Filed under: catalyst
As always, thank you to all of our visitors and all the encouraging comments you left for us. For those of you who did, thank you for playing along with us.
Ok! Here’s catalyst number seventy-seven:
Create art around a time when you had a lot of turmoil and indecision in your life.
We’re so excited to have Gina Smith as this week’s Guest Artist.
Gina is another perfect example of the kind of artist that creates using different mediums. Painting, mixed media, altered art. Her work is meaningful and beautiful all in one.
Gina’s contributed to several books including Altered Art Circus and she’s published in numerous magazines. She is on design teams. She has designed product. She is truly multi-talented and awe inspiring. It is a joy to have her here.
Here is Gina’s art with this week’s catalyst. You can click on it to see a larger version and more detail.
After sorting through the prompt choices, “Create art around a time when you had a lot of turmoil and indecision in your life” really spoke to me, so much so that I was laughing like a hyena inhaling paint fumes at the irony of this one.
I had already felt like my head “was going to explode” to use a term I had been saying often. Even in a less stressful time, I made a piece of art with a girl with a Dodo-bird egg on her head that said “I have so much art in my head it hurts.”
But now, besides creating- and I am in the process of a novel, have several finished short stories, poetry, non-fiction and memoir in addition to painting and making jewelry and collage every weekend and being in or running several on-line art groups and working full-time traveling about 1,000 miles a week- I also face the prospect of a job change after 15 years with one solid company- a job I thought I would have until retirement which is still a couple decades away unless you all send me thousands of dollars.
I made the decision and announcement about a change seemingly well in advance- and then the economy got even worse after last holiday season. Not surprisingly jobs are scarce in marketing and public relations and in the non-profit sector- where I have spent my entire career. I have been searching with only minimal success for seven months.
On top of this I made the decision to move out of the only state I have ever lived in (the last 40 odd years), and I reconnected two years ago with a college sweetheart who for some crazy reason wants to marry me. This may have been before he saw my art supply stash and Blythe doll collection.
In the midst of this I was dieting and exercising and lost 30+ pounds- stress eating has brought some of them back unfortunately. I also hosted a high school graduation open house for 150 guests this summer-probably while the paint was drying on this work, am sending my youngest child off to college in a few weeks; have had my oldest child move out, back in and back out; buried my 39-year-old niece to cancer, and have myself been in 12 states- that I can remember- in the past year.
And still here I sit in my same job in my same spot, watching the clock tick off- only 27 more days until my big deadline for change when this piece appears on Creative Therapy. Yikes.
11 x 14 deep edge canvas. I first just painted the canvas with a base acrylic color (a blue I mixed up). I don’t always Gesso first.
I first keep in mind where my figure and especially face or any other light spots will be so I don’t go too crazy with background and texture in those spots because I’d just have to cover it up.
I added some daubs of other colors (esp. cream). Then I daubed a brown stamper (finger-size sponge-like thimble) over punchinella (the cast-off from sequins).
I added some strips of sheet music. I use these a lot for trees, legs, fences, weaving, whatever. I used a small circle lid dipped in pink and green paint separately to stamp uniform circles. All of this is still my background. I spend a lot of time on background prep- a’ la Chrysti Hydeck’s “Baby Got Back” techniques in Somerset Studio and Cloth Paper Scissors.
I put on some large areas of brown and then cut through them with the edge of an old hotel room key (or old credit card). Then I put on some Golden molding past. I painted some yellow for brightness over this and anywhere else I wanted some “light.” Lastly, I rubbed a watercolor crayon over the dried and now firm and raised spots of molding paste.
My background is done! Let dry for a day.
Next I lightly sketched out the figure from my head in pencil on the canvas. You can also draw or trace what you want onto tissue paper and actually ‘glue’ the tissue paper right on the canvas with a little gel medium.
As I drew my figure, I considered the textured background I had made so I could take advantage of it for her skirt and anything else I wanted. I added some torn pieces of paper, some with significant words right, by using gel medium to glue them right onto her “skirt.”
For texture, I cut out a piece of printed paper to fit as her bodice, so it would be raised. I set it aside for later until after the painting is done.
Next, I used Golden titan buff acrylic paint to paint in her face and arms. I completely covered over the eyes and features I had sketched. I also painted in her hair at this time. When her face was dry, I used a pencil again to sketch back in the features and then painted them in. Where I don’t have steady hands for tiny work I will use a gel pen, permanent marker, paint marker, water color crayon smoothed out with the wet brush and sometimes I even used a ‘white-out’ correction pen!
At this point I will usually spray on a little workable fixative so I don’t smudge my hard work.
Then I go back an add paint accents wherever I need, and if I’ve covered up anything in my background that I really want, I simply do it again. Lastly, I glued on her bodice with matte medium and used a little graphite pencil to make some outlines and enhances. I always spray again with fixative after graphite.
Before I attached her “brains,” I used the small circle lid to daub around the sides of the canvas in three colors (much more interesting than 1 or 2). Odd numbers rule!
Then I glued a wide ribbon around the sides for accent (and also covers up any boo-boos I might have made- never admit to anything!)
