16 November 2012

November 15: Family Project

I spent the better part of my free time yesterday working in support of a family project, instead of my own.
In this case, I am happy to be supporting a very worthy project, about to be launched.
Adding it up, I have spent at least four hours each week since the end of August helping my parents with digital graphics and technical advice, such as I can give.

Artwork for Vanishing Cincinnati Drawing Series by David and Barbara Day
My parents are artists. They have created a beautiful book which represents their careers as designers in business together and their favorite subject: their city, Cincinnati, Ohio. (If you've never been there, you are really missing out. Cincinnati has charm, culture, and multicultural history in abundance.)

My parents have a long standing relationship with the history, architecture, and cultural vibrance of their city. Their lives and work are inseparable from its visual culture. So much so, that the detailed drawings that are included in the forthcoming book are embedded with their passion, as much as with factual renderings of the city as it is, or as it was in memory.

So I am dedicating this post to my parents and their book, which is a celebration equivalent to a lifetime achievement award and testiment to family collaboration. I am also grateful to the many people who have given their time, energy, and resources to bring this book to life.

Vanishing Cincinnati, by David and Barbara Day will be officially released on December 1, 2012, published by Orange Frazer Press, Wilmington, OH.

You can see more of my parents' illustration work online here.
Book Cover Preliminary Drawing, Vanishing Cincinnati by David and Barbara Day

14 November 2012

November 14: Second Autumn

You know how Hobbits talk of having Second Breakfast in Lord of the Rings? Lately we seem to be having a Second Autumn here along the Chesapeake.

I thought that Hurricane Sandy would cause all the remaining leaves to blow away, but some trees held on. There were a lot of them still green at the end of October. This week I have observed stunning reds, yellows, and a few oranges where there was dull green last week. What a spectacular autumn we've had this year!

13 November 2012

November 13: Reindeer Games

Today I was itching to play with inks. Winter is coming and I wanted to see what gesso over ink could do for making snowy landscapes.
I pulled out a stack of glossy card stock and put down some inks. Then a layer of gesso. I took a pointed needle and scratched several sgraffito stars. I let it dry then stamped an evergreen tree with a hand-made stamp. I added the cocoa-colored reindeer last, an old stamp from All Night Media that I still love.
This experiment is not finished yet, but it seems like I might be on to something. Thinning the gesso leaves some colors visible.

12 November 2012

November 12: Variations on a Theme

My sketchbook class assignment is to take a thumbnail sketch I made a couple of weeks ago as the basis for further art. I made one replica in paint. Another one, I created as a negative space, using a mask to block the shapes from a background. Then I made one more using collage pieces from my gesture paintings.

11 November 2012

November 11: Air Mail

This is one of the paint wash + collage pieces that I am working on for my sketchbook class. I started with the 7x7 in. watercolor paper painted last week with an acrylic wash. I added the collage element from an envelope with canceled UK stamps. Then I drew the blue and red border design that reminds me of airmail packaging.

10 November 2012

November 10: In the Realm of Make-Believe

Today I went to the Faerie Con with my friends, a gathering of unconventional, artistic, and dramatic people. The theme, of course, is stories from the myths and legends, but there is a cross-over somewhere (no doubt by way of Victorian literature) to steampunk gadgetry and gears.

My entry today is a Steampunk Crow, that I made from a pattern by artist Molly Stanton. Molly teaches a great workshop. We started with a pile of black sculpy clay and findings. We ended with a 5" in long pendent in the fully-formed crow shape, feathers, beak, wings, and the mechanical gears and rivets that give him steampunk flavor. In just under 2 1/2 hours! Such a fun workshop.

Enjoyed my time in the realm of the fey immensely. I ended up deciding my half-formed costume could wait for a later debut in favor of my leaf-covered dress and a few bits of bling I have picked up at various shops.

09 November 2012

November 9: Into the Woods

Fabric painting on a shirt, part of a woodland sprite costume for Faerie Con tomorrow. I had already sewn faux ivy garlands on the sleeves.

08 November 2012

Big Gestures with a Silver Lining

Here is another cropped section from one of the November 4th Big Gesture paintings. This time, I added a single collage element and drew lots of black & silver lines to enhance the marks already on the page. Then I used a metallic silver paint pen to bring out even more of the design.

Who Lives Here?

Had to wait until morning to post, since the background had to dry before I could add the finishing touches.

The background is a cropped piece from one of my gesture paintings made the other day.

06 November 2012

November 6: Indoors and Outdoors

Watching election results while working on my assignments for my sketchbook class. I have cropped portions of my gesture painting from the weekend. Now I am adding line and color to them with different media.

Earlier, I took a series of photos featuring the crows who were very active in the trees along our walking trail.

04 November 2012

November 4: Big Gestures

Move over, Jackson Pollack. This evening I am working on a series of sketchbook assignments for my online class, taught by mixed media artist, Jane Davies. These are exercises, not finished products. In fact, when they dry, I get to cut them up and collage with them. I am having fun being an Abstract Expressionist in black & white.

03 November 2012

November 3: The Loot

It was a bustling day, and I was in motion much longer than I was sitting still. Shopping to do and preparations for an evening event in Baltimore.

My art today was all in the planning and details.

