Zen and the Art of Painting

I come from a family of people who are, by nature, procrastinators. It always starts so well, usually with some sort of list. We outline the very logical and manageable steps to meet our goal with plenty of time to spare. Then, life. Suddenly, the absolute deadline is upon us and it’s all hands on deck to pull through at the last minute.

c700x420Which is how I found myself painting the baseboards in my guest room Tuesday night. I had to get them done so that the carpet guys could come Wednesday morning. As they installed the new floor coverings, I made the three-hour round trip to pick up my grandmother who was coming to spend Thanksgiving in that room. No minute like the last minute, you know?

Far from my first foray into baseboard painting, I’m a regular seasoned pro at edges and trim. There is something calming about moving a paintbrush along in patient, measured strokes. It isn’t a task that can be rushed, despite the looming pressure of carpet installation. It demands to be taken seriously. This is the kind of work I like to do alone. No distractions, no conversation, just a girl and her paintbrush. In the background, music plays to protect me from delving too far into my thoughts.

In a recent episode of The Big Bang Theory, Raj remarks that there is something lovely about washing the dishes.

“You know, I read that washing dishes can be an excellent form of meditation? The key is that while washing the dishes, one should only be washing the dishes…it’s about be present in the moment.”

It is at once frightening and grounding to be so present in a simple endeavor. I’m struck with the thought that I rarely do only one thing at a time. Even in the most mundane aspects of my day I’m often mulling over some other, more complicated problem or replaying a conversation to parse for subtext.

We’ve now launched head first into the Christmas season. Soon, the pressure of gifts, holiday parties, and financial strain will be upon us. Instead of becoming overwhelmed by the merriment, I pray you will find time to be still and just wash the dishes.

Or paint the baseboards. Just don’t wait until the last minute.

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day 13 | Raindrops on Roses…

I’m supposed to be studying for finals today. So here I am.

A friend of mine is going through an incredibly hard time right now. He’s facing a new and uncertain future, after the future he thought he was building didn’t work out. Yesterday, we were texting and he said something that stopped me in my tracks. He told me that he didn’t know what would make him happy at this point, and asked me what made me happy.

What makes me happy?

I had to resist the urge to deflect and get sarcastic, and really stopped to think about the things in my life that bring me happiness. Oh sure, my inner joy is derived from the recognition of God’s grace and my eternal birthright, but what are the little things that make me happy?

So I made a list. You probably saw that coming.

Happy1. stuart…duh
2. blogging
3. soy vanilla lattes
4. cuddling
5. my garden
6. pinterest
7. meteor showers
8. singing
9. having time to sit down for breakfast
10. sales at kate spade
11. tacos
12. fresh flowers
13. abstract nouns
14. 17th century dutch still life
15. my planner
16. books
17. spreadsheets
18. good hair days
19. glass jars
20. strawberry ice cream
21. peonies
22. squishy babies
23. penguins
24. high-fives
25. trips to ikea
26. good puns
27. holding hands

Sometimes all it takes to find the beauty in the world around you is looking for it. What makes you happy?

http---signatures.mylivesignature.com-54493-148-DF2EE156E182748CB33E09C0A0EB0033

Paint me like one of your French girls…

With my truly disastrous love life (oh, by the way, we’re laughing about it now, at least 60% of the time), and my absurd devotion to Stuart, I guess I should be getting ready for a life as a crazy cat lady. Just picture me in rollers and a pink fuzzy bathrobe standing in the doorway of my house yelling at the neighbor kids to stop messing with “my babies”. I’ll give them (the cats, not the neighbor kids) ridiculous names like Sir Fluffinstuff and Senor McCuddles and for Christmas we’ll all wear sweaters and pose for a card.

Guys, you need to find me a man. Now.

Anyway, cats make (almost) everything better, including artistic masterpieces, apparently. Wait, what? That’s right. Fat Cat Art is any entire website dedicated to famous painting that have been augmented with cats.

