…on the eight hour train ride from Puno to Cusco I sat at a table by myself and watched the sun rise. It was freezing so I wrapped my alpaca scarf over my head, with my sunglasses on and drank my café con leche and pretended I was a worldly traveler going someplace exotic, like India, oh yeah, and that I was a famous writer…and I let my mind wander until I decided that I rather liked being me, then I wrote in my journal about my exotic trip through Peru…The past several months I have either been planning my trip to Peru, on my trip through Peru, or recovering from my trip to Peru. Now I am back with all new work that is going up at Eclectic Eye in Midtown Memphis beginning August 3rd, 2012 from 6-8pm.
Each black and white drawing was drawn on-site in Peru. I either had the luxury and time to finish it on-site, at my hostel, in a coffee shop, or I brought it back home to add the ink.
The encaustic and mixed media paintings are stories taken directly from my journal. On my trip, when I couldn't draw or paint, I wrote. This newest body of work is just a small representation of what I am currently working on
When I was a baby, my grandma Jane crocheted a pink and white afghan for my bed. It was perfect for the decor. Flowers scrolled up the walls in pinks and antique whites, shag pink and white carpet covered the floor, and I had a canopy bed with a white eyelet canopy and coverlet. My first memory of unraveling my blanket starts when I was about three or four years old. I pulled each string of yarn completely out of the blanket, watching the carefully knotted lumps flatten. What I did next always had my mom in hysterics. "You tied every piece of furniture together. When you were finished, your room looked like a big spider web. You would lay down on your bed to nap, and I could't even walk into the room to get to you." Years later I would learn this was my way of keeping my abuser away from me.
My therapist told me a year ago the reason I kept my car such a mess was because I didn't want passengers. It had nothing to do with laziness or self-loathing, or liking filth and dirt. It was a defense mechanism. After my diagnosis of obsessive compulsive disorder, I went to my studio, alone, to work. When I opened the door I had to laugh at the tubes of oil paint I had squeezed then dropped onto the floor. Absolute preparedness. They were still there in case I needed them, and I'd know where to find them. The journey I've taken to recover from OCD is still very much on-going, but I had to evaluate in what ways in my life do I prepare for the unexpected, and by doing so, shun passengers? I've had to recognize that leaving an empty coffee cup in my car in case the emergency arose that I'd need an empty mug, didn't really help me at all. But having friends and passengers on-hand to help me through my most difficult times in life does.
Each day I practice, and my smiles are finally genuine. Today I sent out no less than 20 text messages to moms who have made a difference in my life, wishing them a Happy Mother's Day or Feliz dia de las madres! Over the past few years, these are the moms that I've allowed to be passengers. I was astounded by how easy it was to say something heartfelt and meaningful. Today, as a Mother's Day gift to myself, I will be cleaning out my car!
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My good friend Corey was working and living in New York City when circumstances arose where he found himself jobless and homeless. He kept us all abreast of his whereabouts and his journey, including the giant leap across continents until he finally landed in India. Every day he'd post something about his trip. The sights, smells, sounds, people, culture, smells, cows, food, smells, all had a tremendous impact on him. Every day I eagerly awaited his post, then when they appeared on my facebook, I would read them outloud to my husband. Chris, a lover of artists, but not an artist himself, always asked me, "why is he there?" This question never failed to iritate the hell out of me. "What do you mean 'WHY' is he there?"
"Is he there to visit someone?"
"To see something in particular?"
"To make art?"
"He's there to live!" I'd finally shout exasperated (we had this conversation a few times during Corey's trip).
He would shake his head and say, "I don't get it."
But I did, and I was glued to the daily updates.
Finally, when Chris asked why again, I said, "Because artists have to LIVE, have experiences and see the world if they want to be great. Artists paint who they are and what they live, and the more living you do, the richer your work becomes." The intensity and passion with which I explained this to my husband was not lost on him. He knew that I had an "India" waiting for me. It was Peru. I had been awarded a travel fellowship to go to Peru, a culture and people for which I was very passionate about, but the trip had been cancelled twice. The first time being on September 11, 2001. After the second cancellation a few months later, I began work full time as an artist and we bought a house. Not long after that we started our family. And life began to move in fast forward. It was my dream to experience Machu Picchu, and I had been waiting for it for ten years. The next day I found Chris moving his beloved mountain bike out of the home office and cleaning off his desk top. "I have three weeks in town at the end of May, it's time for you to go to Peru." He had planned to work from home so he could take care of our girls. Suffice it to say, I was thrilled.
