Stuff Just Has To Get Done

Lara Disposing The Grass Clippings 2016 Carolina Elena pastel on paper 9X10

Lara Disposing The Grass Clippings, pastel on sanded paper, 9x10"

It is so totally true... stuff just has to get done. My landlord, and friend, Lara, works hard. She puts her hours into her regular job, her family, and also mows my lawn- and that of several other people. I am sure there are other things she wants to do, but where to find the hours in a day to get to those things?

I have been away working on another task - an all consuming one at that. I want, more than anything, to be able to get better at painting. In order to do so, I must paint every day. The days get consumed, though, by must-do tasks. I can't always stop and just paint. I take photos of everything that catches my eye. Taking the photos keeps my eyes on the lookout, and the concept of composition in an ongoing conversation with myself, but it is not enough. When I get back to my actual paints and brushes, the materials seems foreign to me - even if I have only been away a week or so. This stuff, this not being able to paint everyday, gets downright depressing.

It is a viscous cycle of taking care of daily living, not getting to paint, feeling guilty about it, feeling like a total poser in the art world, feeling worthless from the lack of progress, and then finally pushing everything aside only to feel completely inept with the materials at hand. It makes me want to toss all my art supplies in a bin and search for what else I may be better at. Then stagnation sets in. Before you know it, I burst and actually make some art. It feels euphoric...but it does not last, again I am called to duty before I can attempt another go at it with my materials.

Stuff just has to get done.

In an effort to massage that viscous cycle and coerce it into a more fruitful direction, I have added simple sketching with a pencil to my day. It requires no effort to carry, to set up, or to clean up. It keeps my eye talking to my brain, my brain talking to my hand.

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In the permanently unfinished image above, you see a sketch of a sofa I spent a few minutes on. There is no need for me to finish it as the purpose was for my eyes, brain, and hand to simply have a bit of a chat. My soft graphite Palomino pencil is new to me. It is a dream tool to work with. A bit costly for a "lowly pencil," but working with it is a dream. I like the sound it makes as I scratch the surface of the paper. It makes a good dark... something I need to push myself to to not lose in my drawings. 

I made another quick sketch, one when my day had left me spent. I was too tired to set up my paints.

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It it is not great, but it did the trick of getting rid of the guilt of not painting. The image is of where I was staying while working on project that was at the top of my stuff-that-has-to-get-done list. In retrospect, I realize that MAKE ART needs to be written at the top of that list. Sketching is one way that I can do that.


Pinterest Peep #19, & The Painting After

Sketchbook Pinterest Peep Omo Valley Ethiopia Carolina Elena 2015 watercolor

 

This is "One Of Them"...what do I mean by that? This is one of the hardest paintings to paint...the one you paint after a major flop. I painted a flop the other day. Two in a row, in fact. It was devastating. It nearly killed me. I am not kidding. I have spent the past few days, walking around aimlessly, mindlessly doing what has to get done, while catching glimpses of the sky wondering what the hell made me think I could paint. I debated at least three other options to spend the rest of my life on. I have no idea what possesses me and makes me feel the need to learn how to paint when I was born with other skills. You know the saying of "getting back in the saddle again?" Nothing could be more applicable than in this learning-to-paint adventure. Today, I had the day off from work. We awoke to several new inches of snow. What this means is that everyone went skiing and I got to face my monsters in peace. This little painting was the result.

I present to you Pinterest Peep #19 of a beautiful woman from the southern parts of the Omo Valley in Ethiopia.

Wish me luck on the next one.

 

Carolina

 

 


Little Belén

Little Belén 2016 Carolina Elena watercolor on paper 10x7


 

This is a watercolor painting I did of the daughter of a good friend of mine. As I understand it, Belén borrowed both the sunglasses and an iPhone, and took a most wonderful selfie. Her adorable smile and the strong sunlight falling on her was just begging me to paint this. I painted it on a 7"x10" piece of archival watercolor paper. I would love to paint this image in oils, on a very large canvas. Perhaps now, when I am without a studio, is not a good time to paint it large... so I will save this sketch for when the studio situation has improved! 

Until next time,

Carolina


My Little Pinterest Peeps

Recently, I made a list of the places I want to visit, or revisit, from around the world. My kids are almost out of the house and I am just downright itchy to travel. The list, though, was difficult to remember... and frankly just plain boring to look at, so I decided to go to Pinterest and pin a few photos of the people from the places I want to go to. Then I took it a step further and used those photos as inspiration to make a few watercolor sketches in my sketchbook. These are just little sketches: I did not take the original photos...but it is a great exercise to get my brush skills going.

This is what I have painted thus far:

Pinterest Peep #1 Litang, Tibet

 Pinterest Peep #1 Litang, Tibet Watercolor Sketchbook Carolina Ellis

 

Pinterest Peep #2 Burkina Faso, Africa

Pinterest Peep #2 Burkina Faso, Afica Watercolor Sketchbook Carolina Ellis

 

Pinterest Peep #3 Bhutan

Pinterest Peep #3 Bhutan Watercolor Sketchbook Carollina Ellis

 

Pinterest Peep #4 Paris

Pinterest Peep #4 Paris Watercolor Sketchbook Carolina Ellis

 

Pinterest Peep #5 Jodhpur, The Blue City, India

Pinterest Peep #5 Jodhpur, The Blue City, India Watercolor Sketchbook Carolina Ellis

 

Pinterest peep #6 Marpha, Nepal

Pinterest Peep #6 Marpha Nepal. Watercolor Sketchbook Carolina Ellis

Pinterest peep #7 Mexico

Pinterest Peep #7 Mexico Watercolor Sketchbook Carolina Ellis

 

Pinterest peep #8 Tibet

Pinterest Peep #8 Tibet Watercolor Sketchbook Carolina Ellis

 

Pinterest Peep #9 Kichwa Woman, Ecuador

Pinterest Peep #9 Kichwa Woman, Ecuador Watercolor Sketchbook Carolina Ellis

Pinterest Peep #10 Langtang Region, Nepal

Pinterest Peep #10 Langtang Nepal Watercolor Sketchbook Carolina Ellis

 

Pinterest peep #11 Africa

Pinterest Peep #11 Africa Watercolor Sketchbook Carolina Ellis

 

Pinterest Peep #12 Alaska

Pinterest Peep #12 Alaska Watercolor Sketchbook Carolina Ellis

 

Pinterest Peep #13 Morocco ( Morocco)

Pinterest Peep #13 Morroco (Morocco) Watercolor Sketchbook Carolina Ellis

 

Pinterest Peep # 14 Bunad from Setesdalen, Norway

Pinterest Peep #14 Bunad from Setesdalen, Norway Watercolor Sketchbook Carolina Ellis

 

Pinterest peep #15 Tibet

Pinterest Peep # 15 Tibet Watercolor Sketchbook Carolina Ellis

 

Pinterest Peep #16 Madagascar

Pinterest Peep # 16 Madagascar Watercolor Sketchbook Carolina Ellis

 

Pinterest peep # 17 India

Pinterest Peep #17 India Watercolor Sketchbook Carolina Ellis

 

Pinterest Peep #18 Norway

Pinterest Peep #18 Norway Watercolor Sketchbook Carolina Ellis

 

That is what I have done up until now. I don't know if I will do anymore. I hope you like them.

Carolina

 

 

 


The Sky Is Something Else In Colorado

It does not matter what time of day it is...if I am up in the Vail Valley, the sky is something else. In the middle of the night, the amount of stars just blows me away. The sunshine at the middle of the day is a sure fire way to cure depression. The sunsets are on fire. My most favorite time, though, to notice the sky is either early morning, before the sun comes up, or after the sun has gone down... this is when I feel like the world belongs to me and me only. Here is a pastel painting I did of the Colorado sky.

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Hope you like it,

Carolina


Sally Said Three Months

In June I took my first pastel workshop. It was heaven...then the skies opened and all hell broke loose...I had not painted since. Life can behave that way sometimes - it just dictates your days. The workshop I took was with Sally Strand. Not only can she really paint well (in oils, pastel, watercolor, you name it) but she can also teach very well. That is a rare find. She told us the turning point in her abilities came after spending three months at her kitchen table painting whatever was in the fridge.

That is three whole months, every day, same time of day...without fail. How hard can that be??

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Above is what I painted earlier today. It is 9x12 pastel on watercolor paper. I used my watercolor sketchbook (Strathmore Visual Journal, Watercolor 140 lb) for it. In order for the pastel to have a better chance of adhering to the paper, I coated it first with a clear grit "paint" from Art Spectrum called Supertooth Colourfix that I tinted with Yellow Oxide acrylic paint diluted with water. Then I used both pastel pencils (Derwent) and my new pastels from the French company, Girault. For those of you trying pastels, I must add that a few finishing touches were added with my soft pastels by Terry Ludwig.

The composition could use a bit more oomph, but it is is what is for today. in case my drafting skills are throwing you off - you are looking at a pepper, an onion and a lime. I gave myself forty seconds to just grab something and put it in front of me. I can't be dilly dallying on the perfect pic if I am going to get into this three month stint.

 

Until next time,

Carolina


Painting Colored Snow

My friend, Mari, asked me the other day, via Facebook, if I had been painting snow. Yes, I have. I have been fortunate enough to spend quite a bit of time out in the snow with my snowshoes on. But painting white snow is a whole different ball game. I have discovered that in translating the white snow I see all around me onto a two dimensional surface, it has to go through a transformation before it can make visual sense on the canvas. The snow can't be white on a two dimensional surface and look right. It won't have any sense of depth, or rather: you won't be able to tell what's in front, and what is in back. Your eye will swim about looking for clues that anchor it to what your brain knows to be "right." Below, you will see an exercise I did a few days ago.

I first made an ink wash to get the dark and light areas, aka the values, to look like the scene had some depth:

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Doing an ink wash first, gives me clues as to how to go about the painting... kind of like a road map.

Then, so as not to get too hung up on the level of my skill set, I painted the scene in oils, but did not use a brush. I only used one pallet knife and the paints:

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Using a pallet knife meant I couldn't get my panties in a bunch if the branch I put down didn't quite go in the direction I wanted it to. The surface, which was actually a gessoed board, was no bigger than 8 x 10 inches. The small size of the surface , in conjunction with the flat pallet knife, worked against perfection, but it also gave me the ability to only focus on color. This was when I realized that I was not painting white snow, but rather colored snow.

The next step I took was to do the same scene in pastel, on a sanded board that was no bigger than the oil painting.

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Keeping all the variables to a minimum teaches me how to deal with things more methodically. Doing this step by step, allowed me to see that all those little snowflakes on the mountainside are like little mirrors, all bunched up together, reflecting the world around them. The snow in the far distance reflected the light that was blocked by the clouds. The snow in the closer distance was reflecting the blue sky, above. The snow closest to my right had the most direct sunlight on it, so i painted that snow pink. See what I mean? Although it seems like a slower method, it allows me to have a depth of learning that my get-to-it personality desperately benefits from.

The paintings are called The Tree That Greets Me. They are of the first tree I see when I turn into the McCoy Nordic Park for snowshoeing and cross country skiing up at Beaver Creek, here in Colorado. It is a wonderfully weird Aspen tree in that because it isn't in amongst a grove of other Aspens, it's branches seem to have more freedom and personality. Once I make a turn at this tree, the downhill ski trails are left behind and the mountain becomes mine.

There are some things in the pallet knife painting that I prefer... like the life of the light in the clouds. The pastel painting for me feels better in the branch area of the tree, and also all of the shadow areas. I may attempt this whole scene one more time with a pallet knife, again, but on a large canvas. We will see.

Hope you enjoyed the little lesson I gave myself on painting white snow that, as it turns out, is anything but white.

