Musings from the Moonroom

Thoughts on Art, Inspiration, Creativity and Spirit


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Art As Therapy: Pain Hurts Feelings

I intended to save this piece for my 20 Hour Challenge post.  However, I am heading to Ohio to visit family and won’t have access to my time tracking notebook.  My internet access will also be limited so if you don’t hear from me it is because I am enveloped in the love and laughter of family.

The art work below was created as a result of pain. I have a fibroid that provides a level of discomfort on a monthly basis. I’ve always thought about using my art as a way to express this pain. On Sunday, when this pain raised its head, I lay on the couch and pictured what the pain looked like and how it made me feel.  In my mind, I saw a dark figure (me) crouched down on the floor in the corner.  I am cornered by the pain.  Surrounding me were various shades of red and black; the illumination of the pain.

The image in my mind was pretty vivid and I decided that I had to recreate this image as best as possible. So, after napping for an hour on the couch, I came up to the studio and started drawing, painting with oil pastels, and collaging a few images into the center figure.

PainHurtsFeelings

The working title of this piece is Pain Hurts Feelings (Cornered). The title comes not only from the three words in the center but from the idea that our pain hurts our feelings as well as the feelings of our loved ones. You know how you feel when someone you care about is in pain. You see the look on your loved one’s face when they see you in pain. Pain hurts feelings.

The choice of words was rather serendipitous. I chose them individually and didn’t recognize the phrase they created until I laid them out on the art work.

Oh, in the upper right corner you’ll notice a ball of yellow. The yellow represents hope and release from the pain. Fortunately the pain is only temporary.

Have you used your art as therapy?  How has art helped you deal with difficult situations?

Check out this wonderful post on Beadlust on Witnessing Art from the Heart and this post from Jennifer Lee on Being Big with your art and your life (take the time to watch the video too. It brought tears to my eyes.)

Okay, just had to check my studio hours up till this point: I’ve spent 12 hours in the studio on art and 11 hours on business stuff. That is 23 hours just through Wednesday. Wow. Excuse me while I give myself a small pat on the back. Maybe I should make plans to be out of town more often as it seems to have made me more driven and focused.


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20 Hour Challenge: Fits and Starts

Well, last week started out good as I found myself focused and ready to work in the studio. By the end of the week, I was focused more on business related activities.  I’m certainly in the studio for 20 hours; unfortunately I find myself unable to create art for an entire 20 hours. The reality is that when you have a small art business, a good chunk of time is spent on the busy-ness and not the arty-ness.

So, how did last week turn out: 24.25 hours total  = 7.75 hours on arty-ness and 16.5 on busy-ness.  Friday was Art Day at a friend’s house.  Because we hadn’t seen each other in so long, we spent the day talking and sharing art but not making art. So, I didn’t have any hours from that day to add to the arty-ness of the week, but the day still fed my creative soul.

I mentioned last time that I needed to eliminate some of the email newsletters I receive.  To that end I unsubbed from the daily Enneagram Thought and Oprah’s book club newsletter (apparently I became a subscriber when I participated in the webinar she did with Eckhart Tolle last year; completely forgot about that one.) I’m on the fence about a couple other newsletters and need to make a decision on their fate as well.

I also decided to consider my reading and meditation time as part of my preparation for working in the studio. It really does help me get my day started in the studio.

So along with the usual business stuff, I’m happy to say that I created the content for and sent out my August newsletter, updated my websites (though I didn’t publish the updates yet), and visited Skyline Boston to look at booth displays for the October Paradise City show.  And on Saturday, Eric and I visited the Peabody Historical Society to check out the Historical Interpretations exhibit. Here is Belle on display:

BelleOnExhibitDisplay

And on the art front, I started doodling. Now doesn’t that sound productive?  Actually, it is because doodling is another way to clear your mind. I found this beneficial during the week when I started to feel a little stressed. I sat myself down, created a doodle, and the tension seemed to melt away.  Here are some of my doodles from last week:

Doodle81009

Doodle81109

Doodle81209

Check out these sites for more insight and inspiration in Doodling: SueDoodles and Mildly Creative

Remember those cat heads? They are starting to take on a little life of their own. The gray one has put in a request for a black and white striped suit. And the one I called a “demented rabbit” isn’t so scary now; though he does look more like a horse crossed with a rabbit.  Maybe Darwin would say he saw something similar on the Galapagos Islands.

CatHeadsColor

Finally, a few wholesale orders rolled in so I have started working on business card cases, ink pens, and perfume pens.  To see what I offer in these lines visit here and here.


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What A Drag It Is Getting Old

Ah yes, that lovely Rolling Stones song. Next up, the Beatles “When I’m 64.”

The past couple of weeks have left me feeling like a creaky middle-aged woman. (Okay, so I am middle-aged according to some statistics but I don’t like the “creaky” qualifier.) Normally I’m an upbeat positive person. A recently published study even showed that positive, happy women have better health that our cranky counterparts. (I wonder if you can be both?)

