too valuable for caution

$119 worth of paint (most of the $ paid for the 5 tubes on the left)

When I squeezed the first little bit out of my new Old Holland paint, I was careful. “Just a touch of this fancy new paint,” I thought, “It’ll probably go a lot farther than the paint I usually use.”

“Let me mix in a lot of the bloopy stuff (one of the mediums meant to mix with oil paints). That’ll make the paint last longer.”

My body felt tight. My hand and arm felt tentative as I moved the brush. My usual free and quick motions, so fluid and mindfully mindless, were caught up in the expense of buying the higher quality paints. The money I used came from the successful kickstarter project I ran in May (thank you, backers!), so it wasn’t money out of my bank account. But, also it was money out of my bank account, no matter the source. Money for groceries has been a concern in recent memory, so I’m pretty careful about every dollar I spend.

I squeezed out some more paint. I needed the blue to be greener. Then I needed it to be glossier. Then I needed it to be lighter. Now slicker. Now smoother and back into blue a little bit more. My brush started moving faster and with more flow and direction. I began feeling the painting.

Still, I felt caution. I took a tub that I had saved from an earlier painting and figured I could use that (white) instead of “wasting” new paint from the new tube. I did this for a bit until I discovered bits of the gummy film that forms on oil paint as it dries. This painting was meant to be smooth, clear, clean. The textures I have worked with in paintings before didn’t have a home in this one. I removed the scummy bits as much as I could and then I had to let go of a lot of wasted paint. The very expensive paint, the mediums, the large quantity of paint was all ruined. I considered saving it (again) for a painting where texture wouldn’t need to be smooth, but dried bits of old paint aren’t something I imagine myself wanting to incorporate to any painting in the future.

Finally, I decided I needed to use the paints. Really use the paints as I wanted to. Use the paint as the painting and the brushes and the wind and sun and REM’s music told me to. It was pretty messy. It was a little frustrating but in an exhilarating way (the painting would get *this* close to feeling as if the layer was finished, I’d see a section I wanted to tweak, and the whole thing would start shifting). At one point I added a color with a grey tone and the whole thing began turning muddy. Bringing it back to clear colors was tough, though it’s almost there. I had to stop because I was running out of time and I’m sure the best thing for the colors will be to take a break, clean everything, and start fresh with the clarity I need.

When I begin again in a couple days, I’ll start free. I’ll know that being paralyzed by the need for caution will block my painting. Something this worthwhile deserves all the wet and sloppy, error-laden, gooey, gloppy, bold and surprising messes I need to make.

setting up at Starbucks

My parents were coming through town from their summer place (they visit a few times off-season to “rough it” a bit) and were there to help me. What a difference it made, having extra hands and eyes to try to get things hung straight and balanced. (Plus, the all-expenses-paid sushi extravaganza after wasn’t too bad…)

I’ll be in town for First Friday tomorrow (May 4). If you would like to check out my paintings and talk with me about them in person, please feel free to email me and I’d be happy to meet you there.

As I was setting up, I taught my father how to take pictures with my phone and he took a lot. Here are some of them:

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Also, I’ve set up a kickstarter project in an attempt to raise funds to buy more paints, pastels, birch panel, and other supplies to make more paintings. I’ve now sold two (yay!) and with shows coming up (shows?) I need to keep making more. If you would like to know more, or make a pledge, you can do that here.

Thanks for all the blog-based support. It helps. :-)

“Breathing. (twitter.)”

Sometimes I see an image in my mind. Sometimes it’s just a strong flow of feelings. Usually, it’s a little of both. In all cases, I never know exactly how a picture will turn out when I start. Sometimes, I have no idea at all what it will be, I just start drawing (or painting).

That’s what I did with this painting. I picked up the leftover nubs of oil pastels and just started scribbling and smearing them all over the birch panel. When I don’t know what I’ll be painting or drawing, that’s what I do. I find just moving my hand with the medium gets things going.

I started with the “just get color on the panel.” I added more color and still nothing was forming. I set it aside and worked on some other things.

A few days later, I had a dm (direct message, a kind of “chatting” on twitter) conversation with @tackie_jackie who suggested I make a painting about the word “breathing.” When I’m overstimulated, overwhelmed, or simply need to get back to my center (and, typically, away from technology), I’ve developed a habit of tweeting the word “Breathing.” and then walking away for a bit. Noticing my breathing has been an important part of my life in the last many months.