Until next time,

Carolina 

 


The Moab Desert Left Me Bone Dry

No need to adjust your screen... it was dark, very dark. We had set the alarm for around three in the morning in hopes of making it to the Moab Desert, in Utah, just in time to photograph the first rays of light hitting the arches. Unacustomed to doing much at that hour, the apples and granola bar in my pack offered little assistance in shaking off the grogginess. In fact, eating anything at that unGodly hour holds little appeal for me. Some people "don't drive drunk," my husband does not drive without a double shot of espresso in him. So it was me behind the wheel... for hours... in the dark... total, black inky darkness. If it wasn't for the invention of GPS, we would not have made it. The entire ride was cloaked in black... aside, of course, from the glow of the dashboard. I kept myself amused (and awake) by imagining what the reflection of that dashboard looked like on the surface of my eyeballs. Questions like... "I wonder if everything is in reverse, like when one reads the word A-M-B-U-L-A-N-C-E on an emergency vehicle only to see it correctly written in one's rear view mirror," and "If something comes running out into my path, and I hit it, will it look like a squashed, mindbending, miniaturization of something catapulted directly from the dinasaur age, or will it look like the Road Runner from my cartoon loving youth?" Obviously, you can tell I was having a tough time staying awake. I kept checking the GPS, and saying to myself "you JUST checked it three minutes ago, you fool. What could have changed in the past three minutes?" The road was straight,  and it kept unfurling before our car. I had visions of the grill on the front of my SUV being a giant mouth swallowing up that road, like a fraternity pleby sucking down beer through a tube. My own yawns were adictive. Desolation ruled everything beyond the metal and glass boundaries of my car. When we finally did arrive at the gates to the Arches National Park, you guessed it: NO ONE was there. We just drove right in, the wheels just kept right on rolling as we followed that GPS as we had done so many times before out in the open ocean when we lived on the boat. This was different than the boat though. On the boat you follow the GPS all the while scanning the horizon for the tell-tale red and green lights on another boat.You watch your radar like a hawk incase some idiot out there has fallen asleep at the wheel. At least on the radar screen you see a 'pleep'... here, there was nothing. NOTHING. If I didnt stay firmly in the middle of the road, one swerve to miss a "silly Wabbit" and I could, unknowingly, be flying off the edge of a cliff. It COULD happen, my heart was in my throat. For heaven's sake, I kept thinking to myself, I have children to raise. By now my caffeine deprived husband was way past the head bobbing stage and fully awake. The GPS said we had "arrived". Really? I put it in park and we prceeded to take out all of the equipement in the back of the car. And then, out of nowhere, came the barely detectable glow of morning light. We rushed to get set up... hard to do when your only real light source to the foot path is the flashlight app on your iPhone. And then, with the same exact speed of an advancing storm, the light started to reclaim the desert and this is what we saw:

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 It was quite the magic show. My husband was still concerned about my whereabouts and kept warning me not to trip over the legs of the tripod- something I have been known to do... even in broad daylight.

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and then... sunshine. GOLDEN GLORIOUS SUNSHINE.... EVERYWHERE.

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 My husband's camera was literally "firing off on all cylinders."  Non stop. While I was fully absorbed in the Grand Awakening going on around me. The Moab was saying "good morning."

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I tried my best to remember the parade unfolding before my eyes so that I could recall later, at home, when I would be standing before my easel:

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 Once the magic moment was past, and the sun was a little higher in the sky, we set off to see what we had missed on the way in.

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 Peaceful. Magestic. Bizzare.

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Overwhelming. 

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Contradicting.

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 Unbelievable.

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Engulfing.

Dwarfing. 

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 It didn't make any sense.

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Being in the desert is a weird thing. You feel utterly different. Small. Insignificant. Alone.

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 HAPPY.

The fleeting few moments I had in the Moab were... were...

NOT ENOUGH.

It left me feeling unable to capture the majestc quality that nature is. Nature has NEVER failed me, but I, in my feeble attempts before the easel, fail it. I had not been able to paint since. It is only now, months later, that I am attempting to do so once again. I need to go and spend a few weeks there... and  listen to what it says to me so that, in paint, I can do a better job at holding up my end of the conversation.

 

 


If It Is Sunny, Bring Your Umbrella

I never thought that, in Colorado, on a sunny day, I would need to bring my umbrella when I paint, but that is what I have to do. In other parts of the US, sure, you never know when a cloud is going to come out of nowhere and release itself over you. In Colorado, though, if you look out the window and it is sunny, you can bank on the fact that you will have more of the same throughout the rest of the day. I painted, down on the Miller Ranch trail again, and when I got home something about my painting was "off."

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I know it was a gorgeous day out there while I was painting... so what happened? Why did my painting look so... um... dull?

I did some investigating on the internet to find out what was going on. I knew that when I was out there painting, everything was looking vibrant and beautiful, both in my gorgeous view and in my painting. By the time I got home, my painting had turned dull and lifeless. Were my paints going bad? That shouldn't be since I practically forked over a limb to pay for them (FYI, some of my tubes of paint cost more than $40 a piece.)

Turns out, after a bit of digging, that your pupils dialate from all the crazy, awesome sunlight out there. When your eyes go from your view to your pallette, and then to your painting surface, your eyes are not able to adjust fast enough... odd, because I thought they were adjusting quite fine. This is what I was doing wrong: I would look at the view, mix the color on my palette, then add it to the painting. But, and this is a big BUT, if my painting surface was in shadow, as it was being that it was perpendicular to the sky, and my palette was in sunlight laying horizontal to the sky, then I had totally different light types on the paint. On my palette, where I was matching the color to what I was seeing, the paint was in total sunlight. My painting surface, though, was in shadow. I am not a good enough painter for my eyes to adjust quickly. To fix the problem I had to bring my umbrella:

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Bingo! This time I got the results I was aiming for:

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If you scroll back up, to the first photo in this post, I think that you will be able to see the difference. I went back to the exact same spot the next day. It was the same time of day, same kind of sun. The only difference was that I brought my umbrella that attaches to my tripod.

In case you are wondering, both the paintings, above, were done in oil.

I also still am working in pastels. Below is my latest effort, also from the Miller Ranch trail, of two little trees that always catch my attention when I am hiking down there. With so many gorgeous, outstanding tree specimens on that trail, these two little unassuming trees manage to pull on my heart strings. I could not avoid them any longer. They were begging me to paint their "portrait" and so I obliged.

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So next time you are painting out in the sun, either don't forget your umbrella, or find yourself a nice shady spot to stand in.

Meet you back here soon.

Carolina


Miller Ranch Trail, Sep 25, 2014

No matter where you live, autumn is awesome. Period. I have found that if I am in Chile, Vietnam, anywhere in Europe, or anywhere in the US... the same thing happens to me in autumn... I want to sing and dance out there. The crisp air, the clean light, all of it has me feeling like I am living at the edge of my skin. It makes me want to paint.

That is what I did today.

Miller Ranch Trail, Sep 25, 2014

I take my little tool with me, because the caps sometimes stick... and I am done using my teeth for anything other than chewing.
The day was glorious out there on the Miller Ranch trail. I had dressed in layers as I knew it would get warm despite the cold beginning to the day. As my painting developed, I found myself peeling off the layers. I would have gone "further", but then I would have looked like I was on that show "Survivor". I don't really understand WHY they must walk around in their underwear on that show. What difference does it make if you are wearing shorts out there? You might argue that since those folks are in the middle of nowhere, on some little island or jungle, why should I care what they wear. But I do. Because they are not just "out there", they are in my living room! And they know that they are there in the very good company of an ENTIRE film crew! And they know we are going to see it on TV. I think the show screens the contestants to see if they are willing to be seen on TV in their skivvies and then the crew gives their baggage a shakedown! There you have it, my rant for the day!!

Miller Ranch Trail, Sep 25, 2014

Miller Ranch Trail, Sep 25, 2014


Painter Of Dirty Skies

I have been wondering how you all are doing. Are you back into the swing of things now that the kids are back in school? Did you get your oldest one off to college? Have you been hiking the mountains pondering your next move? Well these are the things I have been doing. Image

I have hiked with and without friends... somehow, though, my chubby little self is ALWAYS last and lagging far behind. Makes for good photos, though. I spent the first couple of months blaming it all on the altitude, but I have come to face the music and realize that anyone, in my "well padded", chubby state would be panting along side me. Those kind of people don't seem to exist up here, so I just take my place at the end of the line and am grateful to be up there with the FFs (chubby girl code speak for the "Fit Folks.".)

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The other day I went up Vail Mountain... good thing I have a year round pass for the gondola... it would have been a very long day without it.

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Now, on some days, I will hitch my pack on and give it a good hike before settling on a spot to paint.

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But on this particular day, I am telling you about now, I only made it 50 meters beyond the gondola landing zone to where the viewing deck is located.

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Now, you have to understand, this view, from the viewing deck is spectacular. In the distance I can spot the peak where I nearly had a heart attack a few weeks back. Up there, looking out at the Sawatch Range, it feels like THAT is the view to paint. But it isn't. It is almost too daunting. Maybe some day I will tackle it. Anyways, on with the story. I clicked in the plastic buckles of my backpack and turned to begin my hike to find a more "reasonable" painting location. I think I took only four or five steps and stopped dead in my tracks. There it was- the ugliest part of the entire mountain, the top of one of the lifts, showing itself off to me in all it's glory. How many times had I dismissed this view? But I was unable to shake it. I walked a few feet more and then returned to my spot near the viewing platform, unpacked my gear and began.

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So what was so different this time? The CLOUD. I had to paint it.

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I made a sketch in my sketchbook and, when I got home, painted it with my pastels. As I told you a few posts back, I have fallen in love with the pastels. However, I must admit, it is a love/hate relationship. The pastels are heavy to carry with me on my hikes. That would be bad enough, but they also have another drawback - once you are done with the pastel painting, you just can't fix it and forget it. Spray fixative does nothing to prevent it from smearing if you rub up against them (or stack them, even.) so the ONLY solution is to frame them... read "EXPENSIVE". Being that this whole living-in-the-mountains experiment is only temporary, I can assure you that none of my artwork is going to get framed. Packing that, at the end, would be cumbersome to say the least. So I have started to do two things: one is to take my little sketchbook along with me (definitely lighter load) and then do the pastels back at the house, but... BUT... it is a rental... I would freak out if I ruined the floors so I have to be uncharacteristically careful when I paint. So the other thing I have been doing is learning how to paint with oils, en plein air, out there in nature, on the spot.
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This one, above, is oils done on paper (read:"cheap, cheap"), it is about 12"x12" and is of my favorite rock (don't you have a favorite rock?) If a rock could smile, I think this rock would have a really wide grin as the sun comes up in the east and warms it to the point of being hot to the touch, no matter how cool the day. Now I know that oil painting is not my "thing." My mother (bless her heart, I love her more than she can imagine) thinks I should just stick to what I am finally seeing some success in - that is pastels. My husband (I love him too) thinks my pastels "have more subtleties" to them. Granted. But what about the 80/20 rule?
The 80/20 rule states that you should do what you are good at 80% of the time! but that 20% of the time you should push yourself way out of your comfort zone otherwise progress is not only slow, but you risk screeching to a standstill without noticing it. This applies to everything. Cooking - 20% of the time you should be cooking something that forces you to learn something new, wether it is a new technique, a new cuisine from afar, or a simply new vegetable. If you are an athlete (I am speaking out of supposition, here, OBVIOUSLY), if you just run around the same track over and over again, you will get exercise, but your progress will be stunted. Changing up your routine just 20% of the time forces your muscles, and your muscle memory, and of course your brain, to LEARN... and that is what life is all about, isn't it?

Sure, we can say that life is all about those we love... true... but is that all there is to life? When we were little, we grew by leaps and bounds. I am not talking about physically. Everything we did, every moment, was a learning experience. We need to keep that up... until our last breath.
Ok. I am getting a little too deep, perhaps, let's lasso it back in to the title of this post - Painter of Dirty Skies. So, this morning I went out on a hike... backpack, easel, water bottle, & cowboy hat... all the gear my little pack mule self could carry and I risked all self conscious thoughts and painted down on the Miller Ranch trail. I must have had more than twelve people come right up to my easel and look between it and my view and then (hold on tight) ... comment on what I was doing. Tonight, in my prayers, I have to remember to thank God for making them all such gentle folk. Bless their hearts. At one point a pack of elementary school kids on an educational outing appeared out of nowhere. They were an energetic and inquisitive bunch, but oh so unexpectedly gentle.