What I’m getting at is a literal pain in the a**; the sciatic nerve, the largest nerve in our body that courses from your lower back, through your butt, and down your leg. My sciatic nerve introduced itself to me back in the 90′s when I worked as a Speech-language pathologist at a rehabilitation center. I remember feeling a twinge on my right side. The physical therapist gave me some stretches for my right glute and IT band. I figured the twinge was due to all the years of lugging around therapy materials in a bag slung over my left shoulder which in turn caused my right hip to stick out further to the right. (You’ve seen this posture on any woman lugging a large purse or satchel over her left shoulder. It looks kind of like a distorted S.)

Flash forward several years to late 2003 and early 2004. I’m now having a vise grip like pain in my right glute, the back of my thigh, around my calf, and, for good measure, tingling in my foot. These pains don’t happen all at once all the time. They can be selective and zap you in two out of the four locations. Sometimes they happen while I’m walking. Sometimes when I’m standing. But by late 2003 it is getting really uncomfortable to stand for any length of time; sitting helps but even then the pain sometimes persists.

Our yoga teacher at the time recommended a local chiropractor. Now chiropractic services was not something I was crazy about. I remember the negative attitude expressed by some physical therapists at the mere mention of a chiropractor. I was a little skeptical but also realized I needed to do something. So I scheduled an appointment.

At this appointment I learned that my sacroiliac (SI) joint was twisted. It was literally twisting back and down and impinging on the sciatic nerve. Just writing that makes me feel sore!  But that first adjustment was like a miracle. I walked out of the doctor’s office pain free. I was amazed. I came home and slept for at least a half hour. The stress I was carrying in my body had been released and I finally allowed my body to relax.

I was put on a program of weekly visits that turned to every other week and eventually progressed to treatments as needed.  Cool; this seemed to be working.

But now that pain is back. The reality is it never truly went away. An adjustment here and there was beneficial to relieve the pain temporarily. But after some time the SI joint would twist again and the pain would return.  In the last couple of months I’ve had pain not only on my right side (the original spot) but also on my left side. It might be there when I walk, run, sit for too long or sleep on my side. I’ve stopped going to yoga out of a real or imagined fear that deep twists might throw the joint out of whack. I use a “knee pillow” at night to keep my hips level. Can traction be far behind?

You know how sometimes your body pokes and yells at you until you really, truly listen? I believe that time has come.

For several months I’ve been trying to figure out what is really going on here. I believe the SI joint is twisting. I can feel a difference in the level or height of my hips when I lay flat. One side is definitely lower or back further than the other side. But what is causing the joint to twist? This must be more than simple “weakness.”

I decided to refer to a book I bought a while back, “Muscular Retraining for Pain Free Living” by Craig Williamson. Mr. Williamson is an Occupational Therapist and developed a form of therapy called Somatic Integration. Mr. Williamson believes, and I agree, that we often develop ingrained, dysfunctional patterns of muscle use. We might hold one side of our body tight when walking due to past trauma. A musician might contract a muscle when playing which in turn causes pain over a period of time. How many of us sit at the computer and develop neck pain because of the way we hold our heads and tighten our neck muscles?

The problem is we’re usually not even aware we’re doing this with our bodies. The key is to become aware of our bodies, of the kinesthetic movement, and to teach our muscles the proper way to move. In essence, we need to learn new movements (the correct ones) which will help the muscles relax and decrease or eliminate the pain.

A potential disadvantage to this approach? If you’ve been moving incorrectly for a long time, it is going to take some time to retrain the muscle.

I had a chiropractor appointment on Tuesday. Today I started reading Mr. Williamson’s book and tried out a few exploratory exercises. Just practicing how to walk in a relaxed manner, feet and ankles soft, heel to toe, and really feeling the ground relieved some of the minor muscle tension I was feeling.

So perhaps I am getting old and creaky (or is that cranky?), but if I can retrain my muscles out of a few bad habits, getting older won’t feel so bad.

If you’ve had similar experiences with a twisting SI joint or sciatica I’d love to hear how you’ve dealt with it.

Please note that I’m not negating the services of a chiropractor. I believe alternative forms of treatment are indeed beneficial and should be used in conjunction with traditional medical practice. What I do think is essential in any practice is that we treat not only symptoms but causes as well.


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Monday Reflection

I am your constant companion.
I am your greatest helper or your heaviest burden.
I will push you onward or drag you down to failure.
I am completely at your command.
Half the things you do, you might just as well turn over to me,
and I will be able to do them quickly and correctly.
I am easily managed; you must merely be firm with me.
Show me exactly how you want something done,
and after a few lessons I will do it automatically.
I am the servant of all great men.
And, alas, of all failures as well.
Those who are great, I have made great.
Those who are failures, I have made failures.
I am not a machine, though I work with all the precision of a machine.
Plus, the intelligence of a man.
You may run me for profit, or run me for ruin; it makes no difference to me.
Take me, train me, be firm with me and I will put the world at your feet.
Be easy with me, and I will destroy you.
Who am I?
I am a HABIT!

