It had a rough start on life, coming out of a plastic bag of bird seed, only to be wasted by a careless cardinal. Yet, the little seed luckily dropped in the bird bath water where it sprouted miraculously. I gently planted the little sunflower with the herbs, where high hopes of magnificence quickly faded into reality as it hugged the stone wall for support and did its best to grow strong and bloom beautifully. But it was short of amazing, borderline ugly by sunflower standards. I watered it and fertilized it. Still, it simply looked so lonely and tired, ready for compost.
Wait, though . . . there is purpose in all life.
It became my inspiration, and today I memorialized my little bud. It was all part of an art exercise, one that I have never been tasked with before. Here were my instructions:
Today I want you to make an ugly painting. Yup – deliberately ugly! Let loose and make whatever marks you want – do NOT try to pretty it up. Use whatever colors you fancy and don’t try to choose things that look good together – in fact, choose things that might look bad!
Your only aim here is to notice the feelings that arise when you stop trying to get a good result and simply play with paint.
Way out there, and I admit I cheated a little and went for at least a little pretty at the end, trying to salvage little sunflower’s portrait . . . but not too much as I pride myself on being a good student.
The exercise was a good one, teaching me to learn to love failure, or at least accept it as a normal progression to growth. I’m sharing this with you today in the hopes that whatever you are holding back in your life because of the fear of failure, trust that it won’t be the end of the world, the sky won’t fall and you just might learn that any move forward could lead you to a whole new adventure in finding the true you.
I started the week with a new challenge that has evolved into a new direction that I am loving and thought I’d share. Perhaps you have tried this before, but it’s new to me and super helpful.
In an effort to introduce a new palette to my work, with Valentine’s Day in mind, I gathered objects from around my home in colors I loved, taking each into the studio and doing my best to match the oils to the objects. Working abstractly, I was able to loosen up more, exploring and playing without worry. Give it a try and let me know what you think. This Love Collection is now available. I’d love for you to come by the studio to see it in person and maybe even purchase something sweet for your sweetheart and you. Happy Valentine’s Day from my heart to yours.
Here’s a new series. I found myself trapped in duplication mode and needed to escape to a dreamier vision of my art day. There is so much freedom in self expression when you don’t try so darn hard to duplicate from a photo, to follow some path to an unknown place in your head and heart. At least that is the experience I have so enjoyed recently.
More than a feeling . . . close your eyes and slip away.
Far away from reality, yet close enough to come back to when you are ready. It is refreshing to play again. My art practice has kept me sane this past year, as we have all likely found new ways to cope with crazy. I’m not nearly as productive as I was in years past, but I have accepted that reality and forgive myself for casting aside the I-gotta-accomplish-more-everday theory of a good life. Instead, I need to dream more, and paint more, love more and pray more. After all, these are some of the best accomplishments.
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My sister came up with the idea this year to have me create art for each of my five siblings . . . something which would bring back fond memories of our childhood in New Jersey. At first the thought was to duplicate the same concept six times (I get one, too). It was too tall of a task for me to make the decision about what would be a good memory. I knew it was different for each of us.
I am so happy with not only the art, but mostly with the conversation that ensued when we started talking about things that were, and are, significant when we step back in time.
Carol went with the magnolia tree we climbed and carved on, jump roped in front of, and had every Easter photo taken in front of. It had a limb that grew out at about a 45-degree angle from the trunk at the perfect height for children to master the art of “monkey-hood” from. Fond memories, for sure.
The roses were important to Janice. Daddy used to call her “rosebud.” Not that we had a rose garden or some stellar backyard. No. Mom planted rose bushes alongside the one-car cinderblock garage and driveway, along with a rose vine that separated our little property in South River from the neighbors’ yard behind us. As we talked about pink versus red roses, we wondered for just a minute why we never had cut roses in the house, sitting prettily on the kitchen table. Didn’t take us long to remember that Daddy had a sensitive nose and could not tolerate floral scents.
Marlene wanted “punks” on her painting. We lived near what must have been wetlands because cattails were prevalent. We would cut them down, dry them on the garage roof (just throwing them up there was fun). When ready to burn, we’d get to the gas stove and light them in the kitchen and run outside before Mom smelled the familiar burn. I miss those days, and so does my sister. I forgot, but she remembered, that we would get large maple leaves and burn smiley faces into them with the punks.
I’m going with the clothesline and pins. We had a wringer washer in the basement, and, after a damp load ended in the wicker basket, Mom would recruit me to help hand her the clothespins while she hung the laundry in the sun to dry. You know that smell — fresh, clean and damn near intoxicating. No longer an option on my postage stamp lot. I’ll bring back the memory with a painting.
Two more to go, as Lois and Joey haven’t made us their minds yet. Christmas was always a magical time of the year, with total thanks given to my mother. She made the memories I will never forget (I hope). So the three I finished are on their way to Jersey. I hope, through my art, that I have honored my parents with my efforts to help preserve the childhood memories in six small ways.
Wishing you all new memories in the making. Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and warm hugs all around.
If you could choose only one utensil to carry in your pack as you trudged through the jungles of New Guinea, not on a grand hiking adventure, but fighting a war in your mid-20s, what would it be? Daddy always said take a spoon — good for scooping food out of ready made pouches or quenching thirst, sip by sip, but also good for digging and scraping . He didn’t talk much about his years fighting in WWII. He came home with a Purple Heart and married the love of his life, made lots of babies and lived a good long life providing for his family. The last time I saw him, he lay in a hospital bed at home. My mom and I were at his side. I was getting ready to fly back to Florida. He looked at his wife of 67 years and said, “This is the last time I will see Lori.” I grabbed his hand and shook my head. “No daddy, I’ll see you in heaven.”
I’m sorry, Daddy, that I joined the Navy without telling you first. I’m sorry I asked for an assignment in Japan. You fought the Japanese and certainly didn’t like the fact that I would be in that country for two years. You called them “those damn Japs.” I did not know your pain. I never had to walk in your boots. I served in peace time, and when people say “Thank you for your service” on Veteran’s Day, I channel the good thoughts to you and those who marched alongside you, knowing in my heart I am undeserving in comparison.
To all those who served our country, and to all who continue to do so, thank you. Thank you for our freedom, and may we honor you always by loving this land and protecting it with all our strength. It wasn’t until I started writing this that I realized something I should have figured out years ago. Some people see signs from those who left us — things like cardinals and butterflies and even boat anchors. I see spoons — the antique silver ones. Thank you, Daddy. Happy Veterans’ Day 2020.