One accomplishment, though, was a shopping run to my favorite paper arts shop, The Queen's Ink in Savage Mill. I recently received a gift card there so I had made a date with myself to pick up some inks, odds, 'n ends to use my credit.

I am very grateful to the person who gave me this surprise gift as a way of saying thanks to me. I promise to share the art that I make with the loot.

02 November 2012

The air is wild with leaves

Today, I worked on a series of Artist Trading Cards (ATCs) and one tag. These incorporate inked backgrounds and/or die-cut leaves. I had a lot of fun experimenting, finding elements that complement the warm hues.

Sources: The leaves are the Tattered Leaves shapes in Tim Holtz's line, courtesy of my friend Maryanne who owns one of the fabulous Vagabond die-cutters. The raven comes from a die-cut set by Martha Stewart.

01 November 2012

November 1st: Embracing the Darkness and Finding a Light

Today I am starting a new series on this blog. I am participating in a month-long challenge sponsored by artist Leah Piken Kolidas her blog, Creative Every Day: it's called Art Every Day Month. So, each day of this month, I intend to make something: draw, paint, collage, scribble, photograph, cook, knit, or otherwise do something creative. (You can see the "rules" of this challenge posted by Leah here. And some of you will find that the challenge fits whatever creative acts you are doing already each day.) I'll try to post one image a day, depending on how my schedule is going.

For me, the goal is to document my work everyday, in order to keep track of all the various kinds of creativity I have brought into my life. I have made a space for art-making as daily practice, and now I'm challenging myself to record it and share it.

I hope you'll stop by to see where I am on my journey.
                            But, enough exposition, get to the art, runningwave.

Ancestors Walk Among Us by ~runningwave~
Today there was really no doubt that my theme would be inspired by the images of sugar skulls and mums common to the Latin American fiesta that begins November first, the Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos). I became fascinated with this holiday seventeen years ago when I was in the midst of learning about my own Celtic ancestry. I discovered the amazing ways that ancient cultures of both Latin and Celtic countries revere ancestors at the time of the astronomical cross-quarter each autumn: the point at which the long nights begin to eat into the hours of daylight.

These celebrations are deeply spiritual in significance. It is a way of reconnecting to your genetic ancestors and your cultural ancestors. I can be difficult to see them in the Halloween celebration we grew up with, so you have to peel back the commercial layers and get at the point of why it is important to embrace the darkness, mystery, and ask for guidance from the souls who've been there before.

Dia de los Muertos altar in La Jolla, California by ~runningwave~
Artistically, Dia de los Muertos, is a true visual fiesta. I worked for Mexican folk art shop in Georgetown in the District for a while and became enamored of Mexican art, the vibrant, cheery colors and fluffy flower petals contrasting with the chalky skeletons and the tin-covered shrines. Now when I travel to California or the Southwestern states in the autumn, I keep my eyes peeled for these extravagant window displays with family portraits, flowers, candles, and skulls. There are always figurines, skeletons doing what live humans usually do. They intrigue me because, they are us. They were us. We will be them.

Darkness from which emerges light,
We thank you for the time to pause and remember.
Ancestors, walk among us and speak your truths.
Charge us to work towards a more humane and peaceful world.
We light a candle in all your names,
Foremothers, Forefathers, Friends.
Call to us. Transform us.
Be here now.
Blessed be.

--runningwave, October 2001

Sources for art journal page above:  Skull stencil from TheCraftersWorkshop.com; sugar skull and mum rubber stamps from Papersource; Distress inks, and Memento dye ink, colored pens and gel ink.

29 October 2012

Music of the Spheres, or abstraction with purpose

"Tiger Rag," a blind scribble sketch plus watercolor by ~runningwave~

Earth to runningwave. Come in, please.

I am on week 3 of an intensive online art class with Jane Davies.  The course is immersing me in abstractions. My goal is to learn how to work with a few art media and tools that are completely new for me, while practicing with other media I have not played with for many years.  It seems odd to say, but these abstract explorations are improving my ability to observe the world as an artist and to figure out improved ways to get what I see onto paper. My drawing style is already becoming looser, more free. I am having less trouble squelching the inner critic voice that wants to critique every mark and say, "oh, that doesn't really look like a tree. . ."  I attribute my progress mostly to the fact that my teacher, is a great motivator and fan of other artists.

I admire abstraction very much in other artists' work, but I never could quite get the hang of it. It have found it difficult to draw from life. I'm too easily distracted to sit and observe a thing for a long time. Not such an easy task when your head is too often in the clouds. That part will take a lot of work indeed, the quick sketch techniques that Jane Davies uses are improving my skills.

Approaching art from the abstract side, I find that my mind always seems to find ways to take a shape or line and bring it down to the ground, the real world. I'm practical that way. 

I have been discovering new insights into my creativity in the past few months. For one thing, I have noticed that my creativity is that it is very tied to music. When I hear music, it's impossible for me not to "see" pictures or colors, in my mind's eye. It's rather like a music video. Except that my brain has been doing this since long before MTV existed and music videos hit the mainstream. 

When I think back on it, music is tied to very important moments of my life. Music and my memory are also interconnected. I know that many people do talk about hearing a song and remembering their senior year in high school, or dancing with someone, or their mother singing to them at bedtime.

