"The proper use of imagination is to give beauty to the world..." Lin Yu-T'ang

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Painted Hearts Tutorial

For Valentine's Day this year, I decided to use a technique I learned in an art class and combine it with my painting and collage to create some special one-of-a-kind Valentine's. I was pleased with the result. Here's what I did:

First begin by taking a sheet of drawing paper and using different size pencils and both a fine tip and bold tip black sharpie (or other pen) write your name, a word or a phrase over and over in different directions and different sizes until the paper is completely covered. Using different size pencils such as, 2H, HB, B, 2B, 4B, 6B, will give your lines different weights and qualities, light and dark, thick and thin lines. Don't forget the edges, make sure those are covered too.

Once you have completely covered your drawing paper with your writing and have a wide variety of lines, turn the paper over and measure off a grid of 2" squares. Cut the squares.

You will now have a pile of 2 inch squares with very interesting marks on them. Take a look at them and pick out the ones you really like.

Glue them onto a piece of 14" X 17" Bristol. You can use Mod Podge, YES Glue or Matte Medium. Don't try to glue each individual square, spread a bit of glue onto the Bristol and then place the squares. Try to get all of the squares lined up evenly together, but if you have a bit of variation in them because your cutting wasn't exact, don't worry, just get the squares as close as you can. Just don't overlap any squares. If you have any squares over the edges of the Bristol like I did, no worries, just trim off the excess, but do go all the way to the edges. After you get all of your squares glued onto the Bristol, let it dry thoroughly before going on to the next step.

The next step is where we get into painting and collage. I really get into this step and usually forget to take pictures. What you're basically doing is adding layers of paint and paper to your composition.  Use a variety of fluid paint, which is transparent and will allow your marks underneath to show through and heavy bodied acrylic paint which will be opaque. I like to start with fluid paint and collage paper and then go on to heavy bodied paint. I then go back and forth until I really like what I see. I also used a variety of printed paper that I like as well as some transparent, hand-made origami paper (the green above) and tissue paper which is transparent. The origami paper is my favorite because you can see the fibers of the paper which makes an interesting texture. Let it dry in between layers so things don't get smeary or muddy. When you have as many layers as you want let it dry completely.

While your composition is drying, take either another piece of bristol or an old file folder like I did (I have so many old file folders and I like to make use of them, rather than throw them out!) Make a stencil by tracing a heart shape and cutting it with an exact knife. When you are finished and your composition is completely dry, float your stencil over your composition to find something you like. Turn your paper around and keep looking. Once you find something you like, place your mask and trace in pencil around the stencil.

Now, cut out your heart.

Now you can add some stamped words, markings in ink or make other finishing touches.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

What Being a Care-Giver Taught Me About Self-Care, Part 2

Many times we tend to categorize self-care into physical things such as eating right, drinking enough water, getting some exercise and getting proper rest. When my daughter became ill, I came to understand that self-care is way more than just taking care of my physical body, it's taking care of the whole me. It is not only keeping your body healthy but it is also re-filling your energy stores, which is totally unique to each individual. So, self-care can include things that others may not think of as self-care, such as, doing absolutely nothing, lying on your back in the grass and watching the clouds waft across the sky, sketching or painting, working puzzles, playing with your dog or petting your cat, taking a leisurely, slow walk or going for a quick run, watching a favorite TV show or movie, playing a game. Whatever it is that re-juices you.

Years ago, I was talking with a woman once about how we get ready in the mornings and she told me that she "wastes time". "I make a cup of coffee and then I just wander around my house and eventually end up looking out the window," she told me. I was fascinated with the calmness with which she approached her day. Although, I did take some time to journal, my mornings at the time were filled with getting ready for work and trying to get myself out the door in time not to be late or forget anything that I needed that day. I eventually made time for "wasting time" in my mornings and have felt calmer and more put together since. It has became my favorite part of the day. I would get up,  make a cup of tea, sit at my dining room table, look out the window and watch the hawks soar in the sky overhead. They were so beautiful and I am still enthralled with hawks when I see them so gracefully riding the air currents. What I learned was this: What my friend called "wasting time", was anything but. It was, in fact, slowing down enough to notice what is right there and be able to appreciate it. It was focusing my attention rather than just mindlessly diving into the day and being carried away with it. In my morning times, I learned gratitude first for what was around me, and secondly for what I was experiencing within me. I inevitably developed a practice around my morning times that strengthened me, brought me peace and helped me to accept life on its own terms.