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They brought back good memories of my teaching days - children, of all ages, are so generous in their spirit.
So this is the painting I did:

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So why am I thinking I might someday be known as the "painter of dirty skies"? Because when I was finally done cleaning up and re- packing up my stuff...
I DROPPED THE PAINTING IN THE DIRT

Yup. I could have kicked myself. In fact, I am pretty sure all those sweet little children, who were by then quite a ways down the trail, heard the "painter with the cowboy hat on" cussing and swearing like a drunken sailor. GRRRR. You can't imagine how mad I was. All that glorious morning painting out there in heaven-on-earth ended in me cussing. The bad part, I must confess, is that this is not the first time this has happened. I have no idea why I was first in line when they were handing out the klutziness genes, but trust me, I was the first one up for the doling out. So here I sit, staring at my dirty painting waiting for it to dry so I can attempt to fix it. I don't think the worst thing in life is to drop a painting in the dirt after all that effort. The worst thing would have been to never try to paint it in the first place.

Love to all of you, hugs and kisses too.

Your painter of dirty skies,

Carolina

Finding My Way

I just barely have caught my breath after leaving my oldest at college this past weekend. Some of the parents were crying, for many it was bitter sweet. For me it was more sweet than bitter. My daughter is ready and so am I for the next stage. I have been getting things in order since my return. Below you see my first attempt since coming back. It is of a hiking path so right in the middle of the town, that I think most people might dismiss it and go for something "beefy-er" ... but no more beautiful. The blue green vegetation, in the background, is sagebrush. When walking alongside it, I can't help rubbing it between my fingers and taking in a big deep breath. It seems to clean the air. The yellow ones appear to look like Golden Rod, but it doesn't look like the golden rod back in Tennessee. The sky... well I fail you, there, for the skies, here, in Colorado are intense. I think if I stayed here I could spend the rest of my life attempting to capture it.
I have to go make dinner. See you next time.

Carolina

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Finding My Way 12"x18" pastel on sanded paper


A Peek At My Week

I thought you might like to take a peek at my sketchbook from this past week. I have a love/hate relationship with my sketchbook. When I am working in it, I am battling the demons that hover over me and tell me that this artist path is useless. In the past I made mistakes while sketching and would tear the whole page out and all that would remain is "the keepers"... this would result in several unfinished sketchbooks... most filled with pathetic attempts. Lately though, I decided to try something new. Rather than trying to make "great" sketches, my only goal has been to make "finished" sketches. Saying that you are going to "finish" something is way more doable than saying you are going to do something really well.
So what you see below, are my finished sketches from last week, mistakes and all.
First up is a little sketch I made down by the river:

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I got some lovely flowers, for our table, at City Market:

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This is where the gondola takes off in Vail. We have year long passes to go up on it, and it has been great fun going to the top in this awesome summer weather. I wish I had had more time to work on the sketch. I felt rushed:

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I had a great morning one day at the Betty Ford Botanical Garden... it is odd not knowing all the names of the local trees and plants:

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I am going back to this spot, along Gore Creek, again:

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I went out hiking with a group. BIG MISTAKE. I was the little fat girl that couldn't keep up. At one point, when my lungs felt like they were going to come out of my throat, I had to call it quits. I was near the tree line. I could not catch my breath and told the group to go on ahead without me. I sat down and made this sketch of the beautiful trees around me. I thought- if I am going to die right here, I am going to make a sketch of my death bed. I was beyond 11,000 feet up. Altitude sickness took over and I had to hike down and finish painting the sketch from memory. For your information - it was NO picnic getting altitude sickness:

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The last one I made this past week, is of the view from the terrace of the Arabelle Club in Vail. Although a little Disney-esque in it's execution, this part of Vail (Lionshead) manages to transport me to a make believe world of European alpine villages. Nothing like the real thing, I know, but it does the trick:

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If you ever feel like your sketches stink, try doing what has worked for me... finish every sketch.


Carolina

In Colorado, Everybody Does It

So far, I have realized one thing that is for certain in Colorado - EVERYBODY DOES IT. Does what? Exercise. These folks are crazy about it. I haven't even had my first sip of coffee, at sun up, when there are folks cruising by my window in their hotshot biking suits. Bleary eyed, I wonder where on earth are they going so early in the day. Every direction, around here, is up hill... but that does not stop them. Out they go, like children running free in a massive playground. Those that aren't biking, hiking the endless trails, sending out their fly lines on the rivers, or playing soccer, are out with their favorite companions - man's best friend, their dog, on one of the glorious trails that seem to be everywhere.

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You know those trails are there, because they have this little yellow sign announcing the head of the trail. You just get on the trail, and in seconds, the traffic magically disappears and you are in another world. I love it. So much so that I painted the sign that is at the head of one of my favorite trails.

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Call me when you get here, we can go hiking together. You will love it.

Carolina

The Art of Learning A New Language

I have been trying my best to learn a whole new language since I was last here, on the blog. In fact, I have been learning two new languages. The first language is the language of a new medium; pastel.

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To make a long story short, last October, I found myself in the desert near Santa Fe, NM. It was supposed to be a second honeymoon of sorts. My husband had planned a vacation to one of my bucket list items - the balloon festival (Balloon Fiesta) in Albuquerque NM. As luck would have it, at the last minute, all our well made plans were derailed and he had to cancel his part of the trip. I found myself sharing the joys of it all with me, myself, and I. No worries. I enjoyed it just the same. At the last minute, before going on the trip, I added a box of pastels to my luggage. I had not planned on bringing art supplies on my trip at all, as I was supposed to be canoodling with my sweetheart. Adding painting supplies, with all the brushes, containers, paint tubes, liquid containers, and so on, was just too much too think about stuffing into my already full suitcase. Pastels it was, then, a fresh, still shrink-wrapped box of pastels and a few sheets of paper was easy to squeeze in between my well folded layers of clothing.
There was one miscalculation on my part, though, and I only noticed my shortcoming when I was standing out there, in the glorious desert, on my own, having just used my teeth to get at the tight plastic wrapping on the box of pastels. I peeled a bit off with my teeth and tore at it, like a kid opening a new present just retrieved from under the Christmas tree. What? No directions, that's what. I don't know what kind of short circuiting had occurred in my brain... but somehow I thought that a pretty box of brand new pastels that came in their own little box was kind of like an art kit one might get when one is a kid... and that a box like that would have instructions of some sort. No go. Nothing. There I was, in the middle of the desert, no reception on my phone to access the internet so that the ever dependent Google could help me begin a painting out there. There was not much left to do but begin... on my own... grab a pastel... make a mark. And make a mark I did.

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I followed the first mark by another, and then another, and it didn't stop until I was all consumed.

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I went back home and continued making marks with those little chalk-like sticks.

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I painted everything on "my" mountain.

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As you know, I deserted all blog writing.

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Other than keeping my head above water with my home and family responsibilities, I painted. With pastel.

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On cold winter mornings, I could be found painting the sunrise down at the lake.

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I stole any free moment I had, and would go out and paint.

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Just as I was starting to understand this new language of pastel, my world got rocked and we found out we had to move. AGAIN.

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My good friends, Kim & Lee, joke that with this next move they are now more certain than ever that we are participating in a witness protection program. What other explanation could there be for spending my life living like a pack mule. This move was number 26. TWENTY SIX. Craziness. I am sick of it, I tell you. It has thrown a major, stressful, wrench into my art plans. But like everything in life, it has come with a silver lining ... or perhaps something more akin to a rainbow with a pot of gold after a storm... you see, I have moved to Colorado. I am in the mountains. It is beautiful, really, really beautiful here. And so this brings me to the second language I am learning. Everything here, from my corneas out, is different. I don't recognize the plants, the ways the grasses sway, the patterns of the the weather, I can't name but one of the trees. I have to learn the language, the visual language, that is Colorado. This is what you will be seeing in the posts to come. Won't you join me?

Does Daily Exercise Make A Difference?

Painting Is Easy

This little watercolor I made, above, is of one of my favorite quotes. Edgar Degas said this - and I never would have believed him until now. Now that I am getting deeper and deeper into this painting ride, the more I know, the harder it gets.

My studio is a great space for me to create when I have a big project going on.

Studio 5:30:2013

Sometimes, those big projects take days and weeks to complete. And SOMETIMES THE REST OF MY LIFE TAKES OVER. You know what I mean. I am talking to all the mommies out there who want to do art and those artists that have not yet taken the step to push everything else aside because they now can make a living from of their art.

I have discovered that I am not capable of balance. Nope. I am completely inept at it. However - I am getting a WHOLE lot better at juggling. I have found a little secret that helps me.

 

Keep a journal.

Journal 5:2013

Keeping a journal is a way of keeping the wheels greased.

So how many times have you been on the web, determined to take up visual journaling again, drooling, as you oggle the mind blowing journals that some artists keep? Or when you are in Barnes & Noble you pick up yet ANOTHER blank journal - promising yourself that this one is going to be different, THIS one you are going to keep at it ... this one (insert sigh) is going to be gorgeous  ... one that will be vibrant, full of juicy colors, wild and freeeee and that if you create it the way you invision it, well then, years after you are gone it might be discovered with the answers that unlock the questions from your greatest finished masterpieces?

There is only one weeeeee little problem nagging you... even as your credit card goes swiftly through the card reader.

You know, deep down inside, that you are BALANCE-CHALLENGED and you have failed, miserably, at keeping an art journal way too many times to admit to another human being.

"Oh no! Carolina has been reading my thoughts!"

Not quite.

I am guessing you and I might not be all that different and unique.

So what to do?

 

Secret For The Balance-Challenged: 

GET OVER YOURSELF AND STOP BEING SO PRECIOUS


That is it. The key. Your journal is YOUR journal. You can cherry pick your entries in the distant future and share "the good ones", but if you don't just have at it, yucky goofs and all, you will never really reap the benefits of what is most valuable about keeping a journal - that is that the daily exercise of doing little snippets of creative work in your journal keeps you connected to the creative core of you, it keeps the wheels greased so that when you do finally get your dedicated chunk of longer art time, you are able to zero in and access the creative you instantly. By keeping a journal, you and your creative self have been in dialog, you are comfortable with each other. There is no more looking for The Muse. In case you haven't noticed, there is a change in my banner title and now you can access me at  www.carolinaellis.com , The Muse of The Day is gone ... for I get it now, I am the muse. My daily entries in my journal prove it to me.

I promise to show you more, but, for now, lets just take a quick peek into one of my journals, yucky goofs and all.

Here is a journal entry showing a corner in my house that has these wooden shelf holders slated to go in my daughters room - these have been in this same location on the floor, next to my hiking backpack for at least 3 months. Embarrasing, but true. At every dinner party I have had, folks ask me what they are. I call it my little corner of guilt. I will get to hanging them. Promise.

Journal 5:2013 1

 

Want to see a goof page?

Journal 5:2013 2

That was where I tested out some new materials. A few days later I went back at this page, you can see it on the right side of the spread, below, you can also see, on the left side, just how much I struggled at properly drawing the tea kettle :

Journal 5:2013 3

 

One day I knew it was going to be crazy busy and that time in the studio, that day, was not going to be a possibilty. On my way out the door I spotted a bag of corriander seeds, I had purchased at an Asian market, sitting on the kitchen counter. A quick painting sketch with my little Koi travel watercolor kit, a few notes about what I was thinking while I painted it, and out the door I went:

Journal 5:2013 4

I have been teaching an Intro. to Drawing class to some ladies in my town. I don't think I am the greatest artist, but I share, freely, what I know. One day we did an exercise of contour drawing that we colored in after we were done with the drawing part, it is in my journal as well:

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On the right hand side of this next image, you can see a pink page with some writing in it - I am not showing it, here, because I use my journal to scribble in my private thoughts too. Remember a journal is for you, put it all in there & later on, if you want to share your journal, you can do as I suggest and cherry pick it.

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This next one only brings one word to mind - YUCK. But I am including it here for reality's sake.

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This next one was done on Mother's Day, which almost went unnoticed as we had my husband's father go in the hospital that day for an emergency procedure. I managed to do this little quick sketch out in my garden while feeling the warmth of the early morning sun - that was more than enough Mother's Day gratitude for me.

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I have a few points to make with this blog post that I think are worth repeating.

Don't be so precious and worry if your daily sketch is worthy or not. Put it all in there - goofs, good ones, and thoughts.

