Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Inspiration for 2010

I hope that everyone had a glorious holiday season this year! I know that we did. Ours was made extra special by the addition of our newest family member, 4-month-old great-nephew Liam, who enjoyed his first Christmas! Eyes bright at all the lights on the tree, he inspired us all with the true meaning of the season.
He also inspired me to really do something for next Christmas, that I have been talking about and talking about FOREVER!!! For 2010, I am going to create handmade Christmas gifts for as many people as I can on my Christmas list! I have thought about doing this and talked about doing this for far too long, without actually ever acting on it. And while time is still at a premium (at least for the early part of 2010), I know that I can start by planning carefully and prioritizing projects, so that I can share what I love to do with those that are most important in my life!

Which brings me to a terrific story of creativity that I came across this evening. In the UK, a 7-year-old named Kieron Williamson dreams of becoming Monet or Seago rather than a soccer star. And even at such a young age, this amazing child is well on his way to realizing that dream! His paintings are utterly amazing! He has actually sold several of them for quite a large sum, but paints for sheer enjoyment. He even offered tips on landscape painting:

  1. "Go on holiday where you really want to go and be inspired."
  2. "Start with acrylics, then watercolors, then pastels, and then oils."
  3. When you set out to do a landscape, "start with the sky first, top to bottom."
  4. "When you do distance it's lighter and when you do foreground it comes lighter."
  5. "If you're doing a figure in the winter, do a brown head, leave a small gap, do a blue jacket and brown legs. Then with the gap, get a red pastel do a flick of red so it looks like a scarf."
  6. "Keep on painting."
He's so utterly fearless in his desire to keep on growing in his painting. I so admire that, since I would love to paint, but haven't the courage to face a blank canvas yet. Way to go Kieron!!! You inspire me to try some new ideas - maybe not painting yet, but something new!
What new art or craft are you inspired to try in 2010?? Is it something that you've put off because you've not trusted your ability? I'm inspired by your stories....

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Another Amazing Milwaukee Artist!

"Laemantus Longpipes" Mary Alice Wimmer

"Gilding the Lily" Susan Dorothea White

I love to receive my ArtMilwaukee emails (although they don't come as regularly as I'd like each Wednesday), which profile local artists from the Milwaukee area. The one that I found in my inbox today is a painting by Mary Alice Wimmer called "Laemantus Longpipes." Interesting name, isn't it?! Of course, I had to see what that could possibly be a picture of! Well, it was, I though, GORGEOUS!!! The lines, shapes and vivid colors of the gourds in the gravevine basket pop on the black background, the bright blue gourd on the white tabletop is a surprise, and then there is the charming bright green lizard, that at first isn't quite apparent, because he is so close to the base of the basket.

According to her bio, Mary Alice Wimmer finds her inspiration in Victorian curiosity cabinets and the natural world. This watercolor and its use of the rich colors on the black background is reminiscent of old Dutch portraits. I'm reminded of a very large still life that is on display in the Milwaukee Art Museum (I don't know the artist or if he was Dutch) - the background was very dark and the painting was a profusion of fruit and flowers in a bowl on a table. The colors undoubtedly had, at one time, been more vibrant but had faded with age.

Ms. Wimmer is what is known as a silverpoint artist. Of course, I had no idea what silverpoint was, so I did a bit of research and found that this is drawing technique that was used by Medieval scribes to decorate manuscripts (per Wikipedia). Historically, for artistic purposes such as drawing, lead and tin were used in addition to silver. Because these metals are soft, the were ideal as drawing tools. Silverpoint was especially favored in Florence and in Dutch workshops because it didn't blunt as easily and it allowed the creation of meticulous detail. Leonardo da Vinci, Albrecht Durer, and Raphael among others used this technique. In creating silverpoint today, a silver rod or wire is dragged across a surface such as a canvas that has been prepared with either primer or gesso. The second picture I've included is a painting by Susan Dorothea White (2005) called "Gilding the Lily" which was actually done using goldpoing instead of silverpoing, along with black and white chalk on sandpaper.

Thursday, November 26, 2009



On this Thanksgiving Day, I'd just like to take a moment to thank all of the many new creative and artistic friends that I have met on Facebook this year. You have and continue to inspire me each and every day with your wonderful art. Seeing the beautiful things that you create make the world bright and keep me going in my own "creative dryspell," as I struggle to fit in the smallest projects, now that my time is at such a premium. I thank God for your gifts of beauty and your inspiration!
Most especially, I'd like to mention a new friend that I've made on Facebook. Her name is Tracy Owens Chasteen. She lives in Austin, TX and designs some of the most lovely earrings and necklaces I've seen (she sells them on Etsy at polishedtwo.etsy.com). She works with beads and cinnabar, and does some very creative things with wire. Tracy also makes pendants for her necklaces out of oriental pottery shards! I've just purchased my first necklace, "Peony" (see above), from her and am anxiously awaiting its arrival! Tracy, your creations are a joy to receive and wear! I encourage everyone who reads this to visit Tracy's Etsy site and view her jewelry. She really does make lovely designs, which are guaranteed to attract attention when you wear them - I know this from my own experience!
So, once again, thank you to all the wonderful creative people in my life on Facebook. And thank you to all of the wonderful and creative people in my life, in general - I am blessed to be surrounded by people who are creative in so many, many ways!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Creative Philanthropy