I realized in talking to my husband about music, that it's more than just music and memory. Most people do not experience music in such a visual way as I do. The vivid pictures I see when a song washes over me are so clear and so compelling. It is like a little movie, with scenes, lighting, stage sets, and dialogue. If the music is vintage jazz, the pictures are very different than if the music is rock or classical. The colors, lighting and mood of the "visuals" in my head change with the type of music.

Then I began thinking about the Russian artist Wassily Kandinsky, who famously wrote about his own experiences with synesthesia, which -- for Kandinsky-- was the fact that sound produced sensations of certain colors. I was fascinated with this subject in college as a budding art history scholar, but I had not yet sat down to think about why Kandinsky's writings on spirituality, art, and color vibrations were such powerful concepts for me in my youth.  I never thought to ask myself why I seemed to innately understand Kandinsky's concepts of the relationship between sound and color .

So, how did I come to the realization that music and my creativity are connected? Bear with me, here, because this may go out on a New Age limb for some of you. I will get back to the ground, I promise you.

Flashback to last summer. There's a Native American shaman who lives in the next town over. He and his family host weekly gatherings at his lovely garden in a quiet suburb. You'd never know about these happenings unless a friend gave you directions, but mine did. 

As with many Native American gatherings, the drumming begins the gathering, just to clear the air. The musicians then play hand-made flutes to call in the spirits. There's a moment of silence, a pause before the shaman begins to play glass crystal bowls of various sizes attuned to different notes. He says each of the bowls represents one of the chakras in Tibetan spirituality. The largest of these bowls is more than a foot in diameter and it sits on the floor. The smaller, higher pitched bowls are hand-held. The folklore is that the crystal bowls help to realign your mind, body, and spirit. A kind of mental, spiritual, physical balancing, like the way you would tune-up a car, according to the shaman.

When I heard the bowls played for the first time I had overpowering sensations of colors. Closing my eyes the colors got brighter, more vivid. The vibration of these crystals at different frequencies changes the colors that I see.  How else can I explain that except synesthesia?

Since that first time hearing the bowls, I've been back to the shaman's gathering several times. And, yep, it happens every time. Sometimes the colors are more clear than others, and I think that may have to do with how mentally focused I am that morning. I decided to do some research and to take a test to learn more about synesthesia. I want to determine if I really do have it.

Even if I don't, I find that my abstract art is better, that I am more effective at working with color and line, if I am listening to music while working. I made the following line sketch, selecting the theme "inspiration" from a list my teacher offered. I worked to a song called "Alive" by Omnia while I drew.

"Inspiration" emotimarks, India ink and watercolor pencil
by ~runningwave~
Another related discovery, is that I tend to create higher-quality abstract art if I take a long, hard look at the first set of doodles, and see what shapes are emerging. What objects can I see in the patterns?

Music of the Spheres, watercolor sketch with wax resist and collage by ~runningwave~
When my art teacher asked me to produce a work of art based upon circles, I knew that I wanted to think about celestial bodies, stars, moons, and comets, as I worked. The result reminds me of Baroque music by Handel, like the Wassermusik suites. Above is my favorite piece from the class so far. I actually gave the sketch to my friend the astrophysicist, who was visiting town for her conference at the National Science Foundation. I was touched when she said she'd give it a place of honor on her office wall.

So far, my forays into mixed media art are taking me some places that I did not expect. Today, I am planning some interesting water & ink paintings using several wet-in-wet techniques that my teacher taught us how to do in an instructional video. 

There is so much more to come. In fact, this is high time that I make a public service announcement.

Those of you who follow me regularly here at Pull of the Tides should be forewarned. 

I am gearing up for Art Everyday Month, which is a November challenge event hosted by Boston-based artist, Leah Piken Kolidas.  I plan to create art, cook, or take photographs everyday this November and to post the results on this blog as often as possible.

I can appreciate the fact that some of you may not like additional spam and bombardment of electronic posts in your life. I plan to post more art and less words, if that helps you decide whether or not to stay tuned.

Still, I hope that one or two of you will continue to follow along. I love the comments I've been getting from fellow art-explorers out there, and I'm glad that you are journeying with me.

If you'd rather not be bothered, that's cool by me. I'll hope to see you again on the flip-side at the beginning of December.

16 October 2012

List-It Tuesday @ Artsyville: What I Love About Where I Live

This post originated with a prompt from Amiee over at Artsyville last week.

I am posting this list to honor that I have lived in Maryland now for *gulp* 20 years and lived in it's capital city Annapolis for eleven of those years.

So, the question is: Now that I've lived here in Maryland longer than the place where I grew up, am I "from" Maryland?

photo by ~runningwave~ 2012

I still sometimes feel like a fish out of water, living on the East Coast. I don't suppose I have ever lived anywhere that I completely "fit in" anyhow.

I am sure of one thing, though. I do love living near the Chesapeake. I relish living near water. (I grew up not far from the Ohio River.) Now I live near a creek that washes into a larger stream, out into the Severn River that flows into one of the earth's largest estuaries, The Chesapeake Bay.

I have grown to love this flat, marshy landscape with all my heart (well, except in the middle of boggy summers when the needle hits 90 and the relative humidity is hovering near 95%). But I have to admit even in the height of mosquito season the Marshes are still beautiful.

