Square Peg, Round Hole: The Universe is Listening

Over the course of my life my uncle has often encouraged me to “ask the universe for what you need” or to set my intentions (sometimes you need to close a door to be able to open a new one). And I’ll be honest, at first I thought it was all pretty woo-woo, so I was dismissive of the concept. In the nearly six years that I’ve been freelancing, the universe has guided me time and time again, and these days I’m a pretty big believer in setting intentions and trusting in what the universe gives me to work with. Although on occasion, I still find myself trying to force situations that just aren’t right. The old square peg in the round hole adage applies here.


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This will sound crazy, but last week a freelance client I’ve been working with on and off this year, terminated my contract well before the April end date, and… I was actually excited about it! A little backstory- I’d filled a very different role for them earlier this year, which was a great fit, so I was excited when approached to work with a different team. I had some reservations, but wanted to give it a go. I liked the manager, the company and the community so… long story short, it was NOT a good fit. Despite my best efforts, a good chunk of the work fell well outside of my wheelhouse (anyone else terrible at math and spreadsheets?), I got behind, felt overwhelmed, and instead of looking forward to the work I began to feel a sense of dread and self loathing for my inabilities.



I was chatting with my sister in law the day before aforementioned contract termination, and telling her about my shortcomings in the role. We talked about all of the things I had on my creative plate; all the art projects I was trying so hard to move forward (retreat planning, making work for holiday shows, updating my website…), and how I was wishing I had more time to simply focus on those things. I wrote the same thoughts in my journal (morning pages anyone?), and even told my husband I was regretting not taking a few months to focus on my work when he offered me the option. BUT I was committed to trying to learn the things that were preventing me from doing a good job in this freelance gig… and it was causing me to feel anxiety like I haven’t felt in a really long time. You know- the stuff that keeps you up at night and wakes you up early in the morning. Ties your stomach in knots and triggers that voice in your head that just keeps saying fail, fail, fail on repeat. #FAIL

I bombed an important meeting, got paralyzed by my self doubt, and feeling like I was failing my team, and as I was sitting there decompressing from said failure, my boss asked me to hop on a video call and very politely canceled my contract. I was so relieved that I agreed out loud that it wasn’t a good fit, and they actually thanked me for being so gracious about it.



Of course, I hung up the call and immediately cried. Hard.


I’ve never really been fired from a job before. I went through a range of emotions, but mostly conjured up personal failure over and over again. About an hour later, thoughts of excitement crept in. I’ve been working on goal setting and planning exercises to grow my art business, and the time commitment of this freelance project was the roadblock to almost everything on my to-do list. Yet, they’d just set me free! I’m allowing myself to feel good about this, rather than beating myself up over it. It wasn’t a good fit, and we all knew it, so why continue to torture myself with those woulda, shoulda, coulda thoughts?

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I gave myself the rest of the day to wallow. I may have smoked some pot, and laid in bed with the dogs watching mediocre shows on my laptop, but the wheels were turning in the background. The next morning I got up, walked the dogs, wrote my morning pages, and attended a live co-working session for an online course I’m taking. I took another look at those goals and tasks I wanted to complete this last quarter of the year and it all seems so much more doable!

So this is me, telling you, that the universe is listening. Not only is it listening but it will give you what you need, when you need it. You simply have to be open to moving the dial when the opportunity presents itself! If you’ve read “Big Magic” by Elizabeth Gilbert, it sort of lines up with her concept of being ready when the right idea hits you.

I am ready. Let’s do this. No more trying to fit square pegs in round holes.

Memories and Art

As I’ve been working on my workshops for Capture the Glow (my upcoming art + yoga retreat in Mexico this January), I’ve been flipping through old art journals and artwork from my past, trying to connect with what once inspired me and looking for tidbits I can share from my life of art making that might inspire others.

I've spent lots of time thinking about all the ways memories have inspired me to create over the years. This lead me down a path of sorting through boxes and the heaping mess of art supplies and other stuff I've hoarded in the basement because... you know, I might just make some art out of it ... someday. But I’ve rediscovered old paintings. And photos of people and places I used to know. Sketchbooks and journals. Little bits of memorabilia from distant parts of my past. 