To rewind a bit back to my life a year ago...
I was in an institution at this time last year. I was moved from in-patient to a partial outpatient program and was into my third week. I was being treated for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. But that is not a story to share just yet : ) Something remarkable happened during my hospitalization. I underwent EMDR-Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprogramming. It sounds new age, but in fact is used to treat PTSD in our war vets and FBI agents. It's a simple process, yet is very complex in what it accomplishes. I can honestly say I am no longer haunted by the traumas for which I was treated, but the most amazing part of the treatment was towards the end when I had to visualize a place of peace and salvation. I had to let my mind wander naturally, and my mind pulled me along a narrow path up an incline where the trees parted and I was standing at the gateway to Machu Picchu. After that, I took a deep breath, and began my recovery.
Here it is a year later, and I am making my packing list. I never thought this day would come. And I am grateful of the two previous cancellations. This will not be a tourist journey. It won't be sightseeing. I'll be emersed for three weeks. It will be a spiritual journey, and although I am scared, I am finally ready to absorb all it has to offer. I feel incredibly lucky, fortunate, deserving, and enthusiastic. And I planning on producing some kick-ass art when I get back!
"I saw on your syllabus where you had life drawing today," my dad said from behind the steering wheel.
"Yeah," I answered.
"So, how was it?" he continued, nervously.
"Okay, I guess," I said.
"Well...hmpf...did you have a male or female model?" he continued.
"Male," I said, focusing on a splattered bug on the windshield in front of me so I didn't have to look at him.
"Uuuummmmm, is there anything you'd like to talk about?"
I stifled a giggle. Bless his heart. All I could do was shake my head no.
"Really? Well, what was it like?"
At the stoplight I looked at him and finally said, "Let's just say there wasn't much there to draw."
Ah, Tiny Tim, how I have such fond memories of you! I was new to Memphis and new to drawing nekked people. How delightfully naive I was, and completely enthralled by your squatter attire when you entered Butler Hall West. Jennifer and I, straddling wooden horses, had front row seats to the striptease that ensued. Most models step behind a screen to undress, reappear in a robe, approach the set up, pose, then gently disrobe. But not you! You sat down on the floor at our feet and began unlacing your big black military boots. Tossing them to the side, the clank of your brass belt buckle was the only sound we heard as you began to get rid of your camouflage pants. Thank goodness for those drawing boards! But even the fits of laughter coming from behind the boards didn't deter you. You unbuttoned your shirt, which was a smart choice in clothing so as not to mess up your perfectly spiked hair, and tossed it aside into the rest of your pile. You hopped onto the stage like a pro to begin the thirty second poses. I still have flashbacks of the very first pose where you contorted into something that looked like an inverted triangle. The first hour was giggle, draw, giggle, draw, giggle, giggle, oh my goodness, laugh, draw. The second hour when you got to sit down was better. The shock of how comfortable you were bouncing on and off the stage, naked, was finally beginning to wear off. But boy did it sure get hot in that studio in the middle of February! The heat lamps were working overtime to keep you warm. It's just a shame the homeless shelter didn't hand out deodorant! (BTW-I don't really know if Tiny Tim was homeless or a squatter, I was only fifteen and a sophomore in high school. For all I know, he was an art student). And then, the doors to Butler Hall West were opened to let in some fresh, cool air..................
And that was how my very first life drawing experience went. I got some excellent drawings that day once I could get myself to stop shaking from laughter. It took my dad a whole week to summon the courage to come back and ask me, "Exactly what were you comparing him to?"
My husband said to me last night, "Wow, his death has really had a profound effect on you, hasn't it?" I replied, "yes, it really has," and I meant it. This was the twelfth day in a row I've managed to bring up Thomas Kinkade in general conversation. Which is absolutely absurd because I have loathed him intensly for at least fifteen years. From the very first stoney cottage at the end of a softly lit mossy path surrounded by a pastel garden, I recognized that everything he did was exactly opposite of what I was being taught in college. So naturally he was all wrong. But let me back up a little, like to when I was about eight years old.