But the marshlands come alive in the Autumn.

photo by ~runningwave~ 2012
Autumn in the Marshes
Sailboats, are another reason to love living near Annapolis. The docks are bursting with sails after sail in every color. Creeks are lined with them, parked out in back of the house. Even at dusk the sailboats are always present, hugging the shoreline.

photo by ~runningwave~ 2012
Quiet Waters
It could take quite a while to list all the other reasons why I love living near Annapolis, but it is the History that drew me here. I love the way that strolling down the street I get absorbed by the tiny details in the historic architecture that highlight handiwork from the artisans of long ago. I adore the old-timey seaport atmosphere, and seagulls' cry. I love to glance up at the stately outline of the State House dome, resting there like a crown on the crest of the hill.

photo by ~runningwave~ 2012
Door of the Hammond Harwood House

photo by ~runningwave~ 2012
State House Dome, close-up
photo by ~runningwave~ 2012
Annapolis Skyline from the Dock

photo by ~runningwave~ 2012
McGarvey's Saloon, All Decked Out

11 October 2012

Wake Me Up When September Ends

Summer has come and passed 
      The innocent can never last 
                                Wake me up when September ends 

 --a song by Green Day 

"In Silence" Leaf by ~runningwave~

Autumn, for me, is the time to turn around and to look back at the path behind me that I've been traversing all year long. I ask myself: What has this year meant to me? What bends in the road did I encounter that slowed my momentum? What passersby or fellow travelers did I meet; who are the people who gave their time to share and discuss the moments of their lives with me along my way? Most importantly, I ask myself to ponder what lessons I have learned since the last time paused to look back -- which is almost certainly last Autumn.

This has been a particularly rich and bountiful year for me personally. I am humbled by that because so many people around me are struggling every day. Many of them are people I know who are barely making ends meet; others are just scraping by unscathed in personal battles. I have had my share of struggles in the financial sense and in my personal life, too. So for my friends and acquaintances who are troubled in some way, I feel a sense of empathy. Yet this Autumn, I feel a sense of awe that I've reached a point in my life where I have a measured  place of peace and stability.  

Now it is once again the beginning of my favorite month of the year. Sweet, secret October with its crisp, delicious air and the sounds of geese flying southward. 

All I can think of is the beauty of the falling leaves. It's time to let go, Nature is whispering, if you pause to listen. Silently there is just a bit more darkness creeping forward against the hours of sunlight, and with it, I feel the need to curl up under the covers and sleep a little longer. Time to heed the call of the darkness soon and rest for the winter.

Reverse sides of Leaf Paintings, detail.

Front sides of Leaf Paintings

Before the Winter comes, I will celebrate every delicious Autumn day and make the most of the feeling of dry, coolness that comes with this season of rich hues and abundant harvest. For me, it is pure joy to let go of the light as I look forward to the slower, calmer pace of the months where nurturing and new growth happen. 

I keep hearing a phrase over and over in my head that Philip Carr Gomm said recently to a group of like-minded souls gathered in the mountains of Pennsylvania. As the cycle of the year goes by, he explained, celebrating the seasons allows us to reflect on "the changing and the changeless."  What I think he meant was the fact that we know the seasons will change, one after the other, but there is the expectation that the whole cycle of seasons is itself never ending. The seasonal cycle will continue long after we are around to witness it.

Completed Falling Leaf Paintings by ~runningwave~
About the artwork:  All of the mixed media leaf paintings began with a paper leaf cut-out which I had left over from a project last year (the paper leaves came from Paper Source). I painted layers of ink onto the front and back of Artist Trading Cards (a variety of Strathmore papers): the fronts more bright hues and the reverse sides more brown earth tones, with metallic inks for embellishment on both sides. I attached a charm to each leaf painting and wrote a phrase from Autumn poems that I like across each leaf.  I made sure to fold and bend the paper leaves so that they have creases and scoring like real leaves do.

02 October 2012

Creative Projects To Be Accomplished in Fifteen Minutes or less

Part of my current art-immersion project in the past five months has been about exploring the ways that I can create as part of my daily existence. I am busy -- just like everyone else in this great wide world of 21st century global be-productive-or-die society.

be Extraordinary Tag By ~runningwave~ laid out during
my lunch break in August 2012

I spent all of last winter wondering why I couldn't get myself off my duff and be productive, even while I watched my husband sit every morning in the living room teaching himself to read Chinese with several apps and online web tools. I admit it. I was jealous of his dedicated efforts to better himself and to do something productive with every spare minute of his time. He'd be working on his Chinese character apps in line at the diner for breakfast or riding on the Metro, all because he's love to be able to read Chinese legends and folklore in the original text some day. (By the way, in his not quite two years of doing this he is already up to memorizing 2500 characters -- a person who reads Chinese newspapers needs about 3000 characters. Now, that is dedication for you!)

This listing post was inspired by a fellow artist-blogger, Aimee who over at Artsyville, with her post, "list it tuesday: 15 minute creativity."  I met Artsyville on Facebook due to a post by another web-savvy artist I love, Jill K. Berry.  (I adore how the Internet can bring like-minded people together across time and space, even if they would never perhaps met in real life.)