I was reading an article in the December issue of "Oprah" tonight, about philanthropists, when I came upon one in particular that just took my breath away. I had never heard of Joan Hornig, but it seems that many of the beautiful women in Hollywood are sporting her lovely jewelry designs, two of which are shown here in this post. Now her work is very lovely, and while I would truly love to have a piece, it is a tad out of my price range. What then, you might ask, took my breath away about this story? Let me start by explaining that Joan Hornig is a Harvard and Columbia educated MBA, who loves to create fine jewelry. And while that isn't too unique or suprising, what is, is that she does not keep a single penny for the pieces she designs and sells, but donates that profits - and here is the really unique part - to the charity of they buyers choice!
What an amazing thing to do!! To be able to do!! To take your gift of creativity and use it to better the world in so many countless ways. To put the beauty of your art out into the world, but not for profit - only for the betterment of humanity!!
Yes, we may say, she can obviously afford to do this, because she has some other source of income or wealth. And while that's true, the point is, she doesn't have to do what she is doing. She could still, as high-end designers do (casting no aspersions on them, mind you), create her art and be rightly compensated for doing so. Instead, she chooses to create her art as a gift to the world.
What joy she must have in that kind of creating!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

"Partake of the Honey" (DeLiba Mel)

I read an article in the November/December issue of Spirituality & Health, written about artist Dianne Bennett, who among a variety of art forms, creates "retalbos". These are known as altar boxes. Spaniards originally brought these small and richly decorated boxes with complex scenes to Peru. Originally of Christian design and carried by travelling priests, the indigenous people of Peru (and later throughout South and Latin America) used retalbos as a symbol of resistance to Christianity. With time, large, ornate retalbos of religious scenes were sometimes integrated into church altars.

These sacred portraits have evolved into a unique art form depicting a variety of aspects of Latino life & culture. Retalbos are painted on metal, tin, or wood, and they will frequently celebrate the occurrence of a miraculous event.

Dianne Bennett uses salvaged building materials and old metal signs from the area in which she lives in suburban Los Angeles to create these works of art. Growing up in this area during the 60's, she remembers a time when orange trees were much more numerous than they are now, and when she could easily hike into the wilderness. She says of her work: "My hope is to shine a light on the ephemeral beauty of life in this world, while raising questions about what we value, what we hold sacred, and what is disappearing before our very eyes."

You can see her work, which includes so much more than the retalbos, at http://www.diannebennett.com/. Of the many retalbos on her website, I found one in particular that spoke to me ... of the sweetness of life, and the importance of seeking that sweetness out, each and every day. Please visit her website and enjoy her work.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Spider Silk Tapestry

Yesterday, I read an article in "Fast Company" that showed what can happen when the creativity of man and nature work in harmony! The article ("Creepy, Crawly Crafty: A Tapestry Woven by Eight-Legged Artists") wrote about two men ~ Simon Peers, a British art historian and Nicholas Godley, an American fashion designer ~ who spent half a million of their own dollars over a period of 4 years to collect the silk of a million female silk spiders (Nephila madagascariensis). This process of silk collection is actually done on this island country of Madagascar! What makes the whole process extra difficult to do ~ besides the obvious ick-factor! ~ is that the female golden orb spider has a nasty disposition and is cannibalistic, which as you can imagine, makes having and herding such large numbers somewhat of a problem. Thankfully, while they do bite, it isn't especially dangerous ~ small comfort, but there is that darned ick-factor again!

The silk was woven on a loom (see below) into an 11'x4' tapestry! The color of the silk is natural and gets it's golden shade from the natural saffron tones of the spiders' silk, which also amazingly, is barely visible when it is extracted, by hand, from the "spinnaret" (ok, I actually didn't experience the ick-factor with that lovely word) of the spider. The silk extraction required dozens of native Malagasy "handlers". The weaving was done by local weavers and shows a stunning pattern (see below) of geometric shapes which correspond to traditional images of animals and birds. One more unbelievable little tidbit about the spiders' silk: Its tensile strength is 5-6 times that of steel by weight!!!

The end result of this costly, time-consuming, and ick-factor laden project is, in my opinion so utterly worthwhile and amazingly, breath-takingly beautiful! My only regret is that I don't have the opportunity to see the finished piece in person. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

"Creative Thursdays" by Marisa Haedike

On Thursdays, I receive an email from Marisa Haedike, called "Creative Thursdays." Marisa is a painter, both of canvases and of furniture pieces. The two that are here are, from left to right, "Winter Dreamers" and "Susanna" (selected for obvious reasons). I love her work! It's sweet and joyous. It makes me smile. The colors are at once bright and refined. I love the contrasting turquoise and red in the Susanna chair, and the way the wind is blowing the scarf of the little chick, who seems to be puffing herself up to brave the cold. Take a look at Marisa's website (http://www.creativethursday.com/) and see for yourself. It's well worth a visit!