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And that doing this journal keeping with sketches, paintings, testing of materials, and thoughts, will keep your wheels greased for when you have a bigger chunck of time available to you to work on a larger project.

Start your day off with it, if you can make it work that way.

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At whatever time of day you do it, in whatever kind of journal you have handy, with whatever materials you have, and with a definite checking at the door of all preciousness ... doing this daily exercise will make a difference. A BIG ONE.

 

Hope you enjoyed the peek in my journal.

 

Carolina


Ask Yourself How Do You Feel?

One of my favorite stories from childhood was Hansel & Gretel. Perhaps that is where my addiction to sugar began. I also learned, in that book, that the woods are a scary place - a place to stay away from, a place to fear. I must say, the woods out my door has more than it's fair share of critters; slithering ones, middle-of-the-night-birdseed-stealing ones, turn-my-plants-upsidedown-looking-for-grubs ones ... and you can not imagine the cacophony that goes on as soon as the sun goes down. Despite all of that, the woods are magical. Lately I have been spending a lot of time in the woods.

A few mornings ago, I woke up and went out for a hike out my door. I wasn't but a few minutes into it when this appeared -

Frosting in the woods

It looked like the handy work of a pastry chef gone wild. It was every where. It looked like someone had put the star tip on the pastry bag, filled it with pink frosting and went on a major squirting spree. A squirt here, a squirt there.

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I thought it was mind blowing to see it up close.

M.laurel 2

And then ... while the racoons were hanging naughtily from my bird feeders and I was sleeping ... 

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BOOM - all the Mountain Laurel on the mountain exploded open at once.

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Proof positive that magic exists.

Now that I am an adult, the woods hold a magic spell over me despite there being no sugar to be had. This is the view from my studio. I have lived in this house for almost 4 years now and I am constantly thinking that I want to paint the woods, but every day comes and goes and the sheer grandeur of the woods in it's crazy, haphazard perfection scares me off.

Woods from the studio

Not today. Today I stood up to the woods. I was determined to face my fears and paint ... the only difference between today and all those other days I was scared off running with my tail between my legs, is that I made up my mind that I would not paint one stroke of what I SAW, but rather my painting would be the result of me continously asking myself HOW DO I FEEL?

I set up my easel & another easel as a makeshift work station (I am too lazy to bend down to get my paints.)

Easel before the woods

Now that I have taken Flora Bowley's class, it is fairly impossible to fathom painting without my fluid acrylics.

5:28:2013

I did try to keep my paint choices limited - it can all get overwhelming ... actually, it can become a downright cluster in a matter of seconds when one is away from one's regular painting space - even if said painting space is no more than ten feet away.

5:28:2013 #2

I took a HUGE deep breath, looked at the woods before me, and asked myself "HOW DO I FEEL"? Now, I did have to ask myself this over and over again for the entire four hour painting session. Most of me wanted to default to my standard of painting what I see when I attempt to paint nature outdoors. But I kept at it, only painting how the woods made me feel.

Easel before the woods #2

When I look at the woods, this is how I FEEL.

How do I Feel When I look At The Woods 5:28:2013

 

The woods aren't so scary any more.

Carolina






 


The Past Eighteen Hours

The past eighteen ours have been extremely horrible and extremely beautiful at the same time. I made my yearly pilgrimage to Mary's greenhouse & filled the back of my husband's truck with all kinds of beautiful plants.

For those new to the blog - although it is called Mary's Greenhouse, she has 52 of them, enough to get lost in and for sure enough to deplete ANY savings you might have at the bank.

Mary's greenhouse

My favorite purchase was this flowering Quince. I planted most of my newly purchased plants, but I am still waiting to find just the right spot for this one. it needs to be close enough to the house so that I can, at a moments notice, run out there and sketch it. Isn't it glorious?

Flowering Quince

Just as I was admiring all the beauty I got sideswiped with the news of the bombing at the Boston Marathon. What on earth? Why? I am devastated by it. I used to live on Newbury St., no less than a block from where the first bomb went off, and I remember how my friends and I always gathered there to watch the runners making it to the finish line. I don't understand. I am left with only pain for everyone involved. My husband turned up the volume on the news. I had to leave the house. I left to find faith in this world, to focus on the beautiful.

I drove down the road to Wayne's farm. His new colt was born the night before last. I can only understand about 1/3 of whatever Wayne says to me - his southern accent is that thick. From what I could make out, this little colt is a mix between a horse and a mule? The unbelievable softness of his coat began to soften the blow of Boston. 

Wayne's horse:mule

This morning the Boston cloud still was hanging low. I did not turn on the news for I knew that doing so would not help to ease the suffering of all those beautiful people, in Boston, who are looking to the heavens looking for answers. What is wrong with this world?

I do not know.

At all.

I can only know, without a shadow of a doubt, what is right.

I went down to the lake this morning as soon as the girls were off to school.

Being down at the lake let me see what is right with the world.

Although I fumbled with my lack of skills, I attempted to paint the beauty before me.

Down by the lake 4:15:2013

When I was done with one attempt, I painted another. I need to come back here, again. To remind myself, again.

Down by the lake 4:15:2013 #2

I headed back up to the studio and pulled out a fresh, white canvas, and propped it up on my easel. I thought it might be a good idea to video tape myself painting so that you could see how I go about it. I looked back at the videos ... mmm... I kind of hate the way I look in them ... really hate it. Not sure if I should share them. Are you interested in that kind of thing? We will have to wait and see.

Back at the studio

The beautiful sunshine is quickly becoming a storm, I can see it coming across the valley. I must run out and fix that pursulane that I had planted yesterday that some critter over turned during the night - it reminds me of how I share this earth, this world, and can not escape into oblivion.

Storm coming in

I guess that is what this blog is all about. Sharing this world with you. I am grateful. Still.

Carolina

 


Self Portrait

The words in this post are ones that I have copied directly from a posting I did on a group Facebook page where I shared my most recent painting with my fellow "Bloom True" students. I am not posting all the tons of comments & thoughts they had, but it was really great to get loads of wonderful feedback from them. I am including, here, the steps that the canvas went through so that you can see just how many "booboos" and  redirections a painting can take you through. Hope you enjoy it. These are the exact words that I wrote:

This was difficult to paint, but it is even more difficult to share. I decided to do a self portrait, not of what I look like, but rather of who I am, or better said : where I am. I chose to include words in my painting. The words cut through the middle of the canvas, separating what was once, and what is now. They are of a poem by A.R. Ammons. It is only one sentence long, without any difficult words to look up in a dictionary, but in just one sentence (the entire poem), he encapsulates it all for me. I will rewrite it, here, for you, incase you can not see it well enough in the painting.

The spring
in

her step
has

turned to
fall

Self Portrait 4:2013

 

Spring  trees

Self P. #1 4:2013

Self p. #2 4:2013

Self p. #3 4:2013

Self p. #4 4:2013

Self p.#5 4:2013

Self p. #6 4:2013

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Self p. #8 4:2013

Self p. #9 4:2013

Self p. #10 4:2013

Self p. #11 4:2013

Self Portrait 4:2013

There is nothing on the canvas for the purpose of decoration. The left side of the canvas is the before; more youthful in treatment of color and shapes it represents my role as mother (both the location of the seed source in the flower & and the nod to a "Madonna" type "headdress.) She, the younger one, looks at me now (right side), from behind, as if placed in the background in the "what once was", but because "she" looks at "me" it is a play on how I go back and forth to being her, the younger me is still in me. On the right side (me, now), the flower, & seed source, has been moved to my head for it is from there that all new creations, for me, are coming from. I had a chemical accident when I was living on a boat, about ten years ago, and we were caught in a horrific storm at sea. The chemicals got into my left eye and I am left with no externally visible scars, but I can see with that eye as if looking through celophane - a major pain in the neck if you are trying to become an artist. This "bad" eye, that I have is the blue one that is a sad thing I deal with and yet what is even more sad is that even with a bad eye, I can see all the suffering that goes on in this world. Having said that, one is left to wonder why is the "good" eye, then, covered? This is because I am trapped behind a wall whereby I do not have the skill set, in art, to express well enough what I want to express. It is almost as if I can "see it" in my minds eye, but it is not accessible for clear viewing. Yes, this painting is full of deep emotion for me, some of it quite unsettling as I recognize myself getting older. However, I must point to the two bright areas in the canvas - in both sides, the before side & the now side, there is glorious light in my head - that is the constant. It is not only the constant, but it is also what I choose to focus on. So if, as the poem alludes, beauty is something that slips away from us, is it not only on the outer surface that it slips away? I believe so. As Wren pointed out, just as we depend on the sun coming out the next day after the darkest night, then so to, when there is a fall it only comes as a preparation for the next spring - in all senses of the meanings of those words, fall & spring. I am luckier than most, for I am clear about who I am and where I am at - a solid platform for the years of future dedication to attaining that somewhat elusive skill set. It will be a good day when those skills catch up to all I have to say.

 

 

Until next time,

thought you would enjoy a snippet of what I have been up to,

 

Carolina




Lesson Learned

I know it has been a more than a bit since I was last here, on the blog. Believe me, it has not been for lack of stuff to share with you. Lately, I have had a difficult time keeping up with my own shadow. The girls had Spring Break and we decided to kill two birds with one stone by going back down to Florida where they could lay out on the beach, while I worked on the rental house, painting rooms, replacing the inner workings of six toilets, changing out a million door handles that had been pitted by the salt air, etc. - yuck work - all of it.

It is a ten and a half hour drive to get there and most of it was spent wishing I was back in my studio painting. What are the chances that I would see this trailer on the highway and that it would have this as a spare wheel cover?

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Seeing the pool was tempting, but there was major work that had to get done.

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I almost cried at the sight of my mango tree as I made a quick check of the grounds when I got there. I planted the mango when it was only a wee foot or so high and was in a 6" pot. I could not believe how much it had grown in my absence. I don't know if the actual tears I shed where because I could see the buds that would be future mangoes and I knew I wouldn't be getting a chance to taste them, or if in fact I was crying because all of the overwhelming efforts that I have put out in a lifetime of moving from one home to another, the endless conveyor belt of one house turned into a home, to the next compilation of bare windows and walls turned into another home, just all came crashing down on me in that one instant.

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The gorgeous flowers all over Florida did nothing to abate my depression.

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In all the days I was there, despite the fact that the house is no more than eight minutes from the beach, I did not get to see the sea. The only only water I saw, was the swirling action down those six toilets. By the time I made the ten and a half hour trip back, here, I was absolutely convinced that my priorities are way out of whack.

The first thing a I did was order myself a new chair. At $177 I was afraid I might be wasting my money. I was even more concerned when it arrived in a small box and I realized I would have to put it together. In the box was an insignficant sized piece of paper, that I could have clearly missed, with an oversimplified diagram of how the whole thing went together. No words or other instructions where included.

Unbelievably, as I am technically challenged, the thing actually went together without any big sighs, head scratching, or orphaned left over extra parts. The seat height is adjustable as well as the height of the foot rest. The beauty of the whole thing, though, is that it actually is WICKED comfortable. I have used it daily, for 6 hours at a time, and I have to say that at $177 it is an absolute steal!

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While I was at it, I reorganized my entire workspace. Now, my desk position allows me to stare out the window. Some day I am going to build myself a studio that is flooded with sunlight. It is going to have more windows than you can shake a stick at. In the meantime,this little remodeling fit that I have had will have to do.

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So, Flora's e-course, is over, but the Facebook group that was formed for it, is still going strong. We have made lasting connections on it and the amount of art work being exchanged there, between me and 300 other brave folks who took the course, is downright dizzying!