As I continue with my focus on my artistic life, I am looking to other artists who share their ideas to help me. It is such an inspiration to see other people out there who love their art and who think it's important enough not only to do it every day, but to share it with the world also. So big thank yous to those artists like Aimee, Jill and others who share!  

So here's my list to add to the blog roll:
  ~runningwave's~ Creative Things I Can Do in 15 Minutes Or Less

1) Collage, paint, or draw on an ATC* or other small-scale project during my lunch break
*ATC -- for those of you who don't know it means, "artist trading card"

2) Add a few more pieces to my collage projects begun at the August classes taught by Tim Holtz at Queen's Ink

3) Brainstorm for ideas on my next collage pieces

4) Paint color backgrounds for my next collage art journals

5) Organize bit 'n pieces in my studio area

6) Make Zentangle drawings in my notebook

7) Take Instagram photos or mess around with the filters for my other digital photographs

8) Knit another few rows in my current fiber art project

9) Doodle in my handy journal

10) Rubber stamp some backgrounds to be used later

11) Start making my holiday cards

12) Look around me for artifacts and objects that can be incorporated into a collage

13) Browse the blogs of artists to gain inspiration

14) Finally read a bit more in that book on maps and imagination to insights into my own mapping project agenda.

15) Go outside and enjoy the weather; breathe; observe nature

And, of course, make more lists . . .

I am working on an Autumn project to share very soon.  Stay tuned.

06 September 2012

Following the Artist's Way: an open letter to Julia Cameron

"I'm going to open Doors for you. Doors you never dreamed existed"
-Auntie Mame (1958), portrayed by Rosalind Russell 

 Dear Julia,

 I have reached Week 8, of The Artist's Way. I thought this might be a good point in my journey to pause and turn around to look at the path behind me. Your course has been a godsend--truly Divine inspiration when I most needed it. I started the course just two months ago, but I was already steering my life towards this. I knew I'd made the leap of faith to focus on my art more seriously about a year ago.

What I had lacked then, though, was a combination of forward momentum (discipline) and a sense of direction.
I have found that in your course. Your book had been "incubating on my shelf" for ten years -- well, that's what my friend Lee Ann called it when I explained that I'd finally undertaken the course. She was the one who told me about The Artist's Way and how it helped her to be confident in her own art. I had rushed out to by a copy, but the first chapter was so intimidating that I put it down. I did not feel ready.

A decade ago, I was still trying to figure out what I wanted to do for a career. I had decided I needed some financial security. It's taken me all that time but, at last, I have the stable career to support my enrollment in mixed media art classes. The training feels like just what I need to help me achieve my vision. My ability to handle different media helps to achieve art that looks like it does in my head. The explorations I once did tentatively, now permit me the pleasure of choosing which medium and when it best serves my artist's voice. It is liberating.

I took a handmade canvas binder made by an Etsy artisan and invented a collage-go-kit that I can bring with me to work or wherever I go. When I can, I grab a quick lunch so that I can spend most of my lunch hour piecing together a small collage. When I was on a trip during Labor Day weekend, I packed up a tote bag with supplies and made my studio on the table at the mountain cottage where we stayed.
Runningwave's Collage-Go-Kit I created with a canvas binder by downstairsDesigns
My portable art studio set up at the cottage

But the work goes beyond my approach to my art, into more deeply spiritual realms. I have been using your course to confront and name my Deamons of Doubt and Dispair which followed me like lead weights ever since I graduated from art school in 1990. I took up the academic career because I was all too personally familiar with how hard it is to make a living as an artist. My parents chose that route, but I always knew my way would be necessarily different.

Yet, in finding the autonomy of a steady paycheck, I had lost sight of the Why. Lost sight of the whole reason for my quest. I sought personal stability within the Ivory Tower of Academia, but I had forgotten that I rather do belong in Bohemia.

 The Artist's Way has indeed returned my strengths of vision and perspective. These days I labor up a steep path like a hiker who has an opportunity to pause, to stop and look down at the panorama of landscape before her. It's breathtaking from up here on the mountaintop. It makes me want to lift wings and take flight.

So thank you, Julia Cameron, from the bottom of my heart. Not only for myself but also for all of the other creative people who have used your method to face their own circumstances and to find their unique ways to express themselves, their voice, their vision.
By giving your gift to other visual and performing artists, you've held open the door for many whose lives might be very different.

To pay the future forward, I, too, have sharing The Artist's Way with others, talking about what I am learning. I've found that creative thinkers everywhere lean in to listen when I speak about my experiences with the course.

A friend of mine went to find your book out from the library and has begun to work with it. It is helping her to focus on a deeply meaningful project that is a memorial to a loved one she lost.

I bought a copy for an artist friend who is struggling to get used to a big life change and discern where her art fits into her new life.

 Another woman I know has a dream that she finds difficult to focus on between grad school, her job, and her son.

I could list others who I've talked with about the course, but I know that you are quite aware of the power of your words on others when they choose to listen.

I am relieved that I finally had the courage to read what you've written. Sometimes it feels like Boot Camp, but I know that your advice is practical and rock solid. It is a tried and true pathway that many other creative people have followed. It is changing me and giving me a different outlook. I am squeezing my creative minutes and hours out of every day, imbuing my life with purpose.

Like a hawk, my artist's voice has lifted off the mountain and tested the air currents.