So, here are some pictures of the progression of the painting that is now complete. It is called: Breathing. (twitter.)

[youtube:http://youtu.be/ThWgNvV0LNs]

This and several other of my paintings will be hanging at the Starbucks on Congress at High/Free Streets in downtown Portland (Maine) starting on May 2, 2012. I would be thrilled and honored if you would check them out.

how’re things?

The mass email. The holiday greeting letter. The personal update. Is it possible to share a personal update without it feeling disconnected and generic? I’m going to try. I want to let folks know how things are since I’ve shared some pretty tough stuff in the last few years…

The girls are doing great. My 8.5 year old has had some health concerns but they are mostly all resolving without any serious long-term effect. She excels at school academically and socially. She is courageous and sensitive and intuitive and brilliant. Her frame is small (still about 10-15% on the height/weight chart) but her heart and mind are expansive. Her school continues to be amazing. I’ve started teaching a weekly writing class there which has been really fun. More than just fun, teaching has reminded me how much I love (and am good at) working with children.

It’s hard to believe my toddler will be three next week. She is exploring some of what I thought of as normal toddler behavior until 8.5 didn’t explore them (throwing food on the floor, insisting on doing things ALL BY HER SELF, for example). She is also one of the most consistently joyful children I’ve ever known. Full of laughter and… really, “joyful” is the perfect word for her most of the time.

Our new home is perfect. I couldn’t’ve dreamed a better place for us. The physical location is ideal, just a few minutes to downtown, a few minutes to the supermarket, and only a few more minutes to 8.5’s school in Falmouth. We’re also only a few minutes from the Portland Friends Meeting where the girls and I enjoy a great community of good people. I’m working up to the point where I’ll be able to attend meeting even on non-First Day School Sundays, though that might take a bit more time as it will require both girls feeling comfortable being “left downstairs” with the childcare helpers. Most importantly, don’t ever underestimate the impact that a dishwasher and an in-apartment washer and dryer can have on the mental health of a single mother. Our life has improved dramatically in the last couple months simply because of those FANTASTIC new additions.

Work is picking up after a few years of very limited activity. You can read more about that here. I have several meetings lined up in the next two weeks and all of them might lead to new work. If they don’t become new clients, the conversations will definitely be informative and useful for me.

I’ll be showing my pictures (here’s a link to some older ones) at three different places in the next four months. I sold one of my paintings, which has no comparable feeling in my life’s experience. (It feels good!) I bartered with a friend so I have an easel. I have one painting still in progress (it has been since December), another forming in my mind, and now have the space set up so I can get back to work on them.

My former husband (MFH) and his partner are moving this weekend into an apartment that’s about 5 minutes from here. The girls will spend some time over there each week and we will have a more typical “custody” arrangement. MFH’s partner has gone above and beyond the “girlfriend” status in my book as she will be commuting the 1.5+ drive each week to continue her work, in great part so MFH will be closer to his children. She’s good people.

I hope to join the Portland Food Co-op in the next month or so, ever expanding our commitment to sustainably grown foods. I’ll write more about my experience at the pig kill in January, too. I’m also about to post some thoughts I had about this blog space. I know I miss writing. I’m just not sure how or where I’ll be able to meet my writing needs.

Life is just going well. We’re stable. Our foundation is growing and solid. We’re putting in roots. Life is rich and wondrous and ridiculously exhausting and challenging. That’s how things are for us. :-)

opening reception (how it went)

Once again, I had the honor of people visiting me in a space where my pictures are displayed. This reception was at the Dyer Library in Saco, ME and my pictures will be there for the month of February. Ten or so people came to the reception, or about 15 if we count the children (and why not?). I’m never sure how I “do” at these events because it becomes a bit of a blur. I’m part host, part artist, part visitor at a party and I spend a lot of time just breathing and realizing the experience of others can’t be determined by me.

People were generous, kind, and had some beautiful comments and questions. At one point I considered making a sort of more formal welcome statement, but decided to leave it entirely casual.

I still can’t get over the fact that people took time from their schedules to support me and my art. It’s flattering and mystifying and amazing. Here are a couple photos of the display and a couple quickly shot photos of two of my newest pieces.

figures — oil pastels, paper collage on canvass; $165 (sold)
what’s left — oil pastels on birch panel; $235