I never know what to do with these things when I rediscover them, and so they get shuffled from shelf to drawer, to box, to pile on the floor. I have committed to taking action on finding homes for these things, whether it's on a wall, or in the trash/recycling bin, or sending it off to a friend from my past who might enjoy a little nostalgia of their own.

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Some fun memories bubbled up, like: in high school I loved flipping through magazines and ripping out pages with images I wanted to recreate with paint. My younger artist self needed to recreate objects exactly as I saw them, or at least try to. It made starting and stopping (the definition of stopping here is completion/perfection) new paintings pretty hard. Photo-realistic perfection was always the goal and the opportunity to fail was high, so I ended up with so many unfinished, or un-started projects. This painting is a good example of life imitating art, or maybe it's art imitating life.

 My old house in Sandy Hook, CT where I lived 2002-2005.

My old house in Sandy Hook, CT where I lived 2002-2005.

Once upon a time (2002-2005), I lived in Sandy Hook, Connecticut, in a little house with my landscape architect boyfriend. We spent a lot of time working on our yard, and I spent a lot of time perusing home and garden magazines. Still ripping out pages for all sorts of life inspiration. I found this image of these stunning flowers I'd never seen before, and tore it out with the intention of finding and planting them in the yard. Alas, the sweet landscape architect and I drifted apart and the hellebores were never planted in our garden. As we searched for ways to reconnect, we spent a few hours together painting with watercolors. We each picked a magazine image to recreate, these hellebores were mine. 

Between the breakup, packing, and moving cross country it sat unfinished for nearly two years, but it was one of the few things that made the journey west with me (purging a three bedroom house chock full of stuff you thought was cool in your twenties = very cathartic). My hope for my new Portland life was that I’d focus more on art making, and luckily I fell into a group of new artist friends. We began having weekly dinner and art nights, where I dusted off this old painting and committed to completing it. It was the first work of art I finished in my new city, and I think of it as the start of my new creative life here.

While there have been starts, stops and plenty of distractions along the way, this painting has hung in every bedroom I’ve inhabited since I moved here. A constant reminder of where I came from, and where I’d like to go. My north star, if you will. I’ve since gotten away from the need to create photo-realistic art work, and learned to be a little kinder to myself in the stopping and starting of new projects. Oh! And I finally got to plant those Hellebores in my garden. Lots and lots of them!

What are your creative challenges and fears? How do you work through them? I’d love to talk about it, if you’d like to leave me a comment.

 

 

 

 

Planning for Art and Yoga in the Jungle

For longer than I can remember I've been pondering ways to connect with other creative people and foster a community of sharing ideas and art experimentation. One day, the dream is to own a small farm off the beaten path, with studio spaces and cabins for art retreats and artist residencies. That's in the very early planning stages but in the meantime, I'm thrilled to be taking the plunge and co-host an art and yoga retreat in the jungle! Yes! Come January 2019, my friend Mandy and I will be hosting 10 guests at Tailwind Jungle Lodge, three miles outside of San Pancho, Nayarit, Mexico. (If you or someone you know might be interested, please get in touch to learn more or visit my retreat page)

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Why Mexico? Why the jungle? If you know me, you know I have escaped to Mexico for several weeks most winters for the last 6 years. Going back even further I have been lucky enough to travel domestically and internationally for the better part of a decade, and these adventures ALWAYS inspire me creatively. I carry a sketchbook and draw the people I see in restaurants, on mass transit or on the beach. Sometimes I bring watercolors or colored pencils. Other times I roll up un-stretched canvas, brushes, and my acrylic paints, and find a rooftop to perch on so I can paint the view... or something that the view inspires.

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I find when I travel, I'm so much more open to life's possibilities. I talk to strangers (and have made lifelong friends). I journal and sketch more (every day I'm traveling). I read a ton, because many of my destinations don't offer reliable wifi, and it's nice not to have the distraction of constantly streaming video, emails and social media. And as I've already mentioned, I paint! Traveling me is the me I want to be every day, so it got me thinking more about this idea of art retreats and residencies.

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I love the idea of bringing together a small community and making time to be open and create in an uncomplicated environment. I know so many people, both professional artists and those who simply enjoy the act of creating things, who have one thing in common: they all wish they had more time to relax, reconnect with themselves and create. So this is me, inviting you to do just that! There is no skill level requirement. In fact, the less experience you have making art, the better! This is all about allowing yourself to experiment. 

