If something that someone has created is hanging in an art gallery, does that make someone an artist?
I am not certain of the answer to this question, but I am feeling a bit accomplished for having shown two of my pieces at a show that opened this afternoon at Olympic College Art Gallery.
There were so many artists whose work was displayed during this show. There were classic-style drawings and paintings, abstract work of all kinds, and much more.
The painting of the two faces (on the right of the featured image) is a piece that I call “Warrior Sisters–People Heal.”
In the photo below, my “Untitled” piece (acrylic elephant on wood) is displayed with the cardboard elephant sculpture peeking through the photo on top. I love that view, and might have never noticed it had I not been learning to view things from different perspectives in the sculpture class I am currently taking.
I am excited for this stage in my life. I am learning now to be comfortable with creativity, and for showing my work to others.
I have been been a bit nervous about calling myself “an artist,” because I tend to compare myself to others and minimize what I do create. It is why I put these two pieces in the show from an last-minute call for art. It was non-juried, so it was not rejected.
I figured that it would give me the chance to dip my toe in the water of the art world. I will have my own wall at a local shop at the upcoming local art walk in July. I am nervous about that, but will have a few more people viewing what I create. I will also be able to tell my story to more people about reaching beyond the fears of life.
I truly know nothing about art technique, the differences between good and bad supplies, how to use supplies properly, shading and highlighting, complimentary colors, or anything else that one might learn by going to art school. I am simply learning by playing with the things that I never had much of a chance to do as a child or teenager.I am learning to share of myself through creativity.
What you get from me is raw, childlike, and genuine. That means that I will color outside the lines. I will also scribble. I have been like this for 62 years, and I doubt that I will change that part of me much.
I am still not convinced that I am much of artist…but maybe I am. After all, I have the pictures of the art show to prove it!
It was just about three years ago that I painted on my first canvas. The result was raw. I continued to allow myself to learn to “play” and participated in several more events at Artful Dreamers Studio in Tacoma, Washington. (The new website is beautiful!)
Last year I went to the “Warrior Goddess” event, and created the canvas you see on the left. I actually hung it up on my wall. The black and white stripes on the face were representative of my “zebra stripes,” as I continue to live as a zebra (person diagnosed with neuroendocrine tumors [NETs]/carcinoid cancer.)
Life is and always has been a journey. The process of getting through and going beyond any challenge takes some chance–a risk–and it is not comfortable. Expressing myself through art has been just as uncomfortable as any other challenge I have had in my life. Some day, I will tell more of that story.
Yesterday I took the warrior goddess off of my wall, and decided to spend a couple of hours working on this painting at Open Studio hours. For some reason, she was calling to me, as never before.
Two weeks ago, I started spring quarter at the local community college taking a Sculpture class. In these past two weeks (four sessions), I have begun to see things through a different perspective, as we have worked on a clay-sculpting project of a live model’s head. It has required me to view the world in much different ways.
So, Warrior Goddess made the trek with me to Tacoma, and she has evolved into what you see on the right. I still have a couple of things that I want to add, but I am pleased with the changes, and I will finish soon, and then glaze the piece.
Creativity is within me, though it’s taken many decades for me to take the risks to tap into what there is to discover. But discovery is also exciting and I am learning that I am beginning to see some things through a more discerning eye.
Getting through the pain and ugliness that comes with life so that we can get to a point where we might come to understand and feel peace is not an easy journey. Far too often, we stay stuck in old patterns of behavior or struggle with new ways of thinking.
If we continue to challenge ourselves, we can find moments of peacefulness, but only if we allow ourselves an opportunity to trust. Simply trust.
Trust others. Trust ourselves.
It requires such vulnerability and we often do not know how we can ever open ourselves up to others. Sometimes, we do not see it coming and we are in the throws of it, before we know it.
We allow someone to see the crack in our armor. Before we know it, they ask a question that touches the open wound and it begins to seep.
And then we bleed.
Oh, so carefully, that someone begins to dress our wounds, offers us a tissue or a shoulder as we cry, and allows us to be human in a space where we are safe to do so. Where we feel safe to be ourselves.
It is in these moments that we begin to experience love, connection, and peace. But we must be willing to let go of part of the pain and anguish that life has not just offered us, but dumped on us.
And we start anew.
We focus on something different. Something that might bring us some joy. We see the possibilities of what can be by letting go, even for just a moment.
Then we share our laughter, the gifts of new-found friendship and a bit more peace that when we begin. And we begin to realize what it is
…to have some fun.
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If you would like to “awaken your creativity, empower your life, (and) come play,” read below!
I have also dabbled in other art and creative forms–glass, jewelry, crochet, and more. Each time I try something new, I walk in with such fear. But it is a way for me to explore and learn what I find to be most enjoyable for me.
A week and a half ago, I took a workshop in Mixed Media with Nadine Hamil of Artful Dreamers Studio. I have not yet finished the project. The fact is that I barely started, but my goal is to work with Nadine and finish the piece before the end of the year month.
I have signed up to take an all-day retreat this Sunday, called “Intuitive Painting” with Nadine, who claims:
There is not a right or wrong way, no judgment and no criticism. When you let your intuition takes over, true creativity is allowed to bloom.
ANYONE and everyone can paint. If you can hold a paint brush you can paint! When you have no idea what you are doing… it is wonderful… That means you have let go of the mind… you are in the present moment touching the space in you that allows creativity to move through you.
She also asks her workshop participants to “LET chaos in and see what appears in your painting, (opening up to) a spiritual experience.”
As I look forward to this workshop in three days, I do so with some fear. Nadine asks me to let this chaos in.
Chaos has always seemed to be a part of my life. I seem to have been born into it, am accustomed to it, and I have most often felt a need to control the chaos that comes from within. It was a way for me to survive life and all that gets thrown back.
Perhaps, this intuitive painting workshop will be a way for me to release the chaos onto canvas.
Whatever the process becomes for me, Nadine has been placed in my path for me to learn something about myself that I have not yet discovered. She is a kind, loving, gentle leader who accepts me exactly as I am. I embrace this challenge, though it is certainly difficult for me, because I trust her.
As I shared with you in my article about why I had problems with making art, digging into the artistic part of me has always been painful for me, especially when it comes to art forms such as drawing, painting, or creating some sort of “product,” that can be seen, felt and touched.
I have been much more comfortable with performance arts and writing, but still have a lack of confidence, when it comes to writing fiction and poetry, or getting on a stage to sing or put on a costume to portray someone else. The audition and submission process in both arenas scare me tremendously.
Most people do not realize the panic I feel when I am ready to take on an audience of some kind. In addition to my natural personality trait of wanting to please others, be liked and fit-in, I took on a lot of fear of rejection and abandonment or being made fun of in my early days. I still struggle with some of those issues of comparing myself to others, as my experiences throughout my life supported that struggle.
Yet, we get to a point in our lives when we realize that we must take the plunge and jump into whatever it is that scares us the most. Art seems to be it for me. The time is now for me to tackle my emotions around these types of art forms.
Jewelry-making, crocheting, fused glass, music and theatre, and many other things have been something in which I have dabbled here and there. I avoided painting and drawing like they were the plague, but I found myself in a Transformational Painting class with Nadine Hamil at Artful Dreamers Studio in Tacoma, Washington nearly three weeks ago.
As promised, here is my experience...
I was running late. I tend to do so anyway, but I think this was due more to my discomfort and dragging my feet a bit. I tried to justify calling Nadine up to cancel, but could not bring myself to do it on several levels.
Contrary to what others may think of me and my abilities to get to know people, I am not generally comfortable in groups of fewer than 20, due to the vulnerability I feel (going back to not fitting in). I felt that way walking in to the basement studio.
Other than the trepidation I felt between people and painting, I loved walking in to the space. There were so many things to see. There was a sense of color and awesome wonder, unlike what I would have expected from an artist gallery or studio. In actuality, there was a randomness and abstract quality to the room.
As much as I loved it and the freedom it represented to me, seeing the tables set up, each place setting with an easel and other things to make us comfortable, I had a sense of deep panic. I am not sure if it were due more to the anticipation of painting or having others see me in my vulnerability.
After Nadine took us through some relaxation and visualization exercises, it was time for us start the project.
Transformational painting, as I understood it, was a step-by-step process to start us on a journey on the canvas, that would (through each step) transform from one thing to completely another.