This is the latest piece that I am working on - no need to make an assessment on it as it is still only in it's infancy:

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I got to thinking about just how much taking her class, and connecting with others via that class, helped me make the time I spend on doing creative activities more productive. In an affort to get the most out of what is left of 2013, I have decided to fill it with other classes. I am signed up for several - all of them are so exciting that sleep, and the time it takes to recoup in a night, is seriously in question. I do have a fear, though. I would not be me if I didn't hear all those voices crowding out my creative thoughts. I worry that my time gets squandered on the never ending debate in my head about how to become a better artist and which medium or format, I should focus my efforts on. It is a lot to explain, but if you are a regular reader, here, on the blog, then you know I have discussed it with you to infinitum. I made a quick little painting sketch of what I am feeling, and fearing, for those of you who haven't been with me for long: 

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So, fear, or no fear, those fears coming to fruition or not, I have signed up for a few classes that are sure to push me beyond my abilities. The first one that I am sharing with you is already in progress. I am taking a lettering class from Val Web. I am well aware that it is a total 180 from Flora Bowley's class, but I picked it because I absolutely STINK at lettering. When I made that piece about being the way the world needs me to be, I was in a total funk about my letters. By taking Val's class, I am not looking for perfection, but rather I am hoping to better define my own style of lettering.

We began by learning how to make block letters. Any thoughts from my kneaded eraser that it was not the center of my existence where quickly erased! (ha,ha, could not resist sticking that in)

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I realize that all my classes, and the work that gets pushed to the surface from their assignments, are just the beginning of my journey. I must tread lightly on my judgements of my work, yet run with the force of a full-on stampede at working through the inherent hiccups of putting in the required 10,000 hours to becoming an artist.

This blog, the work I have done thus far, and the classes I have jumped into, are mere:

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I must work through them from the vantage point of being a good student. This is a time to learn, not just about lettering, or what it feels like to paint as if copius art supplies grew on the trees in the forest out my window, but to learn in depth by diving deep.

Let me share with you some of the exercises I have been doing. Remember, judge lightly, these are exercises, mere mile markers in my journey.

For my lettering class we needed to choose a letter and draw/paint some pebbles with the chosen letter. I chose "E", the letter that begins my married last name. After 25 years of marriage I still have a hard time getting used to the fact that my own name has an English word in it. I wondered what I would do with the pebbles if I actually could touch them and they were real pebbles laying around my studio. I thought a necklace might be nice. And so it is.

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Aside from working on my Flora painting, my lettering class, and my never ending quilt project, I have taken up a light hearted exercise I do in the studio everyday to get my creative juices flowing.

At the bookstore, I found this book about William Morris. I felt like I was getting away with murder paying only $10 for it. I have been studying the work of William Morris by reading a wonderful e-book  I learned about on that fabulous British textile blog , Design, Decoration, Craft

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The work of William Morris is worthy of years of study. I, for now, am giving it a few minutes a day to grease the wheels, so to speak.

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So here is what I do: I flip open the book without looking. Any page will do. The art on this page happened to be created by one of Morris' assistants, but I did not continue flipping so as not to skew the task.Then I stare at the image I see for several minutes, absorbing the entire visual feast before my eyes. Then ???

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I shut the book! And I draw simply from inspiration:

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Form there, and for the next few days, I let the whole thing stew a bit, everyonce in a while sketching what percolates to the surface.

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I work it in to what ever I am doing, in this case you can see I ended up with blue flowers to which I added the new lettering skills I am absorbing.

As I said, I have been having a hard time keeping up with my own shadow lately. Doing all this learning is what feels right to do at this leg of my journey. Forgive me for not being here every few days. Melissa P. had the good suggestion whereby I should just send out snippets to you rather than a full blown marathon post. I really, really want to do that for you. I just can't seem to get it together. Posting a blog, as it is, leaves me wondering if all of you are really connecting with what I am saying. Are you out there?

 

Are you?

 

Carolina




Let Nature Give You The Answers

This is my latest painting.

I titled it "Let Nature Give You The Answers."

 

Painting Let Nature Give You The Answers

Before we begin let me add a shameful disclaimer for the quality of the images. Aside from trying to take photos with messy, paint covered hands while painting in the studio, the light, this week, has been gloomy. We have spent the better part of the week cloaked in an unbearable "penumbre". What follows are photos that I took on the fly, but thought might help to tell the story. This post, then, is an explanation of how I began using Flora's process, and then how my thought process and my intuition took over, making my own process take hold.

So let's get to this.

The canvas was, again, a big one at 4'x4'. It all started out good and well. Flora's process of letting go on the canvas is so freeing, just so unbelievably connected to the way we did art as children, that it is now difficult to imagine starting a painting session without first letting go, watching the lusciousness of the color have it's way on the canvas.

IMG_3844

The really dark rectangles you see on the above photo are actually pieces of fabric. When I was setting up my canvas on the easel, I could see that there was the tiniest little pinhole in the canvas. I didn't take two seconds to fret about it - I knew that the tiny pinhole had to be a direct result of all the house moving we have done whereby I have schlepped my canvases and art supplies from state to state in what would appear to be a never ending conveyor belt of moving from one house, turned into a home, to another house, a mere collection of walls, windows, and doors that needs to be turned into, once again, another home. In a former life, I am quite certain that I was a pack mule, and a very good one at that. A tiny pinhole? A minor incident compared to making friends and then having to leave them when I move again.

I gessoed the fabric onto the canvas with Liquitex Clear Gesso. There was only one tiny pinhole, but I decided to fly with it and added several large pieces of fabric. (A note to all fellow "Bloomers" out there - this fabric added to the canvas thing requires further investigation and play.)

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On with Flora's process which I now just call FUN, because it is no longer a struggle to "let go."

It does get a bit messy.

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But the results can't appear without the mess. With every stroke of the the brush, my hands, the bubble wrap, or whatever I use, there is absolute magic appearing before my very eyes. Layers and layers of magic that would be impossible to reproduce methodically.

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On one video this week, Flora held her hands up to the canvas, cupping her hands around different sections of her canvas to more clearly "see what was working" and then it hit me like a bolt of lightening. I actually got a sensation of being taken over, occupied, if you will. I have been waiting - more patiently some days than others, trying to figure out how to express something I experience regularly. Seeing Flora cup her hands up to the canvas gave me the answer I have been hoping for.

As most of you know, I live on a mountain, in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by endless nature.

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From every window, all I see is nauture. Even from my downstairs studio, I see the path that takes me on my hikes.

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In good weather and in bad, I go hiking. I have endless trails at my disposal. When I am hiking, my brain is in "full operation" mode, completely engaged. As my eyes jump from one visual delight to the next, the thoughts in my brain not only keep pace with the ever changing view, but at times, most times, they actually out run what is before my eyes. My brain is flooded with images, both real and imagined. Creativity seems to pump through my entire system. I have always wanted to express that sensation - of images popping up out of nowhere while I am hiking -  in a painting. 

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I decided to take Flora's words quite literally and I "framed out" the best parts on my canvas that were bursting in imagery, just like my thoughts while I am hiking.

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Then I proceeded to isolate them completely.

This was tough. Isolating the shapes was a whole lot more complicated than I imagined at the onset of this journey ... and I must add very un-Flora like. I wished for a masking fluid type product like they use for watercolor painting. I had none. If there is one and you know about it, I would be superduper nice to you, forever, if you shared the name of it with me.

Painting at this moment

This is the point where I really had to have a a little chat with myself. Literally. It sounds kind of crazy, but there was an internal battle going on in my head between voices that were telling me to "flow-Flora-free", and other voices to put Flora's method on a holding pattern and accept the gift of a vision that I had been given. "Paint the painting", "do it now", "you have been waiting for a way to paint the creativity that flows during your hikes". This conversation lagged for days as I meticulously covered the non-saved parts of the canvas surface.

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And then I had to suffer through a major bout of:

"AND NOW WHAT?"

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How on earth am I supposed to go from here? I hate to confess this, but in the spirit of sharing, I will. What did I do next? I grabbed a spoon and a jar of Nutela and sat in front of my canvas. Chocolate - my go to answer.

Two or three spoonfuls later, I put the Nutella down, and pulled out my sketch book.

This is the point where the art was created.

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The rest is history - the rest of the work was done in the service of the canvas.

L1010075 - Version 2

Like a massive submarine coming to the surface, I would come up for air to make a meal, grab another load of laundry, answer the door, or vacuum a few more square feet in an effort to maintain normalacy for the rest of the members that share the living space under this roof with me.

Every time I would plunge back down to the studio, it felt like the bubbles of air rippled up my arms as I my feet barely touched the treads on the stairs. I would leave the lights on in my studio, just so the painting would welcome my return ... as if it had to forgive me for leaving it.

At this point I hit a fork in the road. I wanted the trees to be pink. Yes pink. But I also wanted the trees to be a quiet element in the image. The idea of pink had to be put aside for another canvas, the word "quiet" was stronger. Sometimes it is as easy as stopping to listen.

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So I needed to make them brown. How? What do trees look like? I know what trees look like, but I had to actually go out there in the woods and stare at them for a bit. If anybody had been driving by they would have seen a woman, standing in the middle of a forest, in her painting clothes, paintcovered apron, little red shoes, and paintbrush in hand, getting up close, standing nose to "nose", with a tree trunk. I ran back to the studio to paint what I saw... but I failed. I started to paint what I had seen, but quickly realized that the road I was on was the wrong one.

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Out came gobs of white paint... and so did a few little words that mommies shouldn't say.

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 I kept going and going, painting and painting, hoping that I wouldn't, by accident, cover up one of my "thought shapes."

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As you can see, I totally bagged the idea of making the bark look like what was outside my window.

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And now it is finished - it has vacated it's turf on the easel and temporarily is next to my bed.

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The last painting I showed you, here, is already on to another life. It has since been sold at an auction to benefit children in my area ... I can't think of a better place for it to "bloom" forth. This new painting, I will hold on to for a bit, even though I realize it is now no more than one more mile marker on my journey. I know that others will get their own meaning from it that might have nothing to do with my thoughts. For now, though, I want to relish in the thought that I have paid Nature back by acknowledging how many answers she has provided for me.

"Let Nature Give You The Answers" - it is a good tip, see where it takes you.

Carolina

 

Painting Let Nature Give You The Answers


An Accurate Perspective Is Oh So Valuable

OK, so, before we go any further, and we look at the results of my latest efforts in the studio, I want you to do me a favor. I want you to watch this short video. It is the third part of a four part YouTube video series whereby Ira Glass, of NPR radio, gets interviewed on what makes good storytelling. I think we can apply what he is saying to all the arts. You name the art form: writing, sewing, painting, music, drawing, cooking; it does not matter, what he has to say is something we need to perk up our ears to, and take notice. It is vital that as beginning artist we expose ourselves to material, such as this clip, that cushions-the-blow, if you will, when our pieces of art don't quite hit the mark. We need to have an accurate perspective in order to make valid assessments of where we are in our journey to becoming better at that which we have chosen to spend so much effort on.

Watch the video.

 

 

This is called Flowers and the Red Vase. It is 2'x5', again very large.

Flowers and the Red Vase #1

I like the mark making. I am in love with the color I find in even the tiniest little bits of the canvas.

These are closeups of the canvas surface:

Flowers & the Red Vase close up #1

Flowers & the Red Vase closeup #2

Flowers & the Red Vase closeup #3

Flowers & the Red Vase closeup #4

Flowers & the Red Vase closeup #5

Flowers & the Red Vase closeup #6

Flowers & the Red Vase closeup #7

I need to remember what Ira Glass said in the video. I need to remember it, over and over again. I need to keep an accurate perspective  - it is the most valuable component to my improvement as an artist. Without it, I would stop.

Flowers & the Red Vase

 

Carolina

 


Drop In The Bucket

Phew! I have been cranking it out! As you know I have been working on several ongoing projects. Tomorrow I have my second quilting class and it just occurred to me that my quilt top is going to need a quilt "back". I haven't even begun to look at that, so that is what I have left to do today. Therefore this post will be a quickie.

I have always wanted to learn how to paint and you have been gracious to put up with reading my posts that deal with my attempts at painting. Thanks for looking at them, by the way. In looking back at my paintings I noticed that most of them have been done in watercolor. Why is that so? My studio is chock-a-block full of supplies and there are plenty of other kinds of paint kicking around that I don't use.

Why?

I think I am afraid of waisting paint.

You know - that much expensive paint should be "reserved" for really good paintings ... like, for when I REALLY know how to paint.

Enter Flora Bowley.

I don't want to BE Flora Bowley. I don't even want to PAINT like her. I don't want my paintings to LOOK like her paintings. I must add, here, that I would not mind owning one, or several, of her paintings. What I DO want is to be able to let go, really let go, like she does. 