And it feels great to be here.  Watch me soar.
                                                               Watch me soar!

be Extraordinary tag art by ~runningwave~
"Yes! Live! Life's a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death!"
-Auntie Mame (1958), portrayed by Rosalind Russell 

15 August 2012

My Date with Napoleon

"Even when I am gone, I shall remain in people's minds the star of their rights, 
my name will be the war cry of their efforts, the motto of their hopes."
--Napoleon Bonaparte

Altered Portrait of General Napoleon Bonaparte
Napoleon by David, Alterations by ~runningwave~ 

The Paris of my dreams swirled into view like a ferris wheel of bright and airy hues. The Effiel Tower seen over broad boulevards with bustling passersby appeared just as it might look in a painting by The Impressionsts.

On that day in 1987, the autumn of my eighteenth year, I felt the dark clouds internally, deeply, as I wandered through the grey, damp air of the real life Paris.

Here was I in The City of Light, and only just, that weekend because our plane was delayed on the tarmac at the London airport due to fog. But it was My Grand Tour, my freshman year of college which I gleefully spent being an ex-pat. So much to do, to see!

The morning now faded into afternoon as I passed beneath the iron limbs of Eiffel's masterpiece on a stroll through Parc Champ-du-Mars. My mission, to meet L'Empereur, Napoleon Bonaparte, the Corsican General who rose to the height of power in Europe, raised up by his own bootstraps and willing to take on the World. Sometimes -- very often in fact -- Napoleon succeeded.

At last my goal in sight and my green Michelin guidebook tucked under my arm, I walked with purpose towards Les Invalides, the great complex of buildings which houses several museums and Napoleon's Tomb.

Something happened then that I did not expect or plan.

On my way to visit Napoleon, I was spellbound by the glory of the French Army at the Musée de l'Armée. For three hours or more I admired swords, rapiers, sabers, shields, halberdsgrieves, maces, daggers, battle axes, and suits of armor, not to mention pennants, flags, and heraldry. I wandered through the Medieval and Renaissance halls, never making it to the nineteenth century.

How is it that a quiet, young woman from the American Midwest goes to Paris for the first time and spends so long starring at weapons of destruction? 

You might well ask.

As a young girl, the tales of knights in shining armor captivated me. Ever since I could read fairy tales and adventures for myself, these were my favorite stories. I did not always dream of being that damsel awaiting rescue by knights. No, I think I had ambition to be a knight almost as much as I wanted to have one to come and rescue me from my rather mundane existence. 

This was long before the movie Brave or George R. R. Martin had described the character of Arya Stark, but indeed there always have been women who dreamt of being skilled at arms. In my youth I idolized Eowyn of Rohan in the Lord of the Rings for her fearless swordplay. If the plot had action, chases, battle and mayhem, I loved it. I read Greco-Roman and Norse mythology until I knew the gods and heroes moves by heart. 

There were few social networks for geeks, especially female geeks, before the internet and Facebook.  Not surprising then, that in high school I fell in with the crowd who played Dungeons & Dragons on the weekends. I developed characters skilled at warfare and cunning; my weapons of choice varied between magical spells, short swords, and crossbows.  

That afternoon in Paris was a pilgrimage for me of sorts. Alone in my sojourn, I was at last seeing what I had spent years reading about in my quiet corner of the United States: case by case lined with pole arms, blades, and armor. Indeed, one of the finest displays of arms on the European Continent, the vast collection of Les Invalides.

It was somehow fitting that I came to pay my respects to the Emperor of France after acknowledging this impressive array of battle glory (and plunder).  I had not forgotten my purpose, so dutifully I went to the crypt.  The giant, baroque sarcophagus is lifted towards the colorful dome. Just as an emperor might sit high on a dais in life, so Napoleon is raised to the heights in death.

Here was laid to rest a man who dared to be more than his birth dictated. Someone with the courage and self-confidence to dream big and bold dreams, who fought for what he believed was right. He endured the hatred of many aristocrats as he learned to master his skills and even after he became ruler of France. He promoted his officers from the ranks and ensured they were competent soldiers. 

Many scholars still demonize Napoleon for being a war-monger, but my thoughts on him are more complex. I see Napoleon as a man of letters, of strategy and skill, a great mind, who used the arts of diplomacy when he could, but was unafraid to take up arms when necessary. 

I am not a violent person, and I will always attempt to negotiate in my own conflicts, leaving battle only for the last resort. And yet, I agree with Napoleon that there comes a time to fight. And if you must fight, than it should be for the deepest convictions you hold or for the protection of someone or something you love.

If I could really meet Napoleon, I'd want to ask how he kept up his confidence in the face of goals that many might have seen insurmountable.  Although it is my natural inclination and ancestral loyalty to be on the side of England in the Napoleonic Wars, I still can admire this man for who he was and for what one person can accomplish if only he or she is willing to grasp for destiny.  

What might we all accomplish, if we believe we cannot fail?

Vive L'Empereur! Napoleon, I salute your audacity!

Posted this day, 15 August 2012, for L'anniversaire de Napoleon Bonaparte

Napoleon Bonaparte's Maxims on Character
"He who hazards nothing, gains nothing."

"My motto has always been: A career open to all talents, without distinctions of birth." 

"Impossible is a word to be found only in the dictionary of fool."

