Tuesday, May 31, 2011

the metamorphic life of a tree and a girl

For the past year I've been visiting the same tree in a nearby park, taking note of every angle and every change…..the kite that landed in its top branches last summer and has yet to set itself free, the brilliant red of its leaves in fall, the twisting curves of its skeleton that were revealed as those leaves fell away. The tree became like an old friend, and its constant changes always led me to contemplate my own changing life. It amazed me each season to realize how different I had become, how much my life had changed since the season before it.

The short 2 years I've lived in Southern Connecticut have been the most dynamic and transformational years of my life, that is for sure. Before I arrived here I was a single girl always frustrated with her love life, I was taking the subway to work at an investment firm, a job that sucked away a piece of my passion and vitality every day, and living the city life in San Francisco. Although I have my fair share of challenges these days, I feel utterly blessed to have created an entirely different reality for myself in such a short span of time—I have fulfilling, supportive, loving relationships; I have a husband who loves me exactly the way I need to be loved; I have started an artistic career; I am nearly unrecognizable to my former self in terms of my psychology, maturity, and decision-making….and I'm heading off to live in the quiet mountains after 6 years of city living. 

Perhaps I've stumbled upon one of the less obvious reasons I feel so connected to and inspired by nature—the growth and the constant changes mirror human life. We are the same basic structure, or set of branches, but we are never the same….our lives are a series of metamorphoses and it's really remarkable. 

My visits to the tree over the past year:

Friday, May 27, 2011

change, change, change

My mind is swirling today—so much change sweeping through my life. And the thing about change is that whether you view it as a positive or a negative, it is still unsettling in some way. Life becomes almost a series of habits during periods when we perceive our world as unchanging. But it's such an illusion because life can and will change in an instant…..and even knowing that, we still feel shaken and disoriented by it. Then there's me—someone who invites, desires and thrives on change yet I still feel terrified. An adventurer who is afraid of her own adventures? I find that so interesting. But something tells me that it's not too uncommon.  

Wind Brings a Change by Dahlia House Studios

The Choice by Shira Sela

Thursday, May 26, 2011

on the road: rhode island

All photos by Cactus Huggers

Last Friday I was blogging from the Berkshires, and today I'm blogging from a small seaside town in Rhode Island—both are part of my husband's and my exploration of areas to move to. I'm sitting here contemplating the huge contrast between these two places: mountains vs. ocean, deep tree-laden forests vs. sprawling, open green fields, country charm vs. seaside suburbia, hiking/skiing/white water rafting vs. sunbathing/sailing/sand castle building, natural food co-ops and farmer's markets vs. ritzy boutiques and tourist towns. 

Rainy Day at the Beach by JLM Photography

Newport Clamshell by JLM Photography

Neither I nor my husband have ever seriously considered living in Rhode Island (growing up right next to it makes it less appealing), but we wanted to experience this stark contrast to give our decision on where to move some more depth. Although I think the ocean is beautiful (I am human after all;), and my last 4 moves have been to ocean-side locales (San Diego, Tiburon, CA, San Francisco and Stamford, CT) I find myself longing for mountains, trees, lakes and rivers……perhaps I just need the change? I'm not sure how other artists feel about change, but I crave change, I need to uproot everything and rearrange it every so often in order to keep my creativity flowing, I need to experience opposites and I need adventure. Something tells me that I will be back to longing for the ocean in a few years, after I've been nestled deep in the woods for a while. Sigh.

September Sunset, Newport RI by JBW Photography

Oh, the fun to be found in decision making! I'll be honest, I hate making decisions. But, it's a vital part of life. So, here's our choice (and Colorado should be on this list because it's my ideal location, but it's too late for us to see how the job opportunity there pans out):

Small town, great art scene, close-knit community at a very small/rustic private school where my husband would be working, beautiful river, mountains, hiking galore, ski mountain in town, remote, close to family.


Seaside suburbia, 20 minutes from the city (Providence), affordable ocean-front properties, beaches, gorgeous, affluent school on the water where my husband would be working, farther from family, quite similar to where we're living now but without the snobby pretentiousness.

Be part of our decision! What would you choose and why?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

5 internet resources for creative souls

Creative Life Print by Hello Cherie Handmade

Living a creative life is a beautiful yet complicated experience. For me, it brings deep meaning to my life daily, fulfills me, excites me, and keeps me going. But, there is another side to it. Like many artists, past and present…..I struggle, I am a little bit crazy, I am intense, I am passionate and feisty, I am prone to periods of sullenness, I can be overly serious, I can be overly playful, I can be manic, and sometimes I doubt what I'm doing with my life. Living as an artist brings all of that out, which isn't always easy to deal with. But, this is the life I was meant for.

Feeling as if you have no choice but to be an artist can be scary….at least it scares ME sometimes. It's not a cookie cutter career, it doesn't have a neatly laid out path, it isn't always the most lucrative choice, and overcoming societal pressure, childhood conditioning, and your own fears can be very trying. So, what do I do to keep myself (relatively) sane, inspired and full of faith on this creative journey? I devour books, find communities, take classes, read blogs, spend time with other artists and watch videos that provide support for creative beings, living creative lives.