This is her book:

 

Flora Bowley's Book

 

I am taking her e-course, it is all about letting go with paint. Let me rewrite that. It is all about LETTING GO. I need to let go if I am going to get over my fear of waisting paint. It needs to not matter if my painting looks like "anything". It needs to not matter if my painting is "pretty". It needs to not matter if my painting is liked by anyone, including myself. I am working my way through her book and her course. When I found out about her method, I thought it was "a little out there", but I don't think her concept of "letting go" is out there at all. This concept of letting go, with paint, is what I am working on.

Flora Bowley

What matters is letting go. Gulp. Below you will see the progression of my letting go on a very large 4'x5' canvas. That is a very big canvas for me, but I knew that on that big of a surface I could not paint tightly for long before having to face the music and just paint. Prepare yourself. There are a lot of ugly stages that I am going to show you. Gulp. I am nervous about showing you any of this.

Drop In The Bucket #1

At this point I was CONVINCED that I am a total idiot - the wasting-money-type-housewife-that-needs-to-get-a-life type of idiot.

I persevered.

Drop In The Bucket #2

Still convinced of my idiot status. Added more color ... thought that might lighten the mood, if nothing else.

Drop In The Bucket #3

Fell in love with parts of it. Just small parts of it. Thoughts of "should I cut the canvas up?" circled their way through my brain. Still felt like the rest of it was waisting paint. I did love the colors though.

Drop In The Bucket #4

I had to let go. Way more difficult said than done.

Drop In The Bucket #5

Ouch!

Drop In The Bucket #6

Double OUCH!! Had to keep going despite the fact that there wasn't any whif of "zen" going on.

Drop In The Bucket #7

I swear there was steam coming out of the studio. I worked for several days straight. I only came up for air when the family needed a feeding. Many, many unphotographed attempts later, this is what I have:

Drop In The Bucket on the mantel

This painting is me. It is not a painting of my trying to paint like Flora Bowley. It is a painting in which I pushed myself to use her method of letting go. Obviously, it is not my typical style of painting, but I did put aside the fear of waisting paint ... and for that, it is a success.

Now there is ONLY ONE THING that I could do at this point that would be very, very wrong. It is the very worst thing one can do when learning how to paint. I could stop.

Even taking a break is a bad idea. The slightest crack and the little brain demons will take over like a cancer. I must not waist time looking at the painting on my mantel. I must keep going and paint another one. The subject matter is inconsequential. The style does not matter. Even the type of paint is irrelevant. I must tattoo "Let Go" directly on my brain, on every cell of my being. I must let go and keep going.

I must hurry ... run, if I must, to the next painting. Any lollygagging around could be fatal.

Carolina

PS. BTW, I have aptly named this painting, "Drop In The Bucket."

 

Drop In The Bucket painting


The Madness of Testing New Methods

I made my New Year's Resolutions way back in the fall of 2012.  I have made major progress in accomplishing the things on my list. The gist of my theme for the year is to try different methods of working, rather than just my own methods. The first one, that I am showing you here, today, has to do with quilting. I set one of my goals to be going back to basics. I am taking a Quilting 101 class. I drive an hour and a half for 3 lessons over a period of three months. How hard could it be?

How hard could it be???

Let me tell you, this quilting thing is about to break me.

The class uses a good book ... I am more than a little embarrassed to admit that when they sent us our class supply list, I went on Amazon to get the book and realized "Oops!" I already have that book in my stash.

The Practical Guide To Patchwork

The class is doing a quilt called Small Plates. Why it is called small plates - I have no idea. There is not a plate in sight! Maybe "plate" refers to temPLATES. ??? I don't know. The point is, when I finally cracked the book open, I was more than a bit miffed and unmoved by the quilt in the photo. If it wasn't on my New Year's Resolution list, and I hadn't already passed my credit card # and pressed send, I swear, I probably would have bagged the whole concept. I took one look at the photo and yawned. But it is about going back to basics and learning someone else's method, so I persevered.

I made a quick sketch with two colors of fabric from my stash, and figured the rest of the blocks would have to come from digging even deeper into my stash. Buying more fabric, at this moment was out of the question.

Small plates quilt

I gathered my fabrics. I have a lot of batiks from all the lampshade stuff I do, so that is what I am using.

Small plates fabric choices

I went off to my class, whipping along, headed south, my back right tire, almost free wheeling in the air as I swurved and hugged the cliff edges. I was on a mission. And then ... and then, ladies, I HIT THE WALL. What was I thinking? Quilting is for perfectionists! Quilting is for people with some semblance of math skills! Holy Toledo, Batman... I was out of my league.

They sent me home with my newly aquired ruler skills to cut and put together EIGHTY blocks. I almost choked at the number.

I, obviously, am not that skilled, so the name of the game has been "Trim, Trim, Trim".

Trim, trim, trim

And now my blocks are put together and square, all be it - a tad smaller than they are supposed to be. What a relief it was to get to this point.

Blocks, ready

I needed to put my blocks out and see what I had. Unfortunately my studio is EXPLODING with other projects at the moment, I have several canvases in various stages of, well, "yuck" at the moment, a few panels with charcoal drawings, a special project I don't want to tell you about yet, and Maggie is donning on more than one outfit that I am working on. The studio is a mess. I couldn't squeeze in a quilt even if I wanted to. So I have spilled out into the family room. The one bare wall has now been claimed as an official extension of my studio. (yay!)

Felt boards outside of the studio

I leaned two panels of 4'x8' insulation that I got at Home Depot against that nice, bare, clean, white wall. I covered both panels in white felt,which I pinned to the back by using my plain sewing pins. The fabric blocks stick quite nicely to the felt without pins, making it easier for me to put blocks in place and then rearrange them at will. I also like the fact that I could pin my sketch right to the board for reference.

Small p. on felt

I put them up, then, one by one ... a ridiculously long process, I stitched them all together. I had a trying time being that precise for such a long time. I am happy with the quilt top, though.

Small plates quilt top

I must add, here, that picking out the colors was super fun and felt really creative. After that it was ALL WORK. You quilters out there should have warned me. The next two classes don't have me jumping for joy either - I make a "quilt sandwich" ... yoohoo! and then, AND THEN, I still have to quilt it. I don't know ladies. I don't think quilting is for me.

I did like picking out the colors, though. A part of me is thinking about playing hookie and skipping the rest of the classes... maybe I could just glue this quilt top onto a canvas and go from there.

From great madness, comes great possibilities.

Carolina

Small plates colors

 

 


When You Are Little, You Know

I appreciate the break. Thank you to you. Thank you to the universe. I sure did need it. I am here, back on the blog, and will be doing so frequently.

The winter has been my constant companion during my break. It has been beautiful on the mountain.

 

Winter out my window

There have been sooo many projects I have been working on, that, if I put them all in this post, it would appear that I have not slept a wink. I won't share it all today, but I will share them little by little in the days to come.

The most important thing I want to say in this post is a direct result of me, digging deep, searching for my path. This photo, of yours truly, came across my email recently. I looked at it for a long time, wondering what I was like when I was little. Every day, back then, I didn't question as much as I do now. I just was. These past few weeks, of my hiatus from blogging, I have been doing the same: just being. It has been very good for me.

Yo cuando chica

 

 

In doing so, I came to the realization of something critical for my next steps:

 

Affirmation

Read it again. Out loud.

Just like I thrive on every flower on this earth being unique, the world needs for me to be the way that I am. I knew this when I was little. Then I grew up and got in my way. Now, I am working on making it a part of my daily awareness.

I need to add, here, that I need for you to be the way you are, we all need for you to be the way you are.

Having said that, then the only thing left to do is for us to be exactly the way we are, FEARLESSLY.

Talk to you soon,

Carolina

PS. It is good to be back.

 


The All Important Three Weeks On The Other Side of The Gate

The All Important 3 Weeks On The Other Side of The Gate -

What on earth am I talking about? 

Listen up, this is important.

I am coming out of blog hibernation to share this with you because I really think it is important ... important that is if you are a bit like me ... somewhat creative, but shy of the mark compared to what you are seeing out there in the blogosphere, or the Pinterest-sphere. This post does not apply to Melissa P., or west coast Elizabeth, but I am hoping they will read it as well.

I have been over the top, busy, busy, busy since I was last here on The Muse. I miss you guys, but I also have realized that my time away from the blogging world is critical to the creative process.

For the creative process, blogging and hitting the other blog & Pinterest sites, like a lab rat viciously hooked on a drug, is, for me, like being stuck in one season. One season only. Like being forever in "Spring", with all of it's bursting beauty, but never being privy to the other all important seasons that are vital & necessary for Spring to actually occur in all of it's awesomeness in the first place.

I have been taking care of business, my creative "business". Every day the autumn season has made changes. I can see them out my bedroom window. 

Bedroom window fall 2012

They seem quite subtle, at first. Then there are riots of color that seem to be massive events in and of themselves, that permanently alter our direction. 

Glorious yellow fall 2012

The light, now at a definitively different angle than just a few weeks ago, makes me realize that everything IS different. Everything is working it's magic, full speed ahead, so that when the calendar pages get turned, and it is Spring, the hard work has been done and we are ready for it's glorious show.

Wind chime fall 2012

Although it seems like it is a time to slow down and contemplate, the reality is actually quite different. 

Living room windows fall 2012

It is time to shut up and walk the walk. In Spring, when it comes, there will be time to talk the talk.

Hike fall 2012

I got a chance to think about all this when on one of my hikes, a few days after a recent storm, I came upon this fallen tree: 

Gate in the woods

Bizarre, isn't it? More bizarre if you were standing there, with me, looking at the gate it had naturally created by falling down in such a position. I couldn't figure out quite how the tree ended up like that. I walked up to it and still couldn't figure it out. It almost looked like the tree had been "flipped" into that location. Anyways, while my panting breath quieted down, as I took it all in, the natural "gate",  made by this "tossed" tree,  kept demanding my attention. A gate. A gate. A GATE? All of it could have been passed off as a natural event had I just kept hiking past it ... noticing it, but not much more. What I did, though, was not keep hiking past it. I stopped. Looked at it. Decidedly went off the trail I was on, and then, then I WENT THROUGH THE GATE.

On the other side of it, my life changed. This may sound like I am being a bit too dramatic. But I am sharing it with you like it happened. You see on the other side of it, I noticed how different it all looked from there. My sorroundings looked different, the gate looked different, but more importantly my hiking path, that I walk on regularly, looked totally different - as if I had never laid eyes on it before. Everything was new. Had I not taken the time to get to the other side of it, though, it would have been more of the same old, same old.

So how does this relate to my creativity? Let's see if I can explain it clearly enough for you to get something out of it. On the other side of the gate, completely unrelated to what I was looking at in front of my eyes, came a vision ... or perhaps more accurately: a visual... of a project I have been wanting to do.

In my "normal", or "usual", "Carolina-is-getting-a creative-spark" mode, I see something that floods my brain with a visual image. It can be something as simple as some fabrics that trigger the creative spark.

Blue fabrics 9:2012

The impulsive side of me usually will purchase said object (sometimes it is not fabric or a yarn, but it is a unique thing I have spotted in a junky antique store). I come home, add it to my stash, and there it remains. On one side of the gate. It had an intial "Spring" burst upon purchase, but it did not rebloom. The project I had in mind was akin to an "annual", it never had the chance to fully perform.

On occasion, when Lady Luck is on my side, I work with it, pushing it to try and "bloom".

Blue fabrics 2 9:2012

More often than not, though, I fail. I fail because I did not spend enough time with the project, giving it it's other "three seasons", if you will, before I am confronted by another Spring moment - compliments of, you guessed it, Pinterest, or some wonderful blog post by a creative "other". The addict in me, looks back at my project as if it's lack luster appearance is THE TRUTH of it ... and that is all it ever was.

How can something so creatively juicy, like Pinterest, or some of your gorgeous blogs, be so LETHAL to my own creativity?

The reason is because I don't work my way to spending the all vital and necessary three weeks on the other side of the gate.

I will spend one week, all ensconced in the newness of my project, and never get down to the knitty gritty that can only occur in the other three weeks.

Blue fabrics 3 9:2012

It is in that knitty gritty three weeks that the gleam of magic may, M-A-Y, have a miniscule tiny prayer of shining through.