The 12″x12″ square canvas has already been prepared (primed with gesso) for painting. Using black acrylic paint, we were instructed to write “I am” statements. I decided to use a central theme of “I AM WOMAN” and added adjectives all around the centered words. I painted the adjectives in this order:
Yep. That just about sums me up. What you see is what you get. What you get is not always, however, the whole of the sum of me.
All the words staring back at me from the canvas made me feel exposed.
There were a series of steps now to take: Paint a light whitewash over the words; using a pastel, draw a spiral from the outside to the inside, then fill in with shape throughout the spiral; using three colors of paints that call out, dip finger in paints and dab in each of the spaces and let dry. Think about what the object of the painting will be and draw it on the canvas using a pencil to get the idea down before outlining it.
Before getting to the penciling stage, I had a breakdown about not knowing what to draw. I (literally) was in flight mode before that, which would have been okay, but I tried to remain in my seat to work through it.
Nadine sat down beside me and talked me through it. I was afraid I was taking away from the experience of the others by making them uncomfortable, but all I could do is give myself the space to feel uncomfortable, be vulnerable, and allow others to see. I sat there, crying, and telling the story of why art was difficult, and then showing my frustration and talking my way through what I wanted to draw. Nadine had suggested a butterfly. I was opposed to that and think I said, “I don’t LIKE butterflies!” I felt like a little kid throwing a fit.
Nadine was so kind. So were the others in the workshop. No one ostracized me or made fun of me. Nadine asked me what I wanted to draw. I think I said, “A heart. I need to show people my heart.”
As she coached me through that process, I found myself telling her (and the others, because they were there in the room) that many see the qualities that I had described on the canvas, and the tough parts of me, but rarely my heart. I shared with her how our mutual friend, Ronna, called me “a lightning bolt of instigation” and how most others are scared away by the power that they see in that or fearful or off-put by the storm that they initially see, that they never get to the big-hearted part of me when they walk away.
“I want people to see that I have a big heart.”
I knew then that I needed to draw a heart for the world to see. It somehow represented a part of me that others don’t take the time I do not always allow others to see.
I also wanted to own that part of me that is powerful and fierce in the face of all that life has dished out–the lightning bolt. The words on the canvas were still there, even though some were no longer visible. Yet, they are still words that describe my personality and character traits, a part of the whole.
I was pretty emotional during this few minutes.
One of the participants, sitting next to me, slid her cell phone over to me without a word. She had searched for images of hearts with lightning bolts. Her kind gesture made me a bit weepy. What a caring group of women!!
I outlined the heart and bolt in black paint and then painted in the colors that spoke to me. You can still see some of the words come through.
The next step was to paint the background. I began to use my index and middle fingers to apply the paint. I took care not to get TOO messy.
I was heavier on the paint that others were. I am not sure if it was a conscious decision to not allow much to show through or not. Nonetheless, the paint won out over the words, but if you look closely, you can barely make out two words at the bottom of the heart–
sassy and instigative.
There was something missing for me. It looked okay, but it seemed bland to me. I found the glue and the gold glitter. Once I added the “bling,” I actually liked it felt a twinge that it was something I could hang on a wall.
Of course, artists always sign their work, right? I hardly felt like an artist, but having so many years in performance, I mustered up a sense of performance inside, acting as an artist. I added a signature–Coco 2014. I was not going to use my real name on this in case it found its way someday in a pile of stuff for the thrift store. (Coco is a nickname some have used for me for 30 years.)
By the time I finished, everyone else was gone. I felt that I had taken up way too much of Nadine’s time and was embarrassed and apologetic. Yet, she took a moment and sat down with me. We talked about many things, but this is what I remember of the conversation:
Me: “You know, I have to admit that I kind of like this. It’s the glitter that did it, that made it pop.”
Nadine: “I think so, too.”
Me: “This was extremely painful…the process of it, I mean.”
Nadine: “Did you, at least, have some fun?”
Hearing her words, I started to panic. I could tell her the truth and open myself up to being more vulnerable. I was also worried that I would hurt her feelings by doing so.
Me: “Honestly, no I didn’t. It was not fun for me, but it was necessary. And I actually do like the result.”
I sat for a moment in the echo of my brain having spoken my truth. Nadine did not flinch nor get up and walk away. She simply listened and I knew she cared enough to do so. For the first time in my life, I felt as if I were sharing my deepest secrets with a big sister. It felt a bit awkward to me, but I allowed myself that moment.