I've mentioned several different types of resources above, but I thought today I'd share the most easily accessible type. Here are 5 internet resources I've used to keep myself going recently:

1. Trusting the Journey Times (monthly e-newsletter). This inspirational newsletter never fails to fill me with the faith that I am living my artistic journey exactly the way I'm meant to. The author, Tama Kieves, is someone I can really relate to—she is honest, emotional, and quit her cushy job (she was a Harvard trained lawyer) because she couldn't stomach living a passionless, non-creative life. She fought through the doubt and fear associated with giving it all up to follow your wild dreams and now helps others do the same. She is also the author of one of my favorite books, This Time I Dance: Creating the work you love. I was originally drawn to her e-newsletter because I was hungry for more after reading her book. Click here to sign up for a free monthly pep talk!

2. Elizabeth Gilbert speech. I found this video through a Facebook post by Tama Kieves. Elizabeth Gilbert had a huge impact on my life a few years ago when I read Eat, Pray, Love. A friend in San Francisco lent me the book when I was going through a breakup, eating cookies for dinner, and devoting my days and nights to yoga and meditation (so, if you've read the book, you know that I obviously found it relatable). My affinity for all things Elizabeth Gilbert, thanks to my love for her book, led me to watch all 19 minutes of this video, in which she discusses nurturing creativity. She poses a very intriguing theory about the creative process, which ultimately relieves a lot of pressure we artists may feel. I love her idea! Check it out!

3. Ira Glass video. Ira Glass is the host and producer of the infamous NPR show: This American Life. I learned about this video in an amazing online painting class, Get Your Paint On, that I took a couple months back. Here Ira talks about being a beginner and what you have to push through to become great. It was a nice little pep talk for me that I was able to use in so many ways and gave me good perspective on where I am on the spectrum of beginner-expert in my many different crafts. I also simply find him enjoyable to listen to, but I suppose that's why he's a radio sensation.

4. Esty community. The Etsy blog is an amazing resource for those of us trying to make our art our livelihood or who have an Esty shop. If you have a shop, you likely receive the weekly emails highlighting the top posts for the week, which usually provide interesting and useful tips. One series that I really enjoy and get a lot of inspiration and encouragement from is: Quit Your Day Job. If you type both "quit your day job" and your specific craft (i.e. photography, painting) in the blog search function, as Etsy suggested to us readers last week, you'll have the added benefit of hearing from those who have been where you are. Aside from the wonderful articles, tips and how to's on Etsy, I have found just as much advice, encouragement and information in talking to other shop owners. I've been overwhelmed by the openness, honesty and friendliness to be found in other Etsy shop owners. Thanks to all of you for being you!

5. Get Your Paint On. I heard about this online painting course from sfgirlbybay, a bohemian modern style blog written by a fabulous San Francisco lady (hello, right up my alley!). The course was designed for those who have always wanted to paint but have no experience, full-time painters looking to infuse their current practice with something new, and those looking for a community of like-minded individuals to share with. I wasn't quite sure what I was looking to get out of the course (I grew up painting, but hadn't painted in 12 years), but what I did get was a great community of people who shared their experiences as artists, exchanged blog info, talked about art retreats and other classes, provided amazing feedback/critiques, encouraged one another and just a whole lot of inspiration. It opened me up as an artist, gave me new direction and encouraged me to try new things. It was about more than just painting! I have always believed that we should play with different types of art to bring new energy to our chosen craft. The next 5-week class begins June 12th. Click here to sign up!

There is a great universe out there eager to support you! So, my question is where do YOU turn for support on your artistic journey? Where do you find inspiration or guidance? I'd love to hear from you!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

random inspiration: blueberry muffins

I've probably mentioned this a dozen times before, but I find so much visual inspiration in the things I eat, mainly produce. The combination of the wide array of colors, textures and shapes while knowing they were all created by this beautiful earth, is just delicious to my eyes. Yes, I'm amazed by fruits and vegetables……seriously, sometimes I get so lost in appreciating the beauty of a snack (for example: a bowl of raspberries) that I end up taking out my camera to photograph it instead taking out a fork to eat it. It's ridiculous. 

At any rate, I made a batch of gluten-free blueberry muffins the other day to cheer my husband up when he got home from work, but stopped myself (for a quick photo shoot of course:) as I was about to put the tray in the oven. Yes, I "got lost" in the batter for a while. I suddenly found the way frozen blueberries bleed into creamy white batter intoxicating and the texture of coarse brown sugar contrasting against the delicate batter beneath them inspiring. Perhaps that sounds dramatic, but I find there is inspiration to be found in every minute of the day that can so easily go unnoticed. Take a look around…the color palette and texture of a fruit salad could inspire a painting, a snack could become a beautiful photograph that will hang in a gallery someday, or you could just find yourself with a deeper sense of appreciation for the natural wonders that are all around us.

I did a quick search of my blog today and started compiling a running list of sources of inspiration (although I'm sure I missed a few). Check out this list for a quick hit of inspiration:

Things that are out of place
Paper goods
The Farmer's Market
Art related goodies
Birch trees
Mila's daydreams

Monday, May 23, 2011

small town charm

As I mentioned on Friday, I was up in the Northern Berkshires visiting the area my husband and I may move to. It was a short trip, but between the two of us I think we got a pretty good taste of what life might be like in this small town perched beside the Deerfield River and embraced by mountains on all sides. 