Needles 9:2012

How stupid of me to let the Pinterest Giant invade the tender and fragile moments when I am on the precipice of the beginning of the three week struggle.

Stitching 9:2012

I need to see my projects and their status for what they are - on the week-one-side of the gate. I have five big projects, that I can quickly think of off the top of my head, that seem to have remained on this side of the gate, never making it to the other side. Shame on me. 

Stitching 2 9:2012

Shame on me for calling myself a "creative", for what is a "creative, after all? It is someone who has the nerve, the inner gumption, the stupidity, call it what you will, the PULL to go through the gate and see the project from the other side, to work through the mundane hiccups inherent to all sparks worked through to completion, to spend time on the other side, to work things out, where most would not venture. The other side of the gate has one dark pit, though. This pit is what we call FAILURE. Many times we don't want to face failure for it is way easier to bask in the deliciosness of the possibility of success rather than the reality of facing harsh failure. 

A creative is not someone who had the "spark", it is, rather, only those who continously trudge through the woods to the other side and camp out there until the work is done. Those few, and they alone, have the privilege of calling themselves creatives. Those - the creatives- I think have been keeping something from us.

They have seen failure, they have stared at it squarely. They keep good company with it, for they know without that vital courtship, no real breakthrough is possible. They don't laugh at failure. They laugh WITH it.

They never share the depth of their failures (and their doubts) with us. They never share just how much of their success depends on this most delicate of courtships.

Spending one week on an ultra creative high and three weeks avoiding doom sounds much more doable in these fast paced lives of ours, no? On the one hand, I can not blame myself for taking the easy way out. Motherhood  & "housewifehood" are more complicated and difficult than I ever thought possible. On the other hand, staying on only one side of the gate means my creative sparks fizzle, creating no joy, no Spring.

But ...

here is what the creatives are keeping from us : failure is on BOTH sides of the gate. It is both in the dark pit of finding out your project, no matter how many times you reworked it, can not come to be for real logistical reasons, and it is ALSO on the side of the gate where you have done nothing with your creative spark.

Here is a question to ask yourself: how many of your truly great ideas fizzled because you never worked them out? Did you like your answer?

Here is something that might make you feel better:

If your project, your spark, fails because of real, logistical reasons, it won't really hurt, it will just be. You can handle that.

If your project, your spark, fails, because you never actually stepped up to the plate and "played ball", well ... that kind of pain can destroy you from the inside out. I don't want to find out that not making the choice to follow through on something, was itself a choice - a bad one. Do you?

So, three weeks. Why three weeks, you ask? Is that an arbitrary amount of time? No. It is not some random time alotment. I have been studying my patterns and I realize that I have about a one week creative burst per month. All the ideas during that time, flow through my brain with heightened vibrancy. On a side note - could it be affected by a natural tide of female hormones? Who knows ... maybe. The phase of the moon? I don't know. Study your own patterns closely for a bit, see if you notice anything that has a semblance of a pattern.

More importantly, think about which side of the gate your projects are on. Are they like mine? Stuck in a revolving door like stupor. Are they being squashed and dimmed by the the brilliancy eminating from your computer screen?

I have three-week creative business to tend to for several projects. They have been being stacked, back to back, for years now. I need to set up my own camp on the other side of the gate. I need to change my habit of the same old, same old. I need to do that if I am ever going to have a sliver of hope of creating my own Spring. I have gone off trail for a bit by not blogging. It has been good and necessary. I never, before, had realized I needed to walk through the gate and work on the other side of it. I didn't know that THAT was the work that actually needed to be done. I was convinced that the key to being better was inventing a new Spring, a better Spring, like those I see on the web. Silly me. It is not a new Spring I need to invent. I just need to work on the other seasons until the work blooms forth and appears to be doing it on it's own - creating the ONLY Spring I could create, a Carolina Spring.

 

I will leave it at that, hoping I explained myself well enough to those of you that are like me. If it is not complete enough of a thought, then help me out and add to it in the comment section. I felt like I had had a breakthrough that has been a big help to me and I wanted to share it with you incase you, too, were spending little time on only one side of the gate or if the web was actually keeping you from doing the hard work only you can do.

 

Well, then, that is it.

Working towards a good Spring, 

Carolina

 

 


I Leave You, Then, With A Tale Of A Mushroom Blue

The girls started school, and I am NOT driving them. Like shells in a shotgun, I have set off in several different creative directions. I am loving it. Amongst the list, I have been painting, drawing, sewing, ... even writing poetry which I haven't done in a gazillion years. Thank me in advance - I won't be putting you through the poetry. There is a lot of pent up creative juice coursing thru my veins.

The air has barely a touch of fall in it. I can tell that the crisp days will be here soon. Shadows on the mountains in front of my living room and a clear view to the mountains in the far off distance, let me know that the chokehold the humidity has had on us for the past few months has been broken.

Shadows on mtn.

I notice the biggest difference in the mornings. The low morning clouds get caught in the valley, below, virtually swallowing everything in it's path except the tippity-tops of the peaks.

Cooler mornings

When I have my coffee with this view, I pretend I live at the edge of the ocean, and those peak tops are mere islands in an enormous sea.

I have been doing my fair share of hiking, as well. If I don't get out in the fresh, early morning coolness, I dodge the mid-morning heat by hiking in the refuge of the trails beneath the thick canopy of hickory, yellow-poplar, and elm, to name just a few that I can actually recognize.

Trail 8:2012

When the canopy above my head gets especially thick, the moisture doesn't evaporate as quickly and the path has a generous coat of vibrant green moss edged in leaf litter that is damp beneath only the very top layer of dried leaf. There, in those fairytale mossy paths is where I go hunting for jewels. Mushroom jewels that is. I see all kinds, all colors. Do you see the one in the lower right of the picture below? It looks like a white mushroom. But it is not.

Trail with mushroom

I have been spotting BLUE mushrooms. Magical blue mushrooms. Some on the edge of the path, some just off the path and peeking out of the leaf litter.

Blue mushroom in leaf litter

Some of them look deadly.

Blue mushroom - top

Their undersides entice my imagination with stories only a child would believe.

Blue mushroom - base

Some are soooo beautiful that I simply can not resist.

Blue mushroom on trail

I gingerly sliced one off with my knife that I keep in my backpack. However retarded I looked, I ran home, panting, water bottle dangling and slapping my side, both hiking poles firmly gripped by one hand, and one hand gingerly holding my blue prize.

The milk that oozed from it's gills tainted my fingers, blue. No worries, I did my homework first, this beauty is edible.

Blue on my finger

I sliced through it with my trusty knife, it's flesh gave in easily. I inspected it with my little loupe left over from my girls' homeschooling days. I was in heaven. Amazed too ... the colors looked just like the wool I have been using.

Blue mushroom con lana

I have my lovely (and awesome) Tía Anita Maria to thank for getting me into this next project - rug hooking. I didn't know anything about it until a few weeks ago when she sent me an email with photos of her masterpieces.

Rug hooking with blue

For future reference, tía, I would appreciate not getting into any new (read costly) endevours.

So, hereI am with this stunning blue mushroom (Lactarius Indigo) - stunned by it's blueness. It reminded me of the lapiz lazuli earrings my husband gave me on our honeymoon spent backpacking the length of Chile.

A little more blue

I just couldn't leave it at that. Out came my watercolor paints and my brushes.

Blue mushroom painting & transfer

I made a transfer of the little mushrooms I painted and put it onto fabric. A quick attempt at quilting it to see if it merits further exploration ...

Blue mushrooms quilted

and this is where I am at. I am not sure when I will return, here, to the blog. A part of me feels like I have just begun the journey. I know that it is not ready for "prime time". I have restled with the concept of blogging what I create vs. creating to blog. I am going to let time and creativity form and shape it's own path. So we will see someday, where, when, how ,... and I hate to say this: if, we meet again. I will leave the blog up until April. If before then I choose to either return to this blog, or appear somewhere else, I will let you know via this blog.

I leave you then, with a view of Wednesday's sunset and a tale of a mushroom blue.

Carolina

Wednesday's sunset

 


Memories on Monday: I Don't Know Why He Painted It Orange.

Before you begin to think that my mental state is slipping ... I am well aware that it is Tuesday and not Monday. Regardless, I am doing my Memories on Monday post today. I have tried to get to posting, but life has gotten in the way. In a good way. I just haven't been able to sit down and process the photos I have taken in the past couple of weeks. We had my inlaws visit for a few days. That was really nice. I actually love my inlaws. I lucked out. What really has been filling my days, though, is summer. Summer and all it's glory.

Early mornings have been spent watering the garden and being mesmerized by what I have found there.

Dahlias & pursulane

 

I debate shirking all my responsibilities for the day after spending sometime with the myriad of shapes and colors and think about just drawing what I see. I realize when I look back on my photos, just how much vibrant color attracts me.

I have hiked for hours on end in the past couple of weeks. Starting off on the trail-to-the-blackberries my husband made for me.

Blackberry trail 7:2012

 

The birds were kind enough to leave plenty for me.

Blackberries 7:2012

 

The sweet juicy berries are quite the gold mine. Their dark, blackness is irresistable. Late in the evening I returned to pick some more and photograph them.

Blackberries to go 7:2012

 

Just peering into the colander I notice just how much color, deep color, attracts me.

On my longer hikes I cannot help to stop and gawk at all that is around me.

Big tree 7:2012

 

The cool damp shade provided by this massive tree along the way makes the green seem to breath on me. My skin feels cooler, my eyes look up and wonder - how much more green could there be?

I contemplate the fact that I can only see 3 different colors, and 4 combinations of them, while the birds above my head have 4 colors and 11 combinations, plus ultra violet light, available to them. What would it be like to be bombarded by what they see?

Forest walk 7:2012

 

It is the color everywhere, that as my eyes absorb them, they, in turn, absorb me. They absorb me to the point of no return. It is useless, in the face of all this color, to attempt the pretence of indifference and get on with my day.

When I get home from the farmer's market, it is as if my Leica is an extension of my fingers, there, at the ready, to attempt to capture what my eyes have engaged my emotions to.

Saturday's purchases at market.7:2012

 

Outside and in. It is the color. I experimented making jam this week. Peaches were first.

Peach jam making 7:2012

I used apples for pectin. The core had to go into the pot wrapped in cheesecloth so I wouldnt have to fish out the seeds, only the apples, after 20 minutes of cooking the pectin out of them.

Apples for pectin

 

After making jam, any leftover peaches were slurped up with copious amounts of thick, heavy cream.

Peaches & cream 7:2012

After peach jam, came the damson plums.

Plums next?

 

In all their purple goodness, as if dusted with fairy dust.

Damson plumbs 7:2012

What a shock it always is to me to see their interior golden color upon cutting them open.

Damson jam making 7:2012

And then ... the grand "ta-dah" magic of the damson plum ... the raspberry hue of the finished jam. It is as if the gold married the purple in a passionate, heated, eternally bonding kiss staining everything in it's touch.

Finished damson plum jam 7:20212

So how did I grow up to be this infatuated with color?

I am blaming it all on a memory of a bench. I barely new my grandfather, tata Leland. I have no memories of him, not a one. Looking at photographs of him is almost, almost, like looking at a complete stranger - merely a historical looking photograph, were everything is an off white and black image and all the people are standing in a stiff pose. I don't remember his face, his smile, his temper, his hands .... none of it. The only connection I have to him is that I vivedly remember the bench that he painted a bright, almost garish, orange. It was placed under "la parra", the heavily weighted grapevine, that served as our dessert station after meals on his back patio at the house on Calle Carmen Silva in Santiago.

His orange bench

I must have stared for hours at that bench, because I can clearly see it in my minds eye. While the adults, still sitting at the dining table, continued their "sobre mesa", long after dinner conversations, my cousins and I, fidgety little children that we probably were, were released to the outdoors. Under the grapevine, as the golden late afternoon sun seemed to make newly forming memories cling to the air particles, with my fingers running along the curly cewed reliefs on the bench, the bright orange paint color so bright, you could probably lick it off the arm rest, my love affair with color was solidified. Now I live with it, inside of me, making me stop to photograph the color I come in contact with throughout the day, catching, like a poorly filed fingernail catching on the surface of a precious cloth. My day goes by in a stop and go motion. Do. Photograph. Do. Photograph again. Repeat. The only fluidity being the continuous observation, and infatuation, with color.

