His proper place is over there, in the corner, where he can talk and talk forever. Because I’m not listening anymore, anyway.

 

 

 

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Custom Watercolor Wedding Invitations: Spring Flowers

My friends, it’s March! I was shocked to see the first of the crocuses blooming last week (in February!). Last year at this time, everything was covered in mountains of snow.  I don’t think I saw grass until April! But now?! Spring is in the air!

And so is wedding season!

Over the last few months, I have had the pleasure of working with two very wonderful people to help create their custom-made wedding stationary, which included save-the-date cards, invitations, and thank-you’s. The bride had the beautiful idea to use green and purple hellebores, ferns, and trilliums to adorn the cards – a genius combination, if I do say so myself! I painted the flowers and ferns with watercolor, and then we worked together to come up with the overall layout, wording, and fonts. It has been a great project to brighten up the winter.

Here’s the invitation (I gave them Norwegian alter egos for the public version):Custom Watercolor Wedding Invitation: Hellebores and Fern

Custom Wedding Invitation Photo

And here’s the design for the Save-the-dates:

Custom Save-the-Dates

I’ll hold off on showing you the design for the thank-you’s since they haven’t been sent out yet (the wedding day has to come first, you know).

Thanks for looking! Hopefully, this got you PUMPED for Spring!

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The Winter Watercolors Continue: Another Bittersweet

I think I spent more time choosing the composition of this watercolor piece than actually painting it…
Bittersweet 2

…which isn’t to say that I painted it quickly, but rather, that I spent an excessive amount of time obsessing over what the “most perfectest” layout could be.

Oh the many paths down which the mind will wander! My brain will take ANYTHING too seriously, if I let it.

And it’s par for the course when you’re living the creative life. The art-making process teaches me so much about myself. It’s a destination-less, lifelong quest to master not just my technical skills, but also my mind. I’m getting better at recognizing the typical pathways that my mind likes to wander down at each step of the creative process. I know that every time I step into my studio, I have to pick and choose which thoughts to pay attention to. Experience teaches me which beliefs will be constructive t0 my aims and which will hinder them.

But boy, it’s such a balancing act! It requires so much mindfulness and alertness. It take a lot of energy, flexibility, and perspective. In this, I’ve found a great motivator to take care of myself — physically, spiritually, and mentally. The better I take care of myself, the better equipped I am to engage wholeheartedly in art. And life!

But now I’m starting to ramble…

Oh life. Oh human brains. Oh bittersweet berries sparkling in winter!

Ok, I’m done.

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Winter Watercolor: Bittersweet

Here’s some winter beauty for you:
Bittersweet

It’s a bittersweet! Bright little gems in the snow.

Watercolor and ink, 8 x 10, 2016

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