My vision for the retreat is pretty simple: make space and time to immerse ourselves in nature, and the sites and sounds of the communities we'll visit, and let the creativity flow! We'll start everyday off with a gentle yoga session to open our minds and bodies, then we'll transition to the paint studio where we'll experiment with random mark making, collage, colored pencils, watercolors, stencils, paper, canvas and more. We'll go on daily adventures, with our sketchbooks in hand and share conversations about our daily inspirations. I'm still fleshing out the final "structure" but I know it's going to be a fun and inspirational journey! We'll keep it loose and leave lots of room for play. At the end of the day, it's not about creating a singular "perfect" piece of art, but more about creating a little something every day of the retreat. Allowing yourself the time for creativity to flow, learning how to use art making (doodling counts as art making too) as a tool to meditate and problem solve back in the real world... these are my goals for the retreat!

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The Jungle Lodge is booked, as is the chef, and two spots have already sold. This is so very exciting! I can hardly wait. Stay tuned for more details as the planning continues. And if you want to know more, don't hesitate to get in touch, or check the retreat page.

The Recycled Rain Project

Yup. It's that time of year again- The Recycled Rain Project has become my marker for the beginning of summer, and I'm excited to have been invited to participate again this year! The opening reception is this Saturday (June 2), but I'm sharing a few process photos with you here.

 Getting started! That mason jar is full of the rain water I captured earlier in the spring.

Getting started! That mason jar is full of the rain water I captured earlier in the spring.

In the warmer weather I move my studio into the garden, and work there as much as I can! I love these timelapse videos to demonstrate process.

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That last video is adding in the details of the bricks on that building in the foreground. It's always hard to know when to stop. I mean, I could work on these paintings forever... only I can't!

Come to The Recycled Rain Project Opening on June 2 to see the finished painting! Show's up through June. 

Urban Planning: A Solo Painting Show Comes Together

My solo show, Urban Planning, opens First Thursday, May 3 at Cascade Sotheby's International Realty, on NW Hoyt in Portland! It's exciting to have a dedicated place to show a body of larger paintings, and I have quite a few new ones to share with you! After the show opens, I'll be sharing a virtual gallery so those who live beyond Portland can experience the opening along with me. You can even shop for originals or order prints! But more on that later.

I thought it would be fun to share some process videos and photo of my newer pieces here, as a preview of sorts. First up, this 24" x 36" cityscape, I think I'll call "Room with a View". 

 This painting started off something like this. Lots of layers, and colors, and more layers. There were lots of starts and stops, and I confess, it sat in this state for a quite a long time in my basement before I caught the inspiration to complete it!

This painting started off something like this. Lots of layers, and colors, and more layers. There were lots of starts and stops, and I confess, it sat in this state for a quite a long time in my basement before I caught the inspiration to complete it!

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This last image is not quite finished, but swing by Sotheby's between May 3- July 30 to see it in person.

In my next post, I'll show you where these paintings ended up! Stay tuned...

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The Holidays, Turning Forty and Mexico

November and December were a blur of activity! So much so, that it's late January and I'm just now getting around to writing about it. There were so many shows and so much art making and so many lovely people to meet and chat with. I feel lucky to have been included in shows with so many other talented artists, and to have the opportunity to chat with many lovely people (like you!) at every show.

The behind the scenes part of being an artist, the part they don't really teach you about in school, is the business side of things. It's one thing to make art- the fun part! But it's another thing to find ways to get that art out into the world. So while you mostly see the progress shots and finished pieces, there's this other component: getting it photographed, posting it on the website or Instagram, researching shows and then applying for them, and of course packing, unpacking, setting up displays, and breaking them down again... over and over again! All of this on top of a day job can be really intense and exhausting!

Time lapse of setting up my art show booth at Abbey Road Farms

 

Once I packed up from the last show, my open studio, my husband and I packed our bags for two weeks vacation in Mexico! I had a big birthday coming up between Christmas and New Years, (40th) and we hadn't had a honeymoon so we rolled it all up into this trip. The mission: relax, get sun, create and daydream of things to come. We agreed to take a two week hiatus from reading the news (much needed). I brought a stack of books, some canvas, watercolors and brushes, and off we went. 

