Sunday, September 26, 2010

Art at the Murray House

A fellow artist and friend, Connie Hozvicka, wrote a blog the other day about what it means to hit the big time as an artist. The thought perplexed me. For months I have tossed that concept around, chewed on it, tip toed around it, and occasionally given it up for dead. Alas, it would never leave me, and then I read a blog about the exact same thing and I knew, like I was breathing, that it was something I must come to grips with. Some greater force in this crazy artistic world knew I needed an answer to that big time question so I threw in the towel and decided to really pin my thoughts down about it. During the pinning, I was invited to go cut and paste with some ladies in their 80's and 90's, and I oh, so couldn't pass that up......idea on hold yet again.

The Murray House is a retirement center in the heart of Mobile on lovely Dauphin Street. I have passed it many times, but never had the opportunity to visit, until Jami Buck rang my phone and invited me. Her dear friend Annette Simmons, who is sister to a dear friend of mine, Mary Beth Culp, lives there and Jami had thought the idea of doing an art class at the center would be grand. I was thrilled and suggested we do an art party for Annette, work with collage, and we both got excited. Now, we knew the ladies would be in their upper years, some of them artists in their earlier days, but we actually had no idea, other than Annette, who we would play with. I say play because art is always play to me, or it should be at least. 

When we arrived, we had met our four ladies, which turned to six, which turned to seven, which ended up at nine! And, rather than freak out, we rolled with the punches, shared supplies, and had a lovely time with these ladies. They all, well into their 80's and 90's still had their wits about them, were quite hilarious to be honest, and had a come back for every joke we threw at them. They loved the color palettes we worked with and some of the images brought back happy memories for them, of pets, and family, and things they didn't like. They told a bit about their occupations, Flora Mary was an elementary school principal at Mary B. Austin and Annette, who was an occupational therapist for children, was also an artist. It was just a great experience sharing art with them and here is why....

That hitting the big time question came full circle to me during this event. With total clarity, at least for me, I realized that hitting the big time as an artist was in this moment. It wasn't about being 'discovered', selling a piece for a ton of money, getting into what some would say is 'the best' gallery. It also wasn't about me getting my name out there or about me trying to network or sell my art. All of that, which is necessary for a professional artist, is trivial to me really. What means the most, what tells me that I have hit the big time as an artist was the look on Lurlee's face when she clapped, and with teary eyes, said, " This is so much fun, I had so much fun." Yes folks, clap your hands, I have hit it big! 
Thanks Jami for this photo, love it!

After we left, we learned that many of those women were the movers and shakers of their time in Mobile. Mary Abbey Berg, who now has a senior center named after her,  was not thrilled at the temperature, but she was pleased with her finished piece, especially the use of the word "fearless." I hope and pray that when I am their age I still feel fearless and am able to create art in some capacity. But more than that, it would mean the world to me if I am in a place like the Murray House, to have some young, whipper snapper artists like me and Jami show up with paper, scissors, glue, and paint ready to make art. 

Annette added the phrase "Don't Be Afraid" to her collage

Ms. Sullivan was a hoot, kept us on our toes.

Their finished pieces, which I think are beautiful!

Flora Mary thought out of the box, loved her!

Can you tell they were loving this?

Annette's finished collage

Mary Abby Berg's finished collage
I have seen with my own eyes how our elderly folks are forgotten and it's heartbreaking. The Murray House seems full of love and it's clear that they have families who visit and love them, which is rare for so many their age. If you are an artist, I hope you would consider hitting the big time with me and volunteer at a senior center. We will be there one day won't we? 

Monday, September 20, 2010

Collage Tuesdays Start Back!

Yippie! Collage Tuesdays have returned for the next seven weeks and this line up looks to be great fun! Unlike the last six weeks, the focus this go round will be on working on projects together, step by step, with pre-selected materials. That way, I take the stress out of deciding what to make and help you concentrate on the techniques. You will get a workshop kit each class, and by the end of the evening, you will be leaving with a finished work of art! How cool is that?

Classes will be tentatively as follows:
9/21 Tinting Photos and Mixed Media (You will learn how to tint black and white photographs with watercolor paints, use torn paper and ephemera layers, combine text and distress your canvas.) 8" by 8" canvas on board

9/28 Box Board Tags...You're It!  - Tags are all the rage these days! You will use rubber stamps, ephemera, layered papers, and text to create unique tags for special occasions and holidays. At the end of the class, you will leave with five tags, Christmas, Birthday, Wedding, Thinking of you, and a personalized one. You will also take 5 box board tags home to customize later. 

10/05 Trash Divas - you will learn how to use painted and torn newsprint, along with painted and patterned paper to create you own, one of a kind, diva.

10/12 - Found Poetry Collage - You will learn how to use found poetry using magazine articles or text from vintage children's books to create a translucent, layered collage in a single color palette.

10/12 and 10/19
Art Journal I and II- You will learn how to use box board to construct a hand made journal. This class is in two parts. Part one, we will measure, cut, gesso, construct, and create our book and cover. Part two, we will use various mixed media techniques to create several art journal pages, discover great online resources and forums for art journals, and delve into the book, Collage Lab. For anyone who ever wanted to begin an art journal, this class will be perfect for you!

10/26 Angels Among Us - With Christmas season around the corner you will learn how to create a luminous collage with angels. I will show you how to use text, acrylics, and layers as well as photograph your collage for publishing as a Christmas card if you chose. You will leave with your collage and your image on disc, suitable for printing.

Each class is $25. If you choose to attend one, then you will not need supplies. If you are interested in all 7, then the cost is $20/class, $140 total,  payable up front the first night and you will want to purchase a round tip brush and your own Mod Podge in matte or gloss for home use.

Looking forward to cutting and pasting with you, :) Ardith

Sunday, September 19, 2010

21 Secrets - Best Art Journal Workshop EVER!

Every now and then an opportunity comes along that can't be missed, not for all the candy corn in October! 21 Secrets - An Art Journal Playground is being offered by Dirty Footprint Studios, which is home to one of my all time favorite inspirational artists.

If you are an art journal artist, one who MUST, I mean MUST, express yourself artistically through an art journal and are looking for new ideas and inspirations then this workshop is the pot of  gold at the end of your rainbow friend.  21 cutting edge artists, many of whom have been showcased in Somerset Studio, which I believe is like the holy grail for artists like us, will be teaching a workshop. That means, you get 21 different workshops, how cool is that? Three of my favorites, which honestly, they are all pretty great, are Connie Hozvicka, Hanna Andersson, and Lis Hoffman.

Now, you know how much I love mail art don't you? Lis Hoffman, author of the blog, Dandelion Seeds and Dreams,  will be teaching about altering postcards as part of your journal entries. Her blog is lovely, and I could spend many moments reading and daydreaming there.

Can't tell you how many friends have sent me the link to Hanna Andersson, author of iHanna's blog She is by far the queen of all things mixed media I believe. Got tissue paper, don't we all? She will teach techniques about how to use tissue paper as textures, layers, and basically everything in between, so looking forward to that one!

And....the host of 21 Secrets, Connie Hozvicka, artist extraordinaire at Dirty Footprint Studios, is here to teach how to get those elusive ideas that swim around in our heads at night onto paper, you know the ones.....that drive us crazy because we are afraid to go there. Yep, she teaches how to be Fearless, that in a nutshell is enough to sign me up...period.

Those are just three of my favorites, but there are 18 more, holy cow moly! You can read about all 21 HERE and get the juicy details about this workshop. Sign up begins tomorrow, the 20th. And why am I shamelessly promoting a workshop I am not teaching? Oh that's easy, because I believe this one is the "#1 Workshop NOT to miss!" out of all of them. And, on a more exciting note, this blog enters me into the drawing to get this workshop for free, along with one of you, so I am all in for sharing the love friends, cross your fingers!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Beautiful Mobile Alabama!

Bienville Square Fountain
Mobile, Alabama has got to be one of the most lovely cities I have ever seen. As a child, all I remember about it was lots and lots of pine straw, nettles that gave me a rash, the humidity, and dirt. Most likely that stemmed from growing up in the country rather than the city, but as I grew older I began to notice the quiet beauty of our town, especially spring when the azaleas and hydrangeas were blooming. When I decided to turn my interests to art, I marveled at the landmark paintings done by other artists because I had never noticed how beautiful our city really was, until I saw it through their eyes. I began to take a closer look at our town, especially the landmarks that were important to me and quickly realized  that I had missed out on appreciating Mobile for what it has to offer, and decided it was time to honor it with my own paintings.

Thank goodness I had taken lots of photographs in my day because I needed them as references for each landmark. I guess there was part of me that found Mobile's images captivating, so I ruffled through several and decided that Bienville Fountain would be a must, along with the Cathedral. Bienville Square is home to our fountain, which is actually home to many folks who love to enjoy a tasty meal under the canopy of the oaks. Often, there is live music at the square and always someone or something interesting to look at. Not to mention quite friendly squirrels and many years ago a most unusual fire hydrant.  It is considered part of the heart of downtown, and a big heart it has.

Bienville Square Fire Hydrant

The Cathedral is a grand church, with glistening, gold crossed tops that overlooks Cathedral Square and its patrons. Lots of art happenings goes on at the square because Space 301, The Mobile Arts Council, and The Paper Wasp all call the square home. The Spot of Tea rests in between them, is quite famous for its strawberry tea, and tourists and locals alike seem to congregate in the square, all in the protective shadows of the Cathedral.