I am in love.

Consider these two versions of Manet’s The Bar at the Folies-Bergère:

Edouard_Manet,_A_Bar_at_the_Folies-Bergère    manet-a-bar-at-the-folies-bergere-cat-w

Can you even? Bonus points because the cat looks a bit like Stuart. I wonder if he’d pose for me….

Happy Tuesday!

Monday Musings: of junior engineers, doodles, and new features…

It’s been a little while for one of these, but meh, why not?

1) A has a 3-year-old son, B. On a recent Saturday, the two boys came over to the house, which was my first time meeting the little one. I was all nerves and worry, desperately wanting this small child to like me. From A’s description of him, I was expecting a non-verbal, painfully shy child who wouldn’t leave Daddy’s side.

Wrong.

What I got was one of the coolest little people I’ve ever known. The talking started about 45 seconds after they arrived, and it didn’t stop until they were out the door, nearly 4 hours later. B loves goldfish crackers, his stuffed monkey, and anything mechanical.  He dislikes being upside down and told ‘no’. I’m not kidding at about mechanics, though. Once he found out that I had a furnace, he immediately demanded to see it. It’s remarkably easy to converse with a 3-year-old, as you end up having the same conversation a couple dozen times.  For example, while standing in front of the aforementioned furnace:

B: You turn it on?
Me: We have to wait until the house gets cold.
B: Oh. Then hot air?
Me: That’s right.
B: Goes up?
Me: Yep! The hot air will go up and make the house warm
B: Okay. (slight pause) You turn it on?

It did come on, by the way, at which point the conversation became about how loud it was and wanting me to turn it off.

2) I’ve developed a new habit.  You might even call it a tick. When I get bored or agitated, I doodle. There is a certain catharsis in taking a pen or pencil to paper and turning random lines into some kind of order.

DoodlingIn the spirit of my new-found pleasure, I’ve started working through a book on the topic, Doodling in French: How to Draw with Joie de Vivre by Anna Corba. The charming book not only talks about the soul-quenching sense of joy doodling brings, but a more practical guide to forming the shapes that depict the surrounding world. So far I’ve been copying the sketches in her book, familiarizing myself with scale and proportion, while building up confidence and hand-eye coordination. Eventually, I hope to strike out on my own and begin to chronicle my environment.

Someday, I may even get good enough to share some of my sketches.  Maybe.

New Menu3) In case you didn’t notice, the site has a new feature! I spent some time [re]organizing my posts into categories for easier navigation and making sure each series was appropriately filed. The menu bar now has a link directly to the most popular series on the site.  Here’s a quick rundown:


Monday Musings

Usually published Mondays; collections of 2-5 things I want to share with you but don’t merit an entire post.


MisadventuresAs the title suggests, these are the stories of my life. You’re invited to laugh along with my tales of clumsy.


Through the stormAll of the posts that deal with my journey after the loss of my dad are compiled under this heading.


Can I just sayMy thoughts on a variety of topics.


BelovedA collection of faith-based posts reflecting on my relationship with Jesus Christ, my struggles, and my insights.


New old friends, and old new friends….

I went on my first date with my second boyfriend to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. It was an unseasonably warm November day, but there was a crisp charge in the air as I walked up the enormous marble stairs to meet him. Inside, I was once again swept away by the domed atrium, the fountain topped by a likeness of a wing footed Mercury, and chamber upon chamber of the most beautiful works of art I had ever seen. I couldn’t imagine any better way to spend an afternoon and honestly, I still can’t.

My boyfriend was less impressed, though indulgent, as I practically skipped from one gallery to the next. Things didn’t work out between us, but between you, me, and the rest of the internet, that had a lot more to do with me being a terrible girlfriend with commitment issues, and less about the art thing. #personalresponsibility

Still Life with Flowers and Fruit | Jan van Huysum (Dutch) | c. 1715

I’ve been to the gallery dozens of times; sometimes wandering around for hours getting lost and sometimes heading straight for my favorite spot, Gallery 85, to visit my favorite men, Messrs. Monet and Renoir. I sit, memorized, by Monet’s Woman with a Parasol wondering what this woman is thinking. Slightly dismissive and almost forlorn as her companion waits for her, her full skirts cast a rather small shadow on the wildflowers growing up around her feet as the wind whips around her. Close by, one of Renoir’s girls looks positively pleased about her blue dress, with its decorative lace and high collar.  I love these pieces; they are old friends of mine.

A couple of months ago, I had the opportunity to visit yet again.  It seems so long ago, just a week before my world fell apart.  I visited my boys, but a melancholy struck me and I wandered off into Gallery 50, the land of the 17th Century Dutch Painters.  I had never given these paintings more than a passing glance, but on this day I was struck by Still Life with Flowers and Fruit by Jan van Huysum.  The piece is so realistic I had to stop myself from reaching out to snag a grape.

With a little digging, I found that the painting has a bit of a history.  This was one of the masterpieces stolen by the Nazis during World War 2 to be used in Hitler’s own museum.  Eventually, it was recovered and returned to its owners.  Other paintings weren’t so fortunate.  It amazes me that this work, just oil and pigment on a board, having been through so much and withstood it all, stands a kind of monument to the wonder that people can accomplish when they take their God-given abilities and develop them fully.  Hardship does not diminish beauty.  This fragment of the artist’s soul has not lost its ability to take my breath away in the the 300 years since it was created, despite all it has gone through.

As my sweet friend Kristi recently reminded me:

When you come out of the storm you won’t be the same person that walked in.  That’s what the storm is all about.

-Haruki Murakami

Not the same, but no less beautiful.

Let It Move You…

I get dance.

Dance moves me and I feel something when I see people dance and when I dance, however terribly.  I’m the same way with art and photography and music.  Some people aren’t wired that way.  My mom, while a lovely person (and avid reader.  I love you, mom!!!)  doesn’t get swept away the way I do.  And that’s cool.  But I do, and I LOVE it.

This is one of my favorite dances EVER from So You Think You Can Dance.  Watch it, let it move you.

Have a lovely day.

Just don’t think about the needles….

I like tattoos.

There I said it.  I like them.  I think they are often beautiful displays of art.  Sure, there are terrible tattoos out there, and really stupid ones, but a lot of them are really cool.

For my birthday two years ago, my brother got me a bunch of books about tattooing.  I think he really wants me to become a tattoo artist, but my anxiety says probably not.  Still, it’s really cool to read about tattoos, the history and the technique.

I grew up around bikers and military guys, so people with tattoos don’t scare me.  I’ve even drawn a few tattoos for my brother, and designed my own.  This one is my favorite.  The smudgy parts used to be his name and social security number so, for obvious reasons, you don’t get to see that part.

The actual tattoo is oriented vertically on his side and is supposed to look like his ribs showing through with both vintage and his current dog-tags intertwined.  I’m pretty proud of it, no lie.

My brother’s best friend has been putting off getting a tattoo for years (between you and me, I think he’s just afraid of needles) but now he’s finally ready, and I’m about to start drawing it.  I’m excited to start a new project.  We’ll see how it goes.

Hope you’re having a great Labor Day!

Weekend Warriors…Urban Wall Art

Is it bad that when I first read the name of this week’s Weekend Warrior, I thought the name was Urban Wallart?  I kept thinking, “What kind of name is Wallart?”

…duh.

Anyway, you might not know this about me, but I am such a fan of street art.  Now, for those of you who look at street art and just see graffiti, this might not be your cup of tea.  I, however, think that street art can be such a conversation, both between the artists and within the community.  Love it.

Love it!