When my daughter became ill, I kept up my practice. I realized that everything I had learned and become aware of over the years had become something I could rely on, like a lifeboat. I had a few little tips and dips, some whitewater thrills and chills and I certainly got soaked a few times, but my boat was sturdy and my tools reliable. I was safe and could navigate through the whitewater utilizing all the skills I had acquired over years and years of practicing noticing and allowing myself to become enthralled with my experience. It can be challenging to say the least to notice the beauty around you when someone you love is ill and needs you to take care of them. The anxiety, fear, exhaustion, grief and endless doctor appointments can really get the best of you if you let them. But when I practiced noticing the beauty and kindness around me, I could calm down and find the peace inside me. The tumultuousness of our situation seemed less so because I wasn't panicking.

I noticed something else. What I needed changed, from day to day, with the seasons, with my cycles, and even moment to moment. I could go from just wanting to take some time out to read a book to needing to go for a vigorous walk in the span of 30 minutes. I was becoming more aware of my energy and how it waxed and waned. The stress of what I was carrying and all of the emotion that goes along with it, required even more of my attention if I was going to navigate through it all and have some semblance of me at the end. In other words, the white water got rougher and the rocks got sharper. I needed to be on my game. I needed to focus my time and attention in order to do what needed to be done. I took it as an opportunity to practice all that I had learned and allow the situation to point out my blind spots so I could fine tune my skills. {Big fear here! Who wants their blind spots pointed out? But if the situation is going to do that anyway, why not go willingly rather than kicking and screaming. I'd rather not have the extra pain and embarrassment!} The first thing I did was accept the situation, commit to doing whatever needed to be done for my daughter's recovery. Then I realized was that I couldn't do it alone. I needed a team and I needed to know who was on my team as well as who wasn't. I decided to accept any and all help that was available. We were fortunate to have a great medical team and that really put my worries at ease.

I continue to practice and learn about self care. There is no arriving because of the moment to moment change. It is learning to constantly adjust and try new things. It is learning to know thyself. It is learning to stay open to life's experiences no matter what they bring. It is learning to express and release the full spectrum of emotion. It is knowing that there are no "bad" or "negative" emotions and that we as human beings are made to feel and experience the full range of emotion and learn how to handle them. It is saying YES to life and all that it has to offer in the face of fear. It is embracing love and kindness when they cross your path. It is learning to see. It is ultimately accepting and truly loving yourself.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Inspiration Saturday

Seen at my one of my favorite coffee places

TONS of inspiration in these mood boards.

I don't know quite why (although comedians are my favorite people), but I'm addicted to this. Wanna get some coffee?

Amazing and beautiful

The daily routines of these writers

What to do when you don't feel quite good enough This is brilliant!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014


Saturday's dark and rainy morning was the perfect day for brunch downtown. So, D and I got ourselves up and outside in our boots to go to what has become one of my favorite places for breakfast/brunch, Della Fattoria. We haven't gone out for brunch in a long time, so it felt special.  This particular place is special too. It's family owned and they grow all of their own food on their ranch in a rural area outside of town. The atmosphere is rustic and elegant at the same time and the service is excellent.

Our view across the street. I just loved how the white lights from the chandelier inside the restaurant were reflecting so beautifully in the window due to the dark and rainy outside.

The best crab bennie I have ever had! Instead of english muffins it was served on their homemade bread instead. And if that wasn't treat enough, the owner came over to talk to me and when I told her how much I was enjoying the crab (isn't crab better when it's dark and raining outside? Maybe that's the Pacific Northwest girl in me!) she let me know that they had gone over to pick it up fresh from fishermen the previous afternoon. Suddenly my perspective flipped! I wasn't just simply eating breakfast in a nice restaurant. I was partaking in a group endeavor that involved someone raising chickens and gathering eggs, someone else made this delicious, earthy bread, another went to the fishermen who had caught the crab to bring it back to the restaurant, a talented chef turned it into a creative, mouth-watering experience on a plate and the whole thing was brought to me by a kind, caring person who made sure I had everything I needed! I know this happens every time I order a meal. But you can't always put the names and faces to it like I could thisorning. The backstory of the creativity and care that went into preparing a meal made our whole experience that morning even more special. I know this happens every time I order a meal. But you can't always put the names and faces to it like I could this morning. It was so much more personal and so I appreciated it that much more. We felt so nurtured and cared for after that meal. So fed.