I decided to call this painting, “Hear Me Roar!” Perhaps it was due originally to the reference of the old Helen Reddy song, “I Am Woman.” It seemed appropriate at the time, and it has stuck.
Since that day, I have come to an understanding of a few simple truths about myself, as they came out in the painting.
I am woman under all that I show to the world, and am complex in what I feel and share. I share some of the qualities I possess, but do not always show them in a vulnerable way. I make choices, picking and choosing what I want the world to see.
I do have a heart that I want the world to see. A big heart. One that cares deeply that I often hide from others because I have felt so much pain. Yet, having a heart does not mean that I am weak.
The lightning bolt speaks to my fierceness. Much of the world has seen that part of me. It, like my heart, is often misunderstood. Fierceness does not mean that I am unapproachable or heartless, but it does mean I face fear with a determination that others do not easily or readily understand. I am willing to sacrifice a part of myself with an energy that is frightening for some.
When you marry up the big heart and the lightning bolt, it represents many emotions. It might appear to some that it is a broken heart. It certainly often feels that way in my life, my fierceness often scaring people away and leaving me feeling isolated. When alone, others do not see my heart. Or perhaps, they are also as afraid of my heart as I am.
Under all that I show (in this case both heart and lightning bolt), I am still the same woman, whether or not it is visible or not. I am made up of so many qualities. If others could peel away all the layers of paint, they would be able to read them.
Just as this process was transformational on the canvas, the experience was equally transforming for me. I am in a place of discovery that I cannot go through alone. I need others to walk beside me, at times. I also need them to understand that in my vulnerability, I am not weak, nor in my fierceness am I unapproachable.
I realize that it requires me to be honest with myself and others, and understand that will not always result in the same people I have known being able to be present. I may need to open myself up to the heartbreak of losing and also the discovery of new experiences and people.
Regardless, under it all and no matter the transformation, still I am woman. And still you will hear me roar.
Thanks, too, to my dear friend, Ronna Detrick (ronnadetrick.com), who has blessed me in more ways than she may even realize. Through her, I met Nadine. But without her, I would not have known how to acknowledge and accept the “lightning bolt” part of me.
Both of these women are instrumental to my learning how to accept and show my heart. I am eternally grateful and love both of these women.
I hope that others who may find themselves reading this blog will also check out the links to these women’s websites. May you be as blessed as I am to get to know each of them.
This certainly happens with glass, as you can see from the pictures of the first firing of my initial projects.
There is another firing yet, where these pieces will be “slumped.” This is a technique which will shape them over a mold and they will be subjected to the same high temperatures in the kiln. These two flat pieces will be transformed into a small dish.
Personal growth is often like that, as well. We may feel that our lives are “flat” and have no depth. Or perhaps, we have endured so many challenges that we feel that we have been left shattered with nothing more than a few shards to proved that we ever existed. Can we take those broken pieces that seemingly have no other use to us and turn them into something functional, or magnificent and beautiful?
We must begin to look beyond our own pain, fear and ego to be able to push past the discomfort. Until we do, we never can see what is truly possible.
Challenges come in many forms. My challenge today came in an art form.
Today’s challenge reached down and grabbed me in a place I have not dealt with in a very long time. I have never felt comfortable where art projects are concerned.
I went to a glass studio to make my first glass projects. The owners of the studio are sisters, and have become friends of mine.
I was with two other friends, one of whom has done it before. The other went for the first time. The owners of the shop are also friends.
The initial beginner project gives the opportunity to make two small projects that will be each be a “bowl” to use for candles or candies or whatever I choose to do with them.
At first, I was excited about it. But as I get into doing anything artistic, I find myself shutting down, closing myself off, and not wanting to proceed. I actually started to feel a lump in my throat and wanted to cry today.
I suppose I should start to write about the reasons why, but I am not quite ready yet to delve into the anxiety that I associate with art of any kind. I will in due time.
I did finish putting the two projects together, ready to go into the kiln. I am not yet certain that they will look “good enough” after firing that I will be proud enough to display them. I also did not like that I was comparing mine to the others my friends were putting together.
So, here are the beginnings of my attempt at glass art. I will share the next two stages, once I receive the pictures.
I really need to learn not to be so hard on myself where artistic expression is concerned.