Which leads me to this week’s Weekend Warrior (which is startling, because I feel like I just did this….I hate weird weeks) : Ray Ferrer from Urban Wall Art & Murals (www.urbanwallart.wordpress.com).  Ray, who like many urban artists has elevated this style to a true art form, does commissioned commercial or residential works from hand-made stencils.  HANDMADE!!!!  Are you kidding?! Just look.

Seriously?!?!  The guy is AMAZING.  I wish every square inch of my wall space wasn’t filled to bursting.  You better believe that I’m getting one of his pieces for my next place.  Ack!

You can order his work on his website, or commission him to do a piece.  Ridiculous.

Here’s what Ray says about himself:

“I make very unique and custom artwork for people and businesses all around the world by hand cutting stencils and and painting them onto canvas and onto large walls. I travel to client sites for larger murals and mail out smaller pieces. I will go anywhere to do a mural! My artwork is inspired by wanting to see things I absolutely love in a different light. The stencils take anywhere from 6 to 20+ hours to cut out depending on the complexity and the size. I love it and so do the people who have me make something for them. Want something unique? Send me an email and we can talk about what you need.”

I have no more words.  Go.  Be amazed.  Be inspired.  Just be.

Have a lovely weekend!

Things Fall Apart

You  know when you see art on the internet and you think, “Pshht.  I could do that,” so you gather all the supplies you think you’ll need and you take photos of the whole process so that you can post them on your blog later and people will love you and bake you cookies but then you try to do the project and it’s way harder than you thought and you end up sitting on your dining room floor in tears, surrounded by scraps of papers and what’s left of your hopes and dreams, wondering what in the world possessed you to try to write a blog?

No?

*Cough*

Me neither.

Moving on.

I love the work of Brit artist Veronika (you can see her studio here).  She does a series of paper heart art.  I wanted to try something like that for myself.  I learned a LOT during the process and although I had some difficulty figuring it out, now that I have, I will definitely be trying this again.  Stay tuned for more!

Paper He(Art)

Here’s what you’ll need:

1 – Stretched Canvas

Magazines, Newspapers, Scrapbooking Paper, etc. (I used the October Vogue)

Several Heart Shapes in different sizes (I used a cookie cutter and small wooden hearts)

Needle and Thread

Scissors

Pencil

Ruler or Yardstick

Here’s What You Do:

First, a note about the canvas.  I used an 11″x14″ canvas, because I had one lying around from another project.  Veronika actually uses flat boards or even shadow boxes and from the photos I’ve seen, glues down one half of the hearts.  I wanted the movement of having only the “spine” of the heart attached, so I did it this way.  Adjust accordingly.

Okay, first cut out your hearts.  I went through the pages of the magazine and cut out hearts any place I saw a cool pattern, or solid text (no large words).  Trace a heart shape to keep the hearts all the same size.  Cut out carefully with scissors and fold each of the hearts in half.  I used all small hearts and one large one to create a bit of change in the piece.  Soon, you’ll have a pile of hearts!

Pretty!  Now decide how you want your hearts spaced.  I did this directly on the canvas.  When I figured out the best composition, and carefully moved them all to the side, making a tiny mark on the canvas as I went so that I would know where to place them.

Now, starting at one corner (you can start anywhere, but the corner is easier) use a needle and thread to “sew” your hearts to the canvas.  The easiest way I found is to use one LONG piece of doubled thread, poke a hole at the top of the heart (where it makes a “V” shape), bring the thread from the back to the front of the canvas, place the heart and then go back through the canvas at the bottom point of the heart.

It’s hard to explain, but once you start doing it, it becomes really obvious.  Continue for the rest of your hearts, making sure to keep the lines very straight.

Instead of only using paper hearts, I also painted a couple of my wooden hearts yellow and placed them around.

Here’s the final product!

I may try another one soon using a shadow box.  If I do, I’ll be sure to let you know.  In the meantime, Happy Crafting!

PS.  Be sure to check back soon for my Post Easter Wrap Up.  I’ll be talking about all things spring decorating and cooking!