Sunday, October 25, 2009


It's funny how the critics can pan a movie and, when we go to see it, we thoroughly love it! That's what happened this weekend, when Harry and I went to see Hillary Swank and Richard Gere in the movie "Amelia", based on the life of aviatrix Amelia Earhart. We thought it was a lovely film and that Hillary was amazing and quite believable as Amelia. The soundtrack fit the cinematography (which was definitely suited to the big screen) beautifully.
Some sources were talking Oscar, while others called Swank's performance "stodgy" and "wooden." I certainly never felt it to be either of the last 2 adjectives! She characterized Amelia as a woman ahead of her time, consumed by a passion for freedom to express herself, to create a life for herself on her own terms defined by no one else in the air. It's easy to see why she remains an inspiration to so many young girls today.

And, the resemblance, especially in the scenes leading up to her disappearance, between Hillary Swank and Amelia Earhardt are quite striking....

Monday, October 19, 2009

I recently found a great blog by Laura Hegfield, called "Shine the Divine." Laura has MS and in her blog entry of October 11th, she wrote about how she taught her young art students that "imperfection is the doorway to possibility." That really got me thinking about creativity and how many of us look at it. I have friends who tell me "You're so creative!" and then quickly follow that with the comment "But I don't have a creative bone in my body!"
What holds us back from expressing our creativity? We are all born creative. Look at children with crayons, paint, clay, paper, almost any medium. They create without fear, anxiety or embarrassment that the result will not be perfect. Somewhere along the way, however, we grow up and begin to impose expections of perfection on ourselves. We don't try a particular creative endeavor because we fear that the outcome won't be perfect. By whose standards?
The only outcome that creativity implies is possibility! By creating something, we bring an idea, our unique idea from our own imagination, into the possible. And, what we must remember in creating is that our it is the process of creation that is to be enjoyed, and the possibility at the end of the process that must please only us, its creator.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

ArtMail :: Milwaukee

I love the texture and the colors in this painting by Milwaukee artist Todd Mrozinski. Anyone who knows me well, knows that I'm really into visual texture.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Well, tonight, before I started to study for my exam, I decided to work on my haunted house. I had to take apart the little bit that I had done yesterday because it was all crooked - I know, I know, haunted houses are supposed to be crooked, but this one isn't designed for crooked! And, to add to the frustration, I kept knocking over the sections of wall that I had put together & glued before the glue had set up!!! ARGH!!!
I really have to focus on a plan for crafting space!!! Step one: Find some time (when???) on a weekend soon to clear some room in the library & the buy 2 2-drawer file cabinets. I'll put them in the large space between the book shelves & have a piece of MDF board cut to fit to stretch between the 2 as a work space. I have about a dozen patterns of oil cloth that are available online (will post these soon), that I'll order to cover the board & presto! I will have a work space that will be large & devoted to my crafts! That will sure beat the small TV tray that I'm using now!!! Then, small bits of creativity to tide me over til after graduation! It feels good to have a plan!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Creative Mini-Bites

I've decided that, since I don't have time for big projects, involved projects, or even more than one project, I'm going to do one simple project for each of the upcoming holidays. As much as I would have loved making handmade gifts (think of how green that would be!) for my family and friends this year, that's just not going to happen. So, on a couple of visits to my favorite "happy place," Michael's, I've picked up a haunted house kit in craft foam for Halloween and a gingerbread house kit in the same craft foam for Christmas. Now, I know, it's not completely my own idea and all, but I plan on adding some extra embellishments to the finished houses. And, my other goal is to FINALLY master downloading pictures from my digital camera, so that I can post the finished houses to my blog! Such lofty goals!!!
I'm feeling creative, inspired, and better already somehow! Now, to just budget my time wisely!!!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

About My Blog . . .

I've always been a creative person ... a crafter ... a needleworker. My family calls me a Martha Stewart "wannabe." And yes, my fantasy is to live a life where each day is spent in creative, artistic pursuits, that somehow, put food on the table and pay the bills. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm lucky enough to have a job that I truly love and am challenged by, so i would be very happy to just spend my freetime being creative. The trouble is that for the past 7 months (and for the next 11 months or so), I have been and will be working on my MBA. It's an accelerated program, so in addition to working full-time and trying to manage my marriage and house along with schoolwork, you can imagine that my freetime has virtually disappeared.
Now, I fantasize about crafting! I collect craft ideas and patterns like others collect recipes! I have so many new "friends" on Facebook who are creative crafters and they inspire me with their art! I plan and dream about my "crafting corner" in our spare bedroom (aka "the Library") and the time I will be able to spend there after I graduate next July.
So, I decided to write this blog as a way of expressing myself, my frustrations at (temporarily) losing this part of myself, and the realization of just how important creativity is to my spirit and to my soul. I'll wite about the ways that I find to live through this self-imposed (I did choose to get my MBA at this point in my life) creative downtime, and how I am preparing to release myself again into what I hope will be a new level of creative freedom and self-expression next year!
I hope that you'll join me on my journey of self-discovery and growth, and share your thoughts, suggestions, and ideas with me here!