While my husband was in his interview, I explored the adorable Shelburne Falls with its quaint downtown, natural food co-op, yoga studio, art galleries, a bridge made entirely of flowers, roaring falls, and glacial potholes (deep holes that formed when the glaciers melted). The area also has a high concentration of artists and a plethora of state forests in every direction…..not to mention it's 20 minutes from Vermont! Could this be home? (Excuse the crappy, rainy day photos)...

I tried to imagine what my life might look like with such natural visual inspiration surrounding me (in place of the concrete jungle I'm currently looking at), perhaps writing my blog from the organic coffee shop that I wrote in on Friday every morning, and finding a community to share my art in. 

You take a risk any time you move so it's difficult to say if reality would/will match my daydream, but I feel fairly certain that my life is about to open up in such a beautiful new direction—artistically, spiritually and the general landscape of my days— where ever we may land.

Friday, May 20, 2011

on the road: the berkshires

All prints by Mateo & Tobias 

I'm writing this post from Mocha Maya's, in the cozy town of Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts. I'm sitting here, nestled in the Northern Berkshires, comforted by the sound of the Deerfield river and the smell of pine needles. In a word: perfection. I'm exploring the town (and the art scene!) while my husband is in an interview (fingers crossed!). So far, I'm completely in love with the charm of this place and the people are a breathe of sparkling fresh air after living in a not-so-friendly local for the past 2 years.

Life is pretty crazy for us right now. We are moving in 3+ weeks, that much is set in stone, but we have no idea where we'll end up. Our entire life is up in the air, so many unknowns, so many dreams…..but, neither my husband nor I would have it any other way. I knew when I moved from California to Southern Connecticut to be with my husband 2 years ago, that it would be a temporary home. We've been scheming to leave ever since. When, where, how? Those were questions we couldn't answer (and still can't really:), but it didn't stop us from traveling around the U.S. in search of a place to call home. We've narrowed down our top locations to: Colorado (Boulder or Denver), The Berkshires (Western Mass.), or Vermont. I have fully thought out and lived a life in each of those places in my daydreams…..and I'd love to be in any of them.

Any of our dream locations would offer us the outdoorsy, crunchy, friendly, mountain town with a great art community that we are looking for and we have family in all 3 places, which is a huge plus. But, I think I'm secretly hoping the Berkshires works out for us because the art scene is just what I'm looking for AND it's a short drive to my mecca: Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health.

What I have to offer all of you today, though, is this: take a risk, take one small step toward your dream life. I've stood at a crossroads like this so many times, where every facet of my life is up in the air and uncertain, and I've been terrified every time. But, I've always chosen to take a risk because I can't stomach not living the life of my dreams (or as close to it as I can get:). I've gone through long periods of feeling imprisoned by the the life I'm leading, wondering how I suddenly found myself working a job that makes me miserable, living in a town I can't stand, or surrounded by relationships that did not fulfill me. That's a maddening position to be in….but having been there in the past is what keeps me pressing toward my ideal and finding a way to make it happen. In my experience, when you ask the Universe for what you really want, the way to get there finds you. It's just a matter of believing that and sticking it out in spite of your doubts, fears and nausea. 

Thursday, May 19, 2011

sneak peek: wild about water saturation

So far I have been doing things a little bit different with every painting I work on, that is until I stumbled upon the technique I employed in my painting for Natalie (you can see the water saturation here). I think I just began my first series! That's pretty exciting for me! It makes my painting feel more focused and purposeful. 

So, water saturation…..the inspiration didn't come from the outside world, it was more of an inner longing for freedom and easy flow (spiritually). The desire naturally came about when I was painting an ocean scene. I was thinking "ocean" and wanted to climb inside the canvas and feel the weightlessness of the water, feel it flowing freely around me. My response was to reach for actual water. Basically, I paint then add water and move the paint under the water and also move the paint with short, but steady streams of water held over the canvas.

It's difficult to explain, but this technique is a release for me. When I'm working in the murky, watery, unpredictable paint I somewhat loose myself. It's very freeing and magical. There are not many things in this world that have the capacity to stop me from thinking (and believe me, my overworked mind can use all the non-thinking time it can get!).

Here are two paintings in the works (very early stages). I can't wait to see where the unpredictable water takes them!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

etsy banner

I really wish I had the skills of a graphic designer, because I am feeling slightly obsessed with my Etsy banner right now. In deciding I need to do a huge makeover on my shop, one of my top priorities was to put up a new shop banner. What has happened though is that I am loosing my mind trying to create something I love—I've created a bunch that I sort of "like," but don't "love." Arg! I realize I could pay some nice graphic designer on Etsy to make a banner for me, but I feel like I should be able to make something myself that I'm happy with (not at the caliber of a graphic designer obviously, props to them!). Oh, my unrelenting perfectionism….

So, I thought I'd share a few of the banners I've been tinkering around with. Thoughts?