Also, one of my favorite finishes (again before the brains) is to brush on melted beeswax for some nice texture and matte-where-you-want it finish, although you can ‘polish’ the beeswax to a shine with a soft cloth, like an undershirt.
Melt white or yellow beeswax granules on lowest possible heat in an old pan- I bought a cheap granite-ware pan just for this. Using a sponge brush, brush on the beeswax where you want it. You have to work fast. I keep a heat gun/embossing tool handy and a plastic/rubber Pampered Chef pan scraper so I can quickly heat up and scrape off any beeswax that got where I didn’t want it.
Once I am done, I just let the extra beeswax harden in the pan, and put the pan away with my art stuff, to heat up and use again when I need it, adding new granules as necessary.
I let all this dry for several days. I also made good color copies of my work while it was still flat.
Looking back, I wish I had kept her “brains” within the opening I had drawn or made the opening larger, but I had so many good ‘goodies’ I wanted to attach that I couldn’t stop myself. Know when to say when.
I gathered the best of my metal goodies, game pieces, watch parts, light bulb, nuts, bolts, etc., (I save unusual stuff just for this purpose) and tried a layout until I was satisfied. I chose them all for various reasons” I love the compass on the “dead end” game piece- as if I need help finding trouble for myself! I love the spinner on “destiny” as if I get to choose, and it just happens to be pointing at “dead end.” I like that the rubber chicken looks like a hamster on a treadmill. The light bulb says “she meant business,” which signifies I am serious about my creative ideas. Then I attached them. For the wire and heavy pieces, I used a paper piercer to poke holes in the canvas for ease of attachment. I also used this to curl my wires to make them spring-y. Otherwise, I used Tombow glue for metal and even some super glue where necessary.
I had a heart button I wanted to use, but it was red, so I spray-painted it silver, same with the once-yellow rubber chicken.
Don’t forget to sign and date your work! A friend hand-carved a rubber stamp for me, so I never have to worry about a messy signature. I stamped it in black and then went over it with a Sharpie. More fixative. You can also spray on glossy acrylic finisher if you want it somewhere.
Voila! Hang it up!
Thank you so much Gina; we’re so very very honored.
Here are some interpretations of the catalyst from members of our team.
When I considered this catalyst, the image of an empty soda can with a group of daisies in it came to mind. It’s a touchstone image in my head from my college days. It was a simple gift given by a friend, but it is an image that has always stuck in my mind for its symbolism of a particular time, particular resiliency of spirit, and a celebration of simple things. As I got ready to start this piece and had “buy flowers” and “buy a can of soda” on my to do list, I stopped for a moment and asked myself “what was the angst surrounding these flowers?” “Why is this image coming to mind in response to this question?” Those years seem so long ago, the angst of then mellowed and softened by ensuing time, and the problems and moments of turmoil and identity and creative temperament that formed the undercurrent of those days seem far removed from the undercurrents of today. As I stopped and asked myself what was at the heart of it and why that image came to mind for this catalyst, however, the time suddenly filled in, a landscape of young adulthood, and I realized that it’s all related, all connected, and all part of the journey.
We had a plan. A system. Everything in place. Drew worked retail at the music shop full time and taught part time. He made this choice because of me pestering him to. I was afraid of living without “normal” paychecks and relying on private teaching income. He did it for me. For years. Then one day, all that changed. He went to work and learned that the store was closing. We had to let go of our system and our plan. Not only were we losing the full time pay, we were losing a place for him to teach privately. For years we toyed with the idea of him teaching full time. But it was scary. It was unknown. It was unreliable. Where would he teach? It was all up in the air and unattainable. Or so we thought. Looking back, going through the store closing was the best thing that could have ever happened to us. Sure, it has been stressful. Sure it’s a lot of work. But I couldn’t be more proud of Drew than I am today. He is a successful business all on his own. He built his skill, he built his reputation, he built his business up all on his own. Looking back, the only thing that was ever for sure was that Drew is the kind of man who when he says he will provide and be the man of the house, he will. He’s never let us down. It’s one thing to love and cherish your husband. I do. But equally importantly, I respect and admire him.
I wanted to convey on my layout that my husband was more than just the “Sole Provider” and “Man of the House”. I wanted to convey in more than just my journaling that he is the provider for care of our heart and souls as well. To do this, I created titles that would sit behind the main title using my Cricut. It gives a subtle, yet striking effect when you want to convey two meanings.
My teenage years were a period of indecision. I went through o a serious of unpleasant moments I don´t even like to remember. I remember how I used to have colorful clothes and how happy and full of energy I was, but I also was eager to know about everything without having anyone bothering or limiting me. In this search, I experienced a lot f conflicts, especially with my parents. Besides that, I was confused about my future.
Searching for happiness, Adventure, Fun and Love, Going my own selfish way, Thinking I had the Truth, I Just found loneliness and confusion. I´ll wait for another time, A time when there´s the certainty of knowing what I want and what I don´t want from life!