The Cathedral at the Square

View From Space 301

Wintzell's is a famous restaurant on Dauphin Street, right across the street from the Cathedral Square Gallery where you can see these paintings, is known for offering some of the best oysters found in the South. While you eat, you can spend time conversing with friends, or simply reading the thousands of iconic sayings on the wall amidst the pictures of famous folks who had graced the place. Ben Franklin would have been proud.  The Bike Shop, or Dauphin Street Taqueria, is a local bar/eatery with an authentic, double-decked bus parked right outside. If the bus isn't enough to peek your interest, then the fish tacos must. Hands down, best fish tacos I have ever eaten.

The Bike Shop on Dauphin

It's Miller Time at Wintzell's

When it comes to quaint stops, Bienville Books and the Haunted Book Loft has got to be top on the list. My favorite bookstore of all time, offers vintage and hard to find books at prices you wouldn't believe if I told you. They also offer this wonderful t-shirt that says, "I Read Dead People," which makes me laugh every time I see it.

Bienville Books on Dauphin at Royal

So far,  I have about 15 pieces in my series with plans to finish it up with 30 paintings showcasing the unique beauty and attractions our city has to offer. My next blog  will focus on the beautiful Spring Hill College campus which is near and dear to our family's heart. Until then, if you have friends looking to visit Mobile, share this blog with them. I have included several links they might find helpful. You can view all of my landmark paintings HERE and you can purchase prints of them through my Ardithian Arts Etsy Shop. Mobile, a beautiful city where you hardly ever meet a stranger. Just ask Henry, King of Clark's Gas Station.

Henry, King of Clark's Station

Saturday, September 11, 2010

September 11th A Black Letter Day

Twin Tanks, Twin Towers   watercolor/mixed media

I woke up this morning with the memory of the events of September 11th fresh on my mind and found it a melancholic way to wake. Not sure if I dreamed about it or if the media coverage had simply saturated my psyche, but it was on my mind and heart. This past week I chose to paint an image that I have loved dearly for many years, and am now quiet fond of. 

In 1999, I was fortunate enough to go to New York to be on the teacher's advisory panel for Scholastic. Our meetings were held at the top of one of their buildings and I found myself wishing I could stand on their rooftop indefinitely, because the view was simply amazing. I had my camera with me, the kind that had the panoramic mode which took wide photos, so the clicking began and I came home with two photos of the New York skyline. At the time, I didn't realize how meaningful they would be, and honestly, I wish they were simply shots of the city, not shots of a skyline that is no more.  Nevertheless, I came home, filed the pictures away, and regarded my only visit to New York quite fondly. 

September 11th, 2001 was a red letter day for the entire world, or should I say a black one. I was teaching 3rd grade at Collier Elementary, and the word began to spread through the halls. Those of us who had  televisions could only turn them on with the mute button because we were asked not to tell the students about it until we knew more.  Mute was more than enough because those images screamed with more pain and emotion than any commentator could have ever shared. My student teacher at time explained to me that his mother lived a block away from the towers, and his face paled. 

I told him to go and make some phone calls, which he did, but he returned with no news and chose to continue teaching despite the fears I knew were racing through his head. I felt it was a testament of faith and courage on his part. It took three days before he learned the fate of his mother. Three days of not knowing, praying, hoping, but not knowing. Three days in the midst of our countries darkest hours. His mother did make it out, but the fear of all that ensued after that day was palpable and the days that followed were simply dark. 

I often wonder about the families that lost loved ones that day. I often wonder about the sheer number of losses we suffered. According to New York Magazine, here are a few of those numbers:

The initial numbers are indelible: 8:46 a.m. and 9:02 a.m. Time the burning towers stood: 56 minutes and 102 minutes. Time they took to fall: 12 seconds. From there, they ripple out.
  • Total number killed in attacks (official figure as of 9/5/02): 2,819
  • Number of firefighters and paramedics killed: 343
  • Number of NYPD officers: 23
  • Number of Port Authority police officers: 37
  • Number of WTC companies that lost people: 60
  • Number of employees who died in Tower One: 1,402
  • Number of employees who died in Tower Two: 614
  • Number of employees lost at Cantor Fitzgerald: 658
  • Number of U.S. troops killed in Operation Enduring Freedom: 22
  • Number of nations whose citizens were killed in attacks: 115
  • Ratio of men to women who died: 3:1
  • Age of the greatest number who died: between 35 and 39
  • Bodies found "intact": 289
  • Body parts found: 19,858
  • Number of families who got no remains: 1,717
  • Estimated units of blood donated to the New York Blood Center: 36,000
  • Total units of donated blood actually used: 258
  • Number of people who lost a spouse or partner in the attacks: 1,609
  • Estimated number of children who lost a parent: 3,051
  • Percentage of Americans who knew someone hurt or killed in the attacks: 20
  • FDNY retirements, January–July 2001: 274
  • FDNY retirements, January–July 2002: 661
  • Number of firefighters on leave for respiratory problems by January 2002: 300
  • Number of funerals attended by Rudy Giuliani in 2001: 200
  • Number of FDNY vehicles destroyed: 98
  • Tons of debris removed from site: 1,506,124
  • Days fires continued to burn after the attack: 99
  • Jobs lost in New York owing to the attacks: 146,100
  • Days the New York Stock Exchange was closed: 6
  • Point drop in the Dow Jones industrial average when the NYSE reopened: 684.81
  • Days after 9/11 that the U.S. began bombing Afghanistan: 26
  • Total number of hate crimes reported to the Council on American-Islamic Relations nationwide since 9/11: 1,714
  • Economic loss to New York in month following the attacks: $105 billion
  • Estimated cost of cleanup: $600 million
  • Total FEMA money spent on the emergency: $970 million
  • Estimated amount donated to 9/11 charities: $1.4 billion
  • Estimated amount of insurance paid worldwide related to 9/11: $40.2 billion
  • Estimated amount of money needed to overhaul lower-Manhattan subways: $7.5 billion
  • Amount of money recently granted by U.S. government to overhaul lower-Manhattan subways: $4.55 billion
  • Estimated amount of money raised for funds dedicated to NYPD and FDNY families: $500 million
  • Percentage of total charity money raised going to FDNY and NYPD families: 25
  • Average benefit already received by each FDNY and NYPD widow: $1 million
  • Percentage increase in law-school applications from 2001 to 2002: 17.9
  • Percentage increase in Peace Corps applications from 2001 to 2002: 40
  • Percentage increase in CIA applications from 2001 to 2002: 50
  • Number of songs Clear Channel Radio considered "inappropriate" to play after 9/11: 150
  • Number of mentions of 9/11 at the Oscars: 26
  • Apartments in lower Manhattan eligible for asbestos cleanup: 30,000
  • Number of apartments whose residents have requested cleanup and testing: 4,110
  • Number of Americans who changed their 2001 holiday-travel plans from plane to train or car: 1.4 million
  • Estimated number of New Yorkers suffering from post-traumatic-stress disorder as a result of 9/11: 422,000
They are humbling to me. My life changed, along with so many others around the world. But for each of the numbers above, there is a life that was altered in ways that I can't fathom because I am blessed to be where I am. I remember the gas lines, the grocery stores having empty shelves, the images played over and over and over. But what I never experienced was the terror of hearing, of receiving the news that my loved one was gone. Gives me chills just thinking about it.

I recalled the photograph I took back in 1999 and realized the importance of the image, at least for me. And as I began my landmark series I knew that would be the first that I would paint. It was my way of simply honoring the lives, the loss, the heroes, and our way of life. That painting is at the top of this page and a few others, from Mobile, are below.  The New York one is the only one not from Mobile in the series. I plan on spending some time today praying for all those families who find waking up on this day to be one they would rather sleep through. May God be with them and you.

Bienville Square Fountain in Mobile, watercolor/mixed media
St. Joseph's at Spring Hill College, Mobile, Al. 
You can see all of the images in my Landmark Series here.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

How Do You Start Your Day?

Biological clocks fascinate me a bit. It doesn't matter how tired I am, at 7am my internal clock goes off with a bing and a bang! I could lay there and fight it, but it does me no good. Rolling out of bed to brew the cup of Joe that I have only come to appreciate in this last year, is a pattern I have found myself in, and can I share a secret? I LOVE it!

Not the coffee, that is more of a 'like', but the routine, of waking, seeing a new day with all its possibilities, and embracing it thoughtfully, quietly, makes my spirit content. Often I pray, often I read through my art journal, often I write down my thoughts, but ALWAYS I breathe. I breathe deeply and slowly. I breathe in God and out everything else. I breathe in courage and out fear. I breathe in peace and out drama. I breathe in the love I have for my hubs and family, and breathe out love into the world. And then I step forward into my day. 

So tell do you start yours?

And as always, I must include art into my day so this morning, after all my breathing and drinking Joe, the beauty of the ivy that surrounded me made me think. God must love green, in fact, I wonder if it's his favorite color. But, it's not mine, and I couldn't leave well enough alone. A wild hair got the better of me and I chose  to give one green leaf a little "personality". Even bugs and critters and birds need a little art in their world too, so I gave them some. May your day be filled with beauty today, even in the darkest moments.