We celebrated afterward with a short walk in the rain with my happy umbrella! We have needed the rain so badly, being in the middle of a drought.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Beautiful People

The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.
― Elisabeth K├╝bler-Ross

Sunday, February 9, 2014

What Being A Care Giver Taught Me About Self Care

"To live is so startling it leaves little time for anything else."  ~Emily Dickinson 

Back in November of last year, I wrote in my journal: 

I'm experiencing the restlessness, irritability and general malaise resulting from inadequate self-care and lack of creativity in my days. I can do well for a little while but then I find myself tired and getting caught up into just doing work and caring for D. At that point, I find myself slipping into that lack of creativity cycle and then the angst-y, irritable, frustration/depression kicks in. Ugh. 
I get so frustrated with taking care of D. Her care requires so much of me. Sometimes it feels like a losing battle and the stress wears us all down. I can find myself feeling frustrated, unmotivated and sometimes I just want to throw in the towel. But of course I can't and I won't. I'm just tired exhausted! I made her a promise at the beginning of all of this that I wouldn't leave her in this darkness. I intend to keep my promise. But finding the line between helping her and losing myself can be a bit challenging.  
The positivity that I was experiencing during the last several days has seemed to wane. This week I will make self-care my top priority and creativity my second and see how it goes."

In the last several months, I've been adding to my learning about self care and self love, particularly in challenging and stressful times. I allow myself to have more of what I need, I understand & evaluate my needs more clearly, I'm more honest, I experience far less shame & guilt (and I find myself, oh, so much happier without that last one). I find that the best thing to do for myself when the angst-y, irritable, depression monster is rearing it's ugly head, is to get myself up and go for a walk. This gets my body moving again, my blood circulating, helps me get some air (angst-y irritable, frustration/depression can be suffocating) and clear the tangled cob web of thoughts in my head. Then I need to step back into my self care routine, immediately. Which is doing my basic, everyday, self-care, maintenance things (i.e.: take a shower, brush my teeth, wear clothes that make me feel put together and happy, shave my legs) as well as making time for one self care hour a day to do whatever I want. Sometimes, I think that an hour is too much, if it really is, I just do what I can. Taking care of D is very time consuming and some days I just don't have an hour. But I've come to realize that an hour isn't a luxury for me, it's imperative. It's vital to my own health and without my own health, I can't adequately take care of D let alone enjoy any part of my own life. Sometimes, I have to tell myself that I need to practice self care (i.e.: take a hot bath, go to yoga, get together with friends for coffee, schedule that dentist appointment, put jojoba oil on my legs) just because they are things I need to do, akin to cleaning the kitchen and bathroom, scheduling maintenance on my car and paying my bills. Then I don't have to rely on "feeling motivated" to practice my self care because let's face it, if you are depressed or stressed, there is really no such thing as "feeling motivated" and no matter what you do, no matter who you listen to, or what you read, you just can not conjure it up. So I don't even try. I just do what I need to do because it is what I need to do. As for creativity, I can certainly make a case for it being self care for me, and I think it is, but it's also my work, my hobby, my leisure activity, my learning curve. So, I find that it's best to make priority of my self-care again first and then work creativity back into my days. (more about creativity later)

How do you keep yourself healthy during challenging and stressful times? How do you not lose yourself in the challenge? I found it so tempting caring for an ill child to want to give everything to her. I want to fix it. Make it better and then say, brushing my hands together, "there" and move on. But life doesn't work like that on most days, does it? And "normal" has a way of morphing into a "new normal" in both sudden and gradual ways that can really rock your foundations and change how you live your life, either temporarily or permanently. How do you keep steady? What are your favorite "anchors" or centering practices that you rely on?

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Grand Re-Opening!

After a very long hiatus during which I was taking care of an ill family member, I am re-opening my blog. (Oh, how I've missed you!) Things are not fully restored yet and still in process, but well on the way (more about that later). I am happy that there is finally now enough space for me to make art, take photos and blog. The past year has confirmed to me that I am a maker, an artist, no doubt about it any longer. It is where I am home and the happiest. It is how I cope. It is my sanity. It's where I bring out my best. It's how I express what is near and dear to my heart. I am determined to restore my own life after caring for my loved one (care-taking is taxing indeed, and if you're not careful, it can deplete you)! In addition, I am also creating a new home. I'll be sharing much about these things and what I've learned, gained, feared and struggled with over the past year during the next several days and weeks.