Nothing could make me squirrel away pocket change and grandma's birthday dollar bills quicker than the thought of saving up to purchase new Lisa Frank unicorn and rainbow stickers for my sticker book. I was in sheer ecstasy when I received a purple sleeping bag with a gumball machine on the front, each brightly colored gumball perfectly highlighted in a way only Lisa Frank could highlight. Her name was scrawled across the bottom in big cursive letters.
As the sleeping bag went through several laundry cycles, and I continued to grow, the beloved sleeping bag eventually "disappeared." Along with it went my obsession with unicorns, rainbows, and gumball machines. Gone were the fluorescent pink socks and neon yellow plaid pants, replaced with aubergine dresses, oatmeal sweaters, and heather gray skirts. These new colors were elegant, understated, and grown-up. But that's what life is, right? Evolution!
Which is also what art college was like. Building up and breaking down to evolve into a mature artist. Hours at a time. Hours of critique. You think something you've done is brilliant, only to be torn to shreds by your peers. You don't hate them, you go grab a beer together at lunch (or at least WE did) to tough out the second half of critique . It's all to make you a better artist, and we "got" that. The biggest lesson I learned was that over the years even if the same subject matter wove in and out of your work, you learn not to stay stagnate. Work is always evolving. Which is why it was especially hard for me to do commission work when I first started painting.
I remember one commission where I was asked to recreate a painting I had done the previous year. I tried as hard as I could. And it came out looking like shit. My client wasn't happy. I gave him his money back. He asked me what happened, "why" was this so difficult. I tried to explain that I just wasn't in that place anymore. But he didn't get it. I was in a different place emotionally, not to mention I had vowed never to use pthalo blue directly out of the tube ever again.
But back to Thomas Kinkade...the critique in the "real" artists' circle is that he's a sell out, he's kitschy, he's a terrible painter but great at marketing...and even if I agree with the criticisms, I find that it is for a very different reason today. After he died, a family member stated he was an alcoholic because of all the criticism he received. As those of us with alcoholics in our lives know, this is an excuse. An alcoholic just is, there doesn't have to be a why. If he was admired by every fine artist in the world he still would have been an alcoholic. I read that he had an ego. But I could argue that he probably didn't really if he was an alcoholic. He painted saccharine paintings. Like candy coated rainbows, unicorns, and gumball machines. So if our paintings are expressions of ourselves, wouldn't that make him a pretty sweet guy? Following and leading others to the Word of God through his majestically lit paintings? Living in paradise as a millionaire? A painting can reveal a lot about an artist.
A few years ago I was rejected by a few agents representing children's book illustrators. "Your work is nice, but too dark." The colors? No, the subject matter. I was in a very cynical place at the time. Then I was rejected by a gallery for being too illustrative-go figure! That year when I was interviewed for Memphis Parent Magazine, I was asked to describe my work. She used the word "dark" again. I blurted out, "I paint dark so I can live light." Never had I spoken so honestly about my work, nor had a statement felt so true. My work was the release of my inner demons. So, what happens if you aren't the painter of dark, but "The Painter of Light?" What happens when you build your career and your entire brand around being "The Painter of Light?" What if you woke up in a pissy mood and just felt like splattering paint like Jackson Pollock? Or painting a nude self-portrait? Or a self-portrait with a monkey? Or both? What if you wanted to throw pottery instead? Was Thomas Kinkade stuck in a prison? As a drinker, he was already pretty dark. Did he drink because of his critics? Or because of his fans?