One of the major decisions that I’ve made in my life was when I was 18 years old. I made the drastic decision drop out of college. I attended LSU for just a few months when I started skipping classes and eventually dropped out completely. It was a big decision to make, but ultimately, I believe it was the right one to make. I felt, at the time, that the classes I was taking and the schedule that I had wasn’t worth the trouble because I didn’t feel like it was the right path for me. Looking back now, I have absolutely no regret in quitting school. I feel as if the only reason I went was to prove that I could to everyone around me. I didn’t do it for me, and I realize that it’s not something that I wanted to do at all.
As I mentioned a few weeks ago, here’s another entry about Teach For America. It was, by far, one of the most troubled and tumultuous times in my life. I took this photo from our summer school and added the journaling on it. The journaling is a blog entry I did during the year I taught.
Memory is selective.
There’s a reason we forget things. Human resilience has been tested millions of times in history. Tons of women have told me that if we didn’t forget, no one would have more than one child. Well, I haven’t had any babies yet and can’t tell you what labor pain feels like or how quickly I might forget it. But I do know that I’ve been known to distort the past as things change or as time passes.
The last few weeks have been so difficult that I decided, this time, I want to keep a record so that I can’t fool myself when I choose to look back upon these memories. Think of this as a time capsule. Something for me to lock up and put away, only to be opened when I begin to forget. Something for my friends to show me when I start saying things like, “Oh, it wasn’t that bad.”
The fact is, it is that bad. It’s hard. It’s frustrating. At times, it’s heart-wrenching. It’s infuriating. Sometimes it’s funny. But it’s constantly overwhelming.
When I decided to quit my six-year job and change career paths, I knew that my life wouldn’t be the same. I knew that teaching would eat more of my free time than investment banking ever did. I also knew that I’d feel it was worth it. So I assume the big question now would be: Is it?
Is it worth it?
Honestly? I can’t tell you yet. All I can say so far is that I underestimated how difficult this is. Getting up at the crack of dawn, grading on the train to school, climbing 98 steps eleven times a day, four to six of which includes leading a class of 28. Spending every moment on my feet. Having to think about what I’m saying all the time. Having my incompetence stare me so squarely in the face.
My life has changed alright: I get up when it’s dark, go to school, teach, stay after school to grade, come home when it’s dark, prepare for the next day’s lessons, call parents, eat dinner and crash in bed. Every single day. I dream about my students. I dream about photocopying onto overhead paper. I dream about lizards eating me. I spend my weekends planning for the week. Preparing charts for my room. Writing papers for my graduate classes. Buying prizes for my students. Photocopying. And sleeping.
My only moments of peace come on Sunday mornings where my amazing husband and I go to the local bagel shop at 8:30 and read the New York Times for two hours. Two hours of heaven. Two hours of not thinking about all the things that go wrong in my room. Two hours of not worrying about how the next day’s lessons will go. Two hours of not feeling so incredibly incompetent.
I do love my students. Even the most mischievous ones. I can’t help but care about them. I want to laugh at their ingenuity even when it disrupts my class. But my tolerance and patience has dwindled almost to nothing. It’s gotten so bad that when I see people chewing gum anywhere, I have to work extra hard to suppress the urge to yell, “spit it out!” I fix everyone’s grammar constantly. I can’t stand it when people are being disrespectful at a meeting by having their own side conversation. I have heard every excuse and more as to why homework is not complete. I have listened to parents hollering at their children in front of my eyes. Much to my despair, I have made students cry.
But I have also made them smile. The magic of a student understanding something I’ve taught is immeasurable. Just like the drain when a student refuses to stop calling out loud in class or refuses to stop being disruptive.
So many things happen each day. I always come home with the urge to write, knowing I’m going to want to remember these days.
But I don’t write.
Days pass, I forget. My memory knows I won’t survive it if I keep remembering, so it helps me out. Maybe it’s better that way.
Maybe some things are best forgotten.
I’ve wondered if I made the wrong decisions at that time. Should I have gotten engaged? Should I have done my degree course in Australia instead? Was it wrong to have let my heart’s voice get louder than the voice in my head? I try to be someone who believes that ‘what’s done is done.’ But sometimes when the decisions I made then and am living with right now seem so wrong, I can’t help but wonder what could have been.
My response to a time of turmoil and indecision is reflected in this window. This is the window through which one of my daughters would leave home and be gone, sometimes for days. One time, she was gone for six months. My indecision was whether to find her and bring her home, or wait for her to come home on her own. She was 17 years old. And she did call. It was a turning point in our relationship. This is a time that isn’t easy for us to talk about even now as she watches her 17 year old son.
The background fabric represents the net of safety that was in place for her. The tree is a Chinese Elm, and it was bigger than life in those days. The piece is layered and quilted, with raw edged and lines a bit askew.
Now it’s your turn: show us your therapeutic art around “Create art around a time when you had a lot of turmoil and indecision in your life.” This one is extra-therapeutic. I urge you to give it a try. It can be any form of art as long as it speaks to you.
Leave us comments with your work and you will qualify for the RAK we offer to a random participant. If you don’t have a community or blog where you upload photos, you can upload them on our flickr group.
Remember, this is not a competition. If your art makes you feel even a bit better at the end, you’ve won.
Until next week, enjoy each and every moment.
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