I don't know why he painted that bench orange.

I am just grateful that he did.

Until next time,

Carolina

 

 


Memories on Monday: My Little Suitcase

Good morning. How have you been? This post is totally inspired by Elizabeth (West Coast Elizabeth), from the blog Gossamer Wings. Elizabeth has been doing these fantastic posts every week called Retro Friday wherein she shares photographs and stories from her past. Through these posts, she lets us in to her life. Needless to say, since her first Retro Friday post, I was totally "in". I think that you get to see me, on my blog, but perhaps there are gaps in getting to actually know me. I have no idea if I can do this every week, as Elizabeth so faithfully does, but I can at least begin the sharing process. I am going to see if by sharing some of my memories, you might feel like you know me better. Let me know what you think.

Lets get on with it.

This week I flew up to Minnesota to pick up my oldest daughter from her 28 day canoeing adventure. Upon picking her up, I felt I had many things behind me - mainly my garden adventure of practically digging my way to China and fancying myself a carpenter with our pergola performance, but also my youngest daughter had been "retrieved" from her camp, writers camp at Duke University, which BTW she LOVED.

I finally could turn my attention to me. I began to do so no sooner than we had boarded the plane. I took out my sketchbook and coloring pencils once we were airborne. Being up in a plane has always fascinated me - not the actual being in a plane, as I actually have to struggle with a mental tug of war to deal with the claustrophobia I feel when I am in an airplane, but it is the part of looking out the window from way up there that I love - I consider it my reward for actually succumbing to strapping myself into what is akin, to me, of a flying sardine can.

Despite the fact that I am tall, and my body feels trapped in the window seat vs. the isle seat, I perfer to put myself in the window seat just so that I can press my face up against the window and see what is out there. Looking down at the perfectly gridded farm parcels of Minnesota and Wisconsin made me think about life. In some of those farm houses down there there was fighting going on, some of the housewives were fretting over the weight that they had failed to lose, some of the farmer's machinery and equipment was failing and needed to be repaired, and there were foreclosures at the banks I imagined at the places were all the roads seem to converge and the buildings were more closely clustered together. Life is this way. It comes with upheaval and change. Looking out the airplane window is good for me; it makes me feel like I am part of this human race and that all of my worries and problems are an earthly thing that I share in common with the rest of those walking the earth down there. Being up there, though, also makes my imagination soar. I can detach myself from my problems. Easily.

Out the airplane window

Once we got higher up, as the farm houses no longer looked like Legos and became just specks dotting the land, and the long roads mere pencil thin lines, the clouds were billowy and fluffy. I started to think about how when I traveled from Chile to the United States, at age twelve, I saw these same clouds out my airplane window, up close and personal. How I wanted to open the plane door and go sit on one of those clouds.

And so, on this trip home, as my eyes went from one cloud to the next, my mind began to wander and wonder. I thought about that trip, with me barely 12, and the little suitcase that had been handed to me by my mother to fill with all my earthly possessions.

My little suitcase

It was tiny - more of an "overnight-sleepover" kind of suitcase, despite the fact that its' shape was like a traditional travelers' suitcase (it was the 70's and that shape was typical of suitcases of the time.) Regardless of its' size, the little handheld suitcase was the only thing I was allowed to bring when we moved to this country. I don't remember what I put in it. This was the second time I was going to the US. We had come with my father, the first time, on a scholarship, knowing it would not be permanent. Now, however, the stakes were a little higher. We had no idea what the future held. Chile was in political turmoil and my Dad had been offered, in the US, one of the most coveted of things when a home country is in upside down mode - a well paying job.

Memories are difficult - they adjust to our persona as they go through time. I don't have many pictures of the time to quantify everything that is in my head. My parents have a death grip on the few family photos our family does have. Although those photos haven't seen the light of day since I last visited my parents home a few years back, they probably will remain as I last saw them - stashed in a box on one of the upper shelves of my parents' office closet, shutting out the rest of reality. I sometimes think my parents don't want to let go of the photographs from our past, as a way of ensuring that their own past remains intact and that its' magic retains the viability of someday returning to whom they were in their younger years.

I don't know.

I wish I had those photographs to look at though.

My little suitcase, #2

I haven't the faintest memory of what I put in that little suitcase of mine. I know I wasn't able to put in it my favorite story book, Young Years. It was a horrible event, for me, to have to leave my beloved storybook behind. It was given to my younger cousin, Michelle, perhaps they thought that I, at twelve, was getting too old for that book and would have little use for it in my teen years. They couldn't have been more wrong. When, as an adult, I returned to Chile for a short visit and saw it in my aunt's guest bedroom shelves, the tears jumped from my face. I begged my cousin for it, she gladly returned it to me. My book is now home, always with me.

Young Years book cover

When I finally came back together with my book, on that fateful trip back to Chile, I was instantly transported to a time when all things were possible. The images, both the fully colored ones and the more simple line drawings with their two toned swaths of color washes upon them, made me  - yes they MADE ME.

Page from Young Years

They made me who I was again. It is almost like as if in my teenage years, in the US, I had been holding my breath and was just going through the motions without really knowing who I was. When this book was finally in my possession, again, was the beginning of me valuing my imagination. Since then I started creating images in my mind and seeing the world differently.

Back to the suitcase.

In my memory, this suitcase, with all its' "wild" seventies shapes and colors of turqouise, acidic yellow, lime green, and blue, was not the suitcase I wanted. I wanted the other one - the one my sister got. It had the same pattern, but it was in different colors. It was red, orange, and purple.

Once I came home the other day, after picking up my daughter in Minnesota, I took out my art supplies again.

My trusty little "grocery store" tin, like a ritual, is always the first thing I open before I begin a new project. 

Little shop holder

It holds my kneaded eraser and my favorite pencil sharpener. I like how I can see the "inside of the store" when I open up the tin.

Inside my little shop holder

It wasn't long before I started thinking about what it would have been like to rewrite this "little suitcase" memory of my past. What could my suitcase have looked like? What would I have liked to be wearing on that trip? Who was I at age 12?

This is what I came up with:

Me with my new suitcase 7:2012

My fingers fumbled, mirroring my brain, as I tried to draw without something to look at and sketch from.

Materials for me and my new suitcase

In a world of make believe you can have things the way you want them. I would have liked to have had a red cape of my own, made out of deep scarlet colored felted wool with pink flowers at the collar,

Collar close up:suitcase 7:2012

an orange ribbon or two, trimming a band of the same pink flowers at the hem. Oh ...

and a suitcase that was TO DIE FOR. If you saw me at the airport, deboarding that plane in Miami on that day, you would have wanted to come in for a closer look.

Close up suitcase 7:2012

Maybe, after all these years, you would have forgotten me, as you did not ever get to know me. But perhaps, just perhaps, you wouldn't have been able to, in all the years, forgotten my little suitcase. I have drawn it here, again, so that you can take your time and get a good look at it again, instead of briefly, in passing, at an airport held by a girl with no name but with an imagination she wanted and wants to share.

My imaginary suitcase

Memories on Monday - maybe this could be a good thing.

Carolina


Tomorrow, As Promised

Here I am, as I promised in yesterday's post. As you know, for the better part of the last 3 weeks I have been outdoors working on creating a garden.

I have been very up close and personal with the flowers I have been planting.

The purple coneflower,

Purple coneflower 7:3:12

the little pink roses on the low bushes I planted,

Low rose bush 7:3:12

and the dahlias, with their incredible burst of color,  have all affected me.

Dahlia 7:3:12

Looking back on the time I spent picking the fabrics for the third shade, well, there was no way I could of gone with anything but these juicy fabrics from my stash.

Fabric for third shade

The only problem with them, as I could forsee, is that they were a bit too garish in comparison with the two shades that were already up and hanging in the dining room. What to do? What to do?

Gratefully, also in my stash of fabrics, was this antique - or rather just plane old or used, tablecloth. I knew, when I bought the tablecloth for a song, that it had these burn markings on it. The tablecloth must have belonged to a family where just about every family member smoked because there were burn marks everywhere. I had to strategically decide which part I was going to use for the lampshade and cut it out so I would dodge the burn marks.

Unusable tablecloth

But it did the trick. It softened the bright colors just enough so that it could hang along side the other shades.

All three shades up

Rather than cover the bright colored fabrics with the tablecloth, which in daylight would give the effect of an all beige lampshade,  it worked better to diffuse the light coming from behind instead.

I held it up to a bare bulbed lamp in the studio first, before cutting, to see which way I liked it more. I really like the way the pattern of the tablecloth comes through as a design element on the colored fabrics in addition to their original design. It almost gives a batik look to the non batik fabrics.

Fabric for last dining room shade

I really like the look of that effect.

3 shades, detail

No matter which direction I am walking from, I like to see the three shades, colorful as they are, in contrast to all the neutral colors in my home.

3 shades view towards kitchen

Just to have the three shades up, my three little ladies, as I am calling them, makes me happy.

During the day, as these photos were taken, it looks lovely ... and at night? Well, it is absolute magic to have the lanterns glowing from within. I feel like inviting all of you over for a party just to see it.

Close up shades

You could arrive in the late afternoon, check out the flowers in the garden, and then come inside. After a bit of chatter we would move on to the outdoor porch with all it's candles lit. From our position sitting in the porch, as the night darkness took over, we could watch the magic of my indoor lanterns take place. It really is such a sight that you should see it in person.

3 shades in the late afternoon

Well, that ends the posting of the the dining room lighting task. Another check mark on my list.

We still have one more thing to discuss, though, the title of yesterday's post, Instructions Needed, But Not Included.

While my husband and I were working from the little photo of the pergola on his iPhone, we thought about just how much easier the whole project would have been had we had instructions and not just a little, tiny image. We worked through all the problems and hiccups, tackling them, one at a time, as they surfaced. I had to do the same thing with my lampshades as I did not have a template, instructions, or even a beginning light fixture to start from. I had to figure out every part of it - how it would attach to the ceiling, how long the electrical cords would be, even the color of them, then the thingamajig that would be where the light bulb got screwed into also had to double as the apparatus to hold the shade. Then I had to find a factory to make the wire frame to my specifications. They could do the outside ring, but not the part that came in contact with the fixture. I had to find a metal smith, bring him the wire lamshade and the fixture and a schemtaic of what I wanted him to reconstruct on the wire shade. Just like the pergola, I was flying solo as they say, without the backup of instructions. It was a lot of head scratching, but in the end I came up with exactly what I was after, not anyone elses lampshade. While I worked in the garden doing manual labor, I thought about all the steps I had needed to learn along the way to accomplish the pergola and also the shades. The more and more I thought about it all, something began to dawn on me that I want to share with you.

My life, like yours, didn't come with any instructions. I am flying solo. It didn't come with any instructions even though there have been many, MANY, times that I wish it had. People try and give you instructions on how to live ypour life, it is called ADVICE. Advice is nice ... but if all you do is follow someone else's advice and never strike out on your own, working through the hiccups as they surface, all you will end up with is a life similar to the one of whom's advice you followed. It is good to hear advice, ponder it, and debate it in your head, but you must come out with your own solution if you are going to be an original - if that is important to you. Is it important to you to be an original? Will it be important when you are 80 to have spent your life striving for that?

It is to me. I got to thinking, while I was out there sweating my *%# off, heaving the maddock at the solid, ungiving earth, that I like to make and take care of. Let me repeat that.

I like to MAKE and TAKE CARE OF.

These are the two things that fulfill me. The only two. They are my very own set of instructions. If I manage to continue to make and take care of things for the rest of my years, I will reach 80 as a true original. And a happy one at that. Who would have "thunk" it, that the process of making, or taking care of something, fulfills me to the max, and that that would have been discovered while I was digging and digging in the yard? I dug all the way to finding my instruction manual. Money is not a driving force. Power can go to others. I need to continuosly be making things and continuosly be taking care of things. Happiness and bliss is mine to be had.

I am sure you can figure out your instruction manual. If not, go dig in the yard. It worked for me.

I love you all.

Until next time,

Carolina