08 August 2012

With Admiration to My Fellow Artists

I am dedicating this web post to the creative people who motivate me by sharing their art with the world in the physical or online world (or both). 

I want to especially thank a very creative woman with whom I associate the scintillating hue of red-orange:  her hair color, but also the color of her personality which does tend to shine when she is coaxed out of her surface librarian-demeanor.   Ms. PocketSize, you are a great inspiration to me. I love it when you dare to try something new with your art. Keep experimenting, Lady, and you will go far.

So, as I understand it, here are The Versitle Blogger Award Nomination Rules:
1.  Thank the person who nominated me and leave a link to her/his blog. *check*
2.  Include the award image in this post. *check*
3.  Give 7 random facts about myself.
4.  Nominate 15 other bloggers for the award and leave a link to their site.
5.  Let the other bloggers know they've been nominated.

 So, here are 7 random facts about myself:

  1.  I live and work, so that I can travel. Travel is a way to collect experiences. 
  2. When I was little I read every book on myths and legends that I could lay my hands on. A fact the school librarian remembered when seeing me after a lapse of 20 years. 
  3. My parents are both professional artists/designers; they have owned a design studio together since before I was born. 
  4.  I spent my freshman year in college studying abroad in England on scholarship. That year absorbing art and culture in the UK and Europe has shaped my life since. 
  5. I am a total fantasy and science fiction geek. 
  6. My "runningwave" name comes from poem called "Deep Peace" by a writer who wrote poetry under the name Fiona Macleod. 
  7. I love crossroads, tidelines, coasts, and threshholds -- the liminal border spaces where two or more elements meet. 

 Here -- in random order -- are the writers, poets, and visual artists who inspire me as I travel the web of the Internet. My nominations for The Versatile Blogger Award are (envelope please):

  1. Pocket Size Studios, thank you for nominating Pull of the Tides for the Versitle Blogger Award. I hereby nominate yours as well! It is a joy to collaborate with a friend who is working on a parallel path to mine. I am happy to find someone else who shares the goal of finding a voice through mixed media art. Hugs to you, PocketSize. 
  2. Melissa, the creatrix of Smitten By Britain, whose writing, humour, and carefully selected photographs remind me of the country where my heart often is.
  3. Gaian Soul, Joanna Powell Colbert, an artist whose powerful influence and constant subject is Nature Herself.
  4. Lucy, a lady from Northern England who shares her fiber art, gardening, and wisdom with the world at Attic24  (My crochet teacher recommended her blog to me.)
  5. Jill K. Berry, a mixed media artist whose work with maps and explores the world from a traveler's eye view. Her blog, Personal Geographies, inspires me again and again. I want to take a class with Jill someday -- though she lives very far away from me -- and when I grow up, I want to be like her.
  6. Jane Davies, a collage artist from New England, with whom I have taken a class, and who is teaching an online workshop this autumn I have registered for in sketchbook journaling. I am always fascinated to travel with you as you post your colorful Collage Journeys.
  7. The always elegant time traveler in textiles who blogs At the Sign of the Golden Scissors.  I am not a fashion plate, but if I was given to that characteristic, I think I might want to wear the eighteenth-century fashion cut by this consummate dressmaker.
  8. Mael Bridge's blog of all things relating to the Irish Saint and Goddess Brigit: Brigit's Sparkling Flame
  9.  Jane Brocket, an artist who works in fiber, food, and photography. She selects visual patterns in her blog which are a mini-vacation everytime I come to visit her at Jane Brocket.
  10. Michelle Ward, graphic artist, designer, and witty spirit who writes and designs in a distinctive style. 
  11. Michelle Ward is also notable as organizer of an online project that I only found about close to the end of its run: an online artists' crusade which has drawn to a close, but you can still visit it and be empowered to challenge your own artistic voice at Green Pepper Press Street Team.
  12. Writer and follower of the natural cycles of seasons, Waverly Fitzgerald, who has taught me how to celebrate the small details in life as well as the big festivals and holidays.  She is publisher of School of the Seasons, which I read before the Internet was part of my daily life. I have followed her career with interest as she assembled collaborators to publish an online magazine, Living in Season.
  13. My dear friend, who shares her wisdom and real life experiences facing the challenge of dealing with life after the death of her only son, Rob. She has begun to write this year on a blog that will touch your heart and soul called Facing the Worst. She will move you to think differently about your own life and to guard what you hold to be precious.

All of these artists/writers/creators of diverse kinds meet my definition of Verstile Bloggers.

I'm going to break the Rules above and end here, because these are thirteen blogs that I read most regularly. I want to honor all of these creative people for sharing their talents and energy.

I expect as I come to know more artists online, the list of people who inspire me will grow and grow.

16 July 2012

Peak of Energy

Untitled, Art Journal Page by ~runningwave~ 2012
Art Journal Page by ~runningwave~

“And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.” 

Summer in the Chesapeake region is hot and hazy. Particularly this summer, since we had that incredible triple-digit heat wave at the end of June through the beginning of July.

Summer is also heady -- exciting, intoxicating, a peak of energy and activity.
Days are extra long, so the increased daylight seems to make everyone squeeze out every minute with being active, especially outdoors.

My world is moving on a giant burst of energy this summer, "just as things grow fast in the movies," like F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote.  I'm in the center of a whirlwind of activity, largely self-propelled.