We spent the first few nights,  at Tailwind Jungle Lodge, just 3 miles outside of San Pancho (or San Fransisco). No wifi, no tv, no car. Just the sound of the jungle creatures and the crash of the ocean down below. This was the perfect way to ease into some down time. From the jungle we spent the bulk of our trip in Sayulita with my good friend and fellow artist , and our last two nights in Puerto Vallarta.  Here's a few pics of the trip and the art I made (started) while we were away.

 This is the view from our Casita at Tail Wind Jungle Lodge. The image below is a painting I started, inspired by this view.

This is the view from our Casita at Tail Wind Jungle Lodge. The image below is a painting I started, inspired by this view.

 Work in progress- Watercolors.

Work in progress- Watercolors.

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Sketch from Yah-Yah's Cafe
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 Humpback whales!

Humpback whales!

Working Large

Years ago on a visit to Sayulita, Nayarit, Mexico I'd started this canvas. I had visions of bright colors and capturing the shadows cast by these metal lanterns on my friend's rooftop patio, but on the last day of the trip, the sun didn't cooperate and I brought the canvas home unfinished. The next year, I brought this giant canvas back down with the same vision in mind, yet I couldn't recreate the scene I'd had in my head the previous year, so I brought the giant canvas back to Portland again.

 The original inspiration for this painting came from the shadows of these lanterns and cinder blocks.

The original inspiration for this painting came from the shadows of these lanterns and cinder blocks.

 Here I am on a rooftop in Mexico getting things started.

Here I am on a rooftop in Mexico getting things started.

 Working in Cori's studio. The brightly colored painting on the bottom right, is how this giant painting began...

Working in Cori's studio. The brightly colored painting on the bottom right, is how this giant painting began...

After pondering how to complete this painting, I remembered a sunset dinner I'd had with friends in NYC. Perched on a rooftop on the upper west side, we watched the sun disappear as it changed the light of the sky. Windows and building facaded reflecting back the bright pinks, oranges and purples against an ever darker blue sky, which changed my plan for this painting drastically!

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I'd mostly finished it about two years ago, and it's been hanging unstretched in my basement clay studio. My upcoming show at Symposium Coffee, inspired me to have it stretched while I was in Mexico, so it'd be ready to go when I got home. The funny thing about that... once stretched, that sucker was way too big to fit in my little GTI! Fortunately, I only live a few blocks from I've Been Framed. The trip home went a little something like this...

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 Hanging in it's temporary home.

Hanging in it's temporary home.

Now, I need to figure out how to get it to Symposium next week to hang for my show! Too bad Tigard isn't walking distance... 

Please stop by and see my new work at Symposium between February 1-28. Details here.

Thirty Paintings in Thirty Days: September 4 & 5

Days 4 and 5 of the challenge are similar but different. Day Four is a tiny 3" x3" canvas I created simply by making marks and looking for something to appear. In this case it was a quartet of tiny houses. If you want to look for deeper meaning, I imagine it comes two fold in this one. First, the changing face of housing in Portland. So many old homes and buildings being demolished to create giant multi-apartment behemoths. It's happening all around me and my feelings of over crowding and loss of architectural history find their way into my artwork- subconsciously or not.

The second, comes from the political changes and treatment of the poor, immigrants and minorities under this new administration. Are we not all entitled to "the American Dream"? The cozy home in the suburbs with the white picket fence, and 2.5 kids. Prosperity. Neighborly support. Maybe these tiny houses are my way of crying out for the loss of the American dream. There's plenty more where these came from too. I imagine these themes playing out in my artwork for the foreseeable future.

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My Day Five painting is a little less heady. It's the nighttime version of the view I posted for Day Three. The view from a balcony in Long Island City, where I was lucky enough to paint plein air in August. More on that soon, but here's the  sketch of the night time view. Soon these NYC sketches will help me complete three larger canvases I started there. Perhaps that's an October project though. ;)

Views From Long Island City

Thirty Paintings in Thirty Days: September 3

Chugging along finishing up my limbo paintings as part of the 30 in 30 challenge. I started this guy during my August painting trip to New York. Trying to capture the rapidly changing light of a stunning sunset from a balcony in Long Island City... it's hard work! So I snapped a few photos, with my phone and in my imagination and finished it up yesterday.

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