Nothing zaps my creative juices like being told what to paint. Last summer I had the wonderful opportunity to see Picasso's work in San Francisco as part of Gertrude Stein's collection on display. I was moved to tears. To watch the destruction of his photo-realistic portraits, the struggle and angst that went into pushing the boundaries so far that cubism popped out, was nothing short of miraculous. The portrait of Gertrude Stein, alone, is legendary, as we witness his struggle to paint her face. Beginning in his photo-realistic style, he begins to flatten her face until it resembles a mask. On this tour of his works we grow with him. We are invited into his evolution. Was he a great painter before cubism? Of course. But if he had painted exactly the same way year after year, using the same palette, he would have been vanilla. Instead, he was a banana split with pop rocks. Thomas Kinkade was tried and true vanilla. Never wavering. He was meticulous, consistent, and thorough. And a very hard worker. Was he a good painter? Technically speaking? Yes, he was. I suppose the real question is, was he a great artist? His fans and critics will debate this forever, I'm certain. To me, he was a painter that never evolved. His images were from a child's fantasy of a perfect world. What if his paintings, to him, were some form of PTSD, where he was stuck inside them? Like a loop on a skipping record? What if his life was like "Groundhog's Day" and he was caught on this self-imposed loop he couldn't escape? Maybe he wanted to paint something else but set himself up with a demand so strong that he was not allowed to bust out of his comfort zone. This alone would drive me to drink! To me, he is the embodiment of every artist's best dream and worst nightmare. His paintings never spoke to me. They still don't. But today the person does. And this is a Thomas Kinkade I can connect with. So, with that, I say RIP Painter of Light. May you find the joy yourself, that you brought to so many. And for all the struggling artists out there that long for their art to make them rich, be careful what you wish for!
Last night's art walk on Broad Avenue was a smashing success and it's just going to keep getting better. I feel so fortunate to be in the neighborhood and kudos to my landlord who sees the value in supporting the arts and artists. Such a great vibe there! I put my books, calendars, cards, magnets, and encaustic paintings on display and made some sales. I had special guest Chris Chastain who displayed his beautiful hand crafted and finished picture frames. He also builds furniture, so look out for more information on him to come! Down around our corner on Collins we had 3 Angels Diner open for business and a beer stand out front, the kids ran a lemonade stand which put my free lemonade to shame...but people will pay for quality, and who could beat 1 penny lemonades? They even made tips! We also had a young entrepeneur out selling her handmade rings and bracelets. At 8 years old, Elizabeth already has a fierce work ethic! She did great with her sales too! But the highlight of my evening was seeing my husband Chris, and our best friend Mike, don heals to Walk a Mile in Her Shoes, a cause that raises awareness of violence against women, and works to put a stop to it.
Encaustic painting is the process of fusing one layer of wax to another using a heat source from either above the surface or underneath. My upcoming classes will teach students how to do both by using a skillet, heat gun, clothes iron, hot box, and lots of other cool toys!
The first thing I do before I start painting is research my subject matter. Sometimes my research comes directly from nature, and sometimes it's just made up in my head and recorded in my sketchbook.
Next I heat up the hot box and wax on the skillet.
Next I choose a paper on which to print...in this case I chose Hosho, a type of rice paper. I clamp it to the hot box then fold it back until I'm ready to print.
Next I draw the image I want onto the hot box using encaustic crayons and melted medium, working with liquid wax the whole time. Depending on how hot the box is, some of the colors bleed into eachother. Once I have the painting finished, I gently lay the paper over the wax until it begins to bleed through. Then I gently peel back the paper and this is the result!
Yesterday the girls and I got to play in front of the camera while getting our picture taken for the April issue of Parent Magazine. We had a good time. Lilly was a little nervous, and Izzy was a ham, as usual. This will be Lilly's second time in the magazine. The first time she was in a picture with me and we were photographed working on one of my paintings together. This time both girls were painting a Junkyard sculpture that will be displayed on the Broad Avenue Art Walk April 13. Hope you guys can make it out! In the meantime, take a look at my classes and contact page for information on upcoming classes. The kids are having fun Saturdays, and the parents seem eager to jump in as well. The classes are a precursor for guided
Victoria coloring with encaustic crayons on the hot box. After she finished, we covered her art with rice paper and pulled several prints.
The kids had a great time this past Saturday in The Studio at 455 Collins behind 3 Angels wBroad Avenue. They continued their work on the encaustic hot box pulling prints, encising in wax, and developing their collages. They also sculpted in clay and tried their hand at automatic painting, a la Jackson Pollack. We are having so much fun. If you would like information about my upcoming classes for kids and adults, please visit my Class and Contact page!