And I'm happy about it.

I've found that I am now creating the space in my life to be creative -- in diverse ways.

I'm giving myself permission to make time for my creativity without feeling guilty, as though I should be doing something else for the benefit of others.  I've observed in the past few weeks that when I'm at my creative peak, I'm also able to think more clearly. The creative energy I give off is useful to others. People learn from me, just as I'm learning from them. People complement my artwork that I have enjoyed spending time making.

Give and take -- not really a selfish act to express yourself. I wouldn't call the great artists I've known and learned about -- visual artists, musicians, actors -- selfish for practicing with their talent. I think they are doing what the love and hoping other people can enjoy it too.

I've begun to think of myself as an artist, who happens to have a day job doing something else. This is a recent change in perspective for me. I spent many years working hard to build a career until I found a job in which I make a professional wage that rather enjoy doing. Yet, I've also had to stop and consider where my heart is.

I am no longer struggling to make ends meet like I did in long years of graduate school. Nor am I doggedly competing to find a job that I enjoy that both pays the bills and suits my talents and temperament. I've found it, so I had to ask myself "Just why, why am I not satisfied?"

My heart answers, that I did put one thing aside when I decided to move forward in a career that brought me along the path I now tread. A - R - T

I attended an art school for two years, studying  commercial photography way back when. When I reached my graduation, I wasn't all that pleased about my job prospects. In the Midwestern town where I got my degree being a woman photographer in a commercial studio was not a glamorous job unless you made it to the top of the heap. Otherwise, you'd be making the coffee for other photographers and doing the hauling of lighting equipment, until your talent got noticed. If it got noticed at all.

So, I left my art behind in pursuit of more rigorous intellectual training, which I also loved. I always thought I was glad to have been to art school, but equally glad I was not a starving artist.

Well, I certainly have my basic needs met as I sit here today. I want more, and I'm taking this seriously at last.

Not giving up my day job any time soon, but when I have the free time, you'll find me taking art classes and working in new media. Practicing and stretching my very, flabby artistic muscles.

Not sure yet, where this path is taking me, but I am exhilarated.

I feel a sense of wonder and the thrilling taste of  adventure.

04 July 2012

"Could you tell me how to get to Carnegie Hall?"

I decided that the only way I'm going to improve my drawing is the same way you get to Carnegie Hall.
Practice, practice, practice!

Since my previous post, I've been keeping my notebook with me and working on sketches every chance I get. Some people sit and play with their phone apps while waiting for a meeting; I have my little black Moleskine artist's journal and colored pens with me to pass the time.

I had to be in Baltimore four days straight last week, so I made sure I brought my journal. I assigned myself a theme for the first day: circles and curves. Traffic was light the first day, and I got to town early. I needed to wait about 40 minutes. So, I doodled everything I could think of on the theme of circles and curves.

On one of my lunch breaks, I drew my favorite landmark in Baltimore:  the Bromo Seltzer Tower. Fortunately there was shade from a nearby building so that I could stand being outside in 90-degree heat.  (I'm glad I did it that day, because the next day's thermometer topped over 100-degrees F.)

Result of my experiments:
1) It's good to have a journal and pens with me all the time. I'm more likely to use it to kill time between activities.
2) Theme of the Day or pausing to draw something around me that illustrates what the day is like are great strategies.

You may have heard on the news that we had some pretty dramatic weather in the Washington, D.C.-Baltimore region last Friday. 105-degrees temps combined with a huge line of deadly thunderstorms and extremely high winds -- not a tornado, but a derecho. Afterwards there were trees uprooted, power lines down, and masses of people without power. It was pretty ugly, but somehow my home wasn't directly impacted. Whew! I feel very grateful and sympathize with everyone who didn't have power in the aftermath-- and those who still don't have the power back on.

Needless to say, with the steaming blast of temperature everyone was desperate to be indoors near an air conditioner. I was elated that my local mixed media arts store, The Queen's Ink, got their power back on in time for my long-awaited cigar box decoupage class on Sunday afternoon.

A Century Celebration box by ~runningwave~

Patti taught us the techniques for converting a used cigar box into a brand new keepsake box. She had preselected some wonderful papers  with artwork based upon fashion magazines from circa 1912 to 1922. This just happens to fall into my favorite time period in history, and I have spend years studying art and culture from 1900 to about 1940. I learned to love the Edwardian period during my college studies.

These scrapbook paper illustrations are about as Edwardian as they come. I look at them and see characters from P.G. Wodehouse novels. " 'Shall I bring the motor car round, Sir?' inquired Jeeves."  The car ended up on top of the box; it just had to! Plus that gave me the excuse to make the button knob look like a tire (or is that, tyre?)

Side view: A Century Celebration box by ~runningwave~

Inside view

Chosen materials, for those of you reading who care about that sort of thing: The papers our instructor selected for the class were Graphic 45 "A Ladies Diary" theme. The edges of the paper are covered with Ranger Arts distress ink (Pine Needles or Tattered Rose, depending on the background colors of the printed paper.). The handle is a stack of buttons nested and then glued together with Glossy Accents. The trick it to actually anchor the button knob with a tiny button sewn with waxed linen thread to the inside lid of the box.