-John Di Lemme Motivational Speaker & Life Coach (via Lori McNee blog post on Overwhelm & Habits)


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20 Hour Challenge, Accomplishments & Goals

20 Hour Challenge

I gave another try at the 20 hour challenge this past week. For whatever reason I seem to be stuck at working 2-3 hours in the studio per day. Well, okay, I did find myself enjoying the Twitterverse a bit more than I probably should have. On Monday I lost an entire day because we spent it on a whale watch. I did take a small sketch book with me which yielded a few pencil sketches (emphasis on the sketchy, especially when you’re sitting on the top deck in the wind.) But as I look at my time tracking, I have to ask myself what else did I do during some of those days?

My total time in the studio and on business related tasks totalled 24 hours for the week and breaks down as follows:

Studio time: 8.25 hours

Business stuff: 15.75 hours

This past week the business and other stuff included drive time to deliver an exhibit entry piece and to deliver inventory. There was time for blogging, twittering, reading/meditating and reading my affirmations, emails, phone calls, coaching, confirming a wholesale order, photography, editing photographs, bookkeeping, catching up on past e-newsletters, and spending time on the internets.

Hmph! The whole email thing is tough. On one hand I’m getting better at skimming through the morning emails and not reading most of them, only those I deem important at that time. Actually, I’ve gone so far this week as to shut my email program each night so I don’t see any little mail icons first thing when I wake up my computer. You know, better to remove the temptation.

As I write this I wonder if I subscribe to too many newsletters (4-5 that I really like to read and schedule into my to do list each week.) I also get a daily OM horoscope, a daily OM inspirational reading, Marianne Williamson’s Miracle Thought (audio recording), TUT: A Thought From the Universe, and an EnneaThought of the Day (based on my Enneagram number.) I will think about releasing some of these items.

But what about the internet and social networking. Always a tough one to deal with. I’ve tried the timer approach (set for 15 minutes per session), the “minimize the screen approach” (make it smaller so as not to distract me), and even made a sign that is taped to my monitor which reads “The computer is closed” (which is currently flipped over facing the back of my monitor. Useful huh?)

In reality, it all comes down to motivation, determination and discipline. Some days those skills come more easily than on other days. All I can say is I’ll just keep working on them. I mean, if I were perfect I wouldn’t have anything else left to work on, right?

This week I worked on sculpting cat heads; a tougher task than I imagined, even with two live models who will impetuously walk off the job in the middle of a session until they’ve received compensation. Here is a shot of the four heads. My first attempt looked more like a demented rabbit (which I’m sure will turn into a rather crazy art doll) but I was feeling more comfortable with the outcome by the time I got to #4.

CatHeadSculpts

I also prepped some magazine pages with matte medium with the intent of making my own custom paper for collage or ACEO backgrounds. I am following Liz Berg’s instructions in the March/April 2009 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors for this activity.

Finally, I bought a new book: Chi and Creativity: Vital Energy and Your Inner Artist by Elise Dirlam Ching and Kaleo Ching. The book focuses on “strategies to harness the power of  Chi and cultivate the inner artist” through exercises in Chi awareness, art, journaling, and guided imagery.  I love the idea of using movement to stimulate creativity. I’ll let you know what happens as a result.

June/July Accomplishments

Normally, my June accomplishments would’ve been posted in early July but since I was out of the country…so here are my accomplishments for both months.

June

•    Successfully completed Eric Maisel’s Creativity Coaching Training (16 weeks)
•    Restarted Christine Kane’s Uplevel Your Life Mastery class
•    Reviewing and reading aloud daily affirmations 2x/day
•    Delivered art donations to the Arts Alliance
•    Provided an artist demonstration at Five Crows Hand Crafts & Gifts
•    Watched Wayne Dyer’s PBS special “Excuses Begone”
•    Received unexpected income
•    Created content for & sent June e-newsletter to MA customers
•    Attended coaching call with Christine Kane
•    Watched “Music Instinct: Science & Song” on PBS
•    Completed and sent exhibit pieces for the ArtHouse Gallery Canvas Project

July

•    Traveled to Southern France for art workshop with Dayle Doroshow
•    Attended one stage of the Tour de France
•    Visited Durfort, Revel, Soreze, Albi, Foix, and Toulouse, France
•    Took a silk painting class
•    Attended coaching call with Christine Kane
•    Visited the Boston Museum of Fine Art’s Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese: Rivals in Renaissance Venice Exhibit
•    Attended coaching call with Quinn McDonald
•    Attended Tower of Power concert
•    Attended Uplevel Your Business Teleseminar call with Christine Kane
•    Completed exhibit piece for Peabody Historical Society
•    Enjoyed Harry Potter & The Half-Blood Prince movie in IMAX
•    Scheduled annual physical
•    Started 30-day exercise challenge

August Goals

Here are some of my goals for August (I did not write or post any goals for July as being in France was my biggest goal.)

  • Update my artist page on the Paradise City Arts Festival website
  • Update my personal websites
  • Create content for and deliver my August e-newsletter
  • Update my customer snail mