Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Healing Power of Art

There are times in one's life where the path we have chosen gets derailed unexpectedly and in that moment, after the reality of it has seeped into our being, that we have a choice about where we head further. For me, 10 years ago I had to face retiring from teaching little ones, the career that I held dear, the gift I knew that was my passion, I had to let go of. The next years were a challenge, medically, but slowly and surely, my body began to heal and that excitement of finding my gifts again returned. I wish I could tell you it was an easy path, but it wasn't. There were days I felt that I would never be able to give back, never be able to share anything worthwhile with the world, and never be able to experience the joy of teaching again. 

Thanks to some incredible doctors, incredible therapy, amazing family support, and a total miracle from the big guy upstairs, my body has begun to heal this year so that I am able to once again begin to step back into that world of teaching....and teaching art which is my love. There are days I dream about being able to teach full time, days I miss the kids, their bright minds, but when I am surrounded by adults who are on their own creative path and thrilled to be there, I know that I am right where I am meant to be....and I am beyond blessed. 

Life will not always be fair. For me, 26 surgeries later, I live a miracle life. At one point I was on 14 medications a day and riddled with horrific pain. Today, I am on two, and my spirit is clear. What I have come to understand about physical pain is that I will always live with it, it will always be part of the path I am given, but I am no longer held captive by it. I have found a way with my faith, with loving myself, with being nurturing and knowing my limits, that I am managing my pain well enough. I do have days, days where I can barely crawl out of the bed, but those days, as well, are manageable for now, and I am blessed. 

Being alive in this moment, being able to function in the capacity that I can is a complete miracle and part of that healing process for me has been the gift of art. The act of creativity, the expression of emotion through line, form, shape, pattern, and texture, and the connection I have built with other creatives has been a gigantic healing force in my life. For today, I am full of gratitude to be surrounded by beautiful people and beautiful artworks that calm my spirit, lift me up, and push me toward serenity. 

Each Tuesday I am blessed to work with a gifted group of artists at The Lavretta Art Center. From beginner to advanced, they come eager to learn, eager to step out of their comfort zone, and eager to connect with that part of their spirit that we were created to share....the gift of beauty. I can't say enough how grateful I am to simply be back in an environment where I can share the gift I know is God given with others, and be uplifted by it. Though I mourn, at times, the loss of being able to do this full time, I remain ever faithful that life is not contained by chunks of time but of moments. The smaller moments are what really make an impact on each of us, because as we string them together, we create beautiful change within our hearts, and that is plenty for me. With the nature of my spine, at any moment my discs could shatter, could be displaced, could alter my path once again. But for today, I let go of that fear and embrace my place in this one life. I embrace with zeal, with excitement, with the anticipation that all will be well. 

These pics show the artists in my Tuesday groups. I am so proud of what they bring to the table, what they learn, what they apply, and how joyful they are to share their lives with me. Being able to 'teach' once again means more than anyone will know. For every roadblock or tragedy in life, there will be a path to create hope, joy, purpose, and fulfillment in some capacity if we are willing to seek it out. Depression will not hold me back, chronic pain will not defeat me, and the slow apathy that is their shadow will be surrounded by the light of creativity. I can only wish this for each of you. 

We have a great group of art teachers at Lavretta and the City of Mobile offers the most affordable classes you can find in the city. Consider joining us and don't forget, Open Studio with Ginger Woechan is Tuesday nights from 6-8pm where you can come and pay $5 and paint for 2 hours with instruction! Can't beat that deal ever! Peace friends, seek out the light in your world...

Monday, March 18, 2013

Knowing When You are Finished With A Painting

Ahhhhhh.....the illusive dilemma each artist faces, knowing when one is done. I am really not sure there is a definite answer to that, but there are a few tips, depending on what type of painting an artist is working on, to help reach a place where one's internal voice of being finished is easier to hear. 

Yesterday, I blogged about how to become a better painter and showed the progression of a painting from start to finish, but one I gave myself permission to really make a mess with. It was totally intuitive, no plan in my head, and these types of paintings are a bit harder to learn how to complete than if you were painting a still life or realistic piece I think. To really understand the process from start to finish of the two paintings in this post, you will want to go back and look at the last one which you can find HERE, because the two pieces you see here are the end result of my piece yesterday, unexpectedly. 

Yesterday, I just wanted to play around with acrylics, charcoal, and mark making, which I did. The "finished" piece, I Could Throw Eggs, was basically done, but not one I was over the moon about, it was simply a learning piece. I could have matted it, someone might have loved it, but I didn't and my spirit knew it was not finished. This morning, I woke up, took a deep breath, and cut it in half.  
This picture shows the piece cut, and I had already begun to add new layers as I sipped my coffee....avoiding the brush in coffee morning I had the day before, :)

Although I still was working totally by instinct, I began to identify the sense of faces in both pieces and wanted to work with sketching them in with charcoal, but not so perfectly that it looked like I was just painting a face. I wanted to keep my texture, my marks, the 'weirdness' of each piece, and most importantly, I wanted to keep it rather grungy. 

As I worked with the juicy tidbits, the two brothers began to evolve and the one beauty. I knew then where I was headed and as much as a love to paint, I love even more painting through a story. I started laughing at the pic of the brothers, one with a blue face, one with a red and could only imagine, being in love with the same girl had to be maddening. I also laughed at the beauty, because to some, she may come across as female but to others they may question the gender. I had successfully and playful captured a face with the oddness I had wanted and the two pieces found their voices. 

"ONE BEAUTY" 5" by 5" mixed media on paper

"TWO BROTHERS" 5" by 5" mixed media on paper
Knowing when I was finished was a totally gut instinct for me, but there are parameters beginners can follow to help guide them on their journey of painting enough pieces to help that 'finished' voice be constant. Here are some tips to help one know when one is done when painting a more abstract piece. They are basic, but a start. 

1. Stepping at least 5 feet away, does your 'gut' tell you it is done?
2. Do you like/love the piece or are there any parts that cause you tension or stress?
3. Have you conveyed a message through color, line, texture, pattern, or shape that you were hoping to achieve? If not, keep working. 
4. Do your colors work, are they too muddy? Have you chosen colors that either compliment one another or contrast to create a visually interesting painting?
5. Are there light/dark areas, contrast is important, even when working with a monochromatic color palette? 
6. Does your eye land in the center and stay there? If so, you might want to consider placement of color, object, or line because you want to avoid creating a piece where they eye lands and doesn't move around a painting. Consider visual movement as you paint. 

There are tons of books, blog posts, classes, and rubrics you can find online that help an artist develop that sense of knowing when one is done. If you are painting intuitively, the challenge will be to paint often, even daily, because that sense of being finished will become obvious over time and the more one paints the stronger that sense becomes. 

I love my two pieces now and will let them rest because my knowing sense tells me they are. At this point, artists must love what they create and release it out into the world. There will always be those who love it, who hate it, who don't get it, but when an artist works through a piece and their inner voice says stop...then stop. For my students, I will be creating a rubric to help aid with the 'being finished' issue because I am a firm believe in using that format to learn a framework much faster. In the meantime, I hope some of you love.... "Two Brothers" and "One Beauty" as much as I do. 

Sunday, March 17, 2013

How To Become A Better Painter

Students ask me all the time....."How do I paint like that?" I can only imagine how many painters throughout history asked the same question....repeatedly, to their mentors, their teachers, their friends, in their own heads...they asked it. I can also hear the answer given as if it was a never ending echo that binds all artists. Paint....just go paint and practice, practice, practice. 

Yes, you can take a class, you can practice techniques until you are blue in the face, in fact, I hope you paint yourself with a blue face working on those techniques, it would be fabulous, but seriously, the key to becoming a better painter is to paint, often, daily, and sketch as well. There is one more thing I would add to that as a caveat of sorts.....give yourself the freedom to make a complete mess. 

There are voices we put in our own heads such as, "I can't draw," "I can't paint," I will never be good enough." I do it, everyone does it, but there must come a point in our artistic journey that we have to silence those voices...harshly, and put them to rest. We must replace them with these, every day we seek to create:





But we all must first do the work~

The paintings you see here are me...making a mess out of frustration. I am fascinated by the act of mark making, with fingers, with tools, with objects, with paint. I am also way beyond frustrated with some neighbors as well, so I first gave myself permission to just play with the paints and marks. 

I then gave myself permission to make mud in places...oh lawd, the dreaded mud!

I then imagined throwing eggs on their head. 

And I then covered most of it up and wrote my frustration out as marks. 

"I Could Throw Eggs" 8" by 5" acrylic and charcoal on paper


I have no clue what I will do with this, but that wasn't the point. The point was, I explored color, value, marks, transparency, negative acrylic painting, all the while imagining eggs dripping down the heads of some certain folks who I pray for often, lololol. 

The painting is simply that....a painting of practice and if I am ever to become a better painter I need to paint at least a 1,000 of these or so....

Go forth and make marks friends, paint, write, create, make a mess, and we will all celebrate our crap art together with the knowledge that we have invested time in ourselves and our creative gifts. :) Peace to you friends, so glad we are on this path together, and I promise....no egg throwing your way! 

Friday, March 15, 2013

Art By The Sea Retreat at the Mary C. O'Keefe Cultural Center

Close your eyes....go ahead, and take a deep breath. Now, imagine traveling to the gorgeous Gulf Coast of Mississippi in the quaint Ocean Springs to take a two day art retreat! Sound enticing? April 20-21 will be a magical weekend of creating art, shopping, connecting with new artists, and taking some of the most exciting art workshops being offered this year. The Mary C. O'Keefe Cultural Center will be home to the Art By The Sea Retreat this year and I have the privileged of being one of the 13 instructors teaching workshops there!

I will be teaching two classes outrageously fun classes on Mixed Media and Torn Paper Collage Techniques. We will paint a riot of papers, learn how to alter ephemera, and build patterns on a myriad of paper styles, have a full class paper swap using our newly created papers, and then create a mixed media, torn paper collage using those papers and specialty papers provided in the workshop. If you have been wanting to try you hand and altering papers with acrylics, using new acrylic mediums, and loosening up your creative style then this class would be perfect for you!

There are also so many other great classes as well from subtractive painting, book making, doll making, jewelry, encaustics, painting, and fine glass craft. You can read all about it and register here at The Art By The Sea Retreats or message me with details! I say gather up a group of your best art peeps and head to Ocean Springs for a girls weekend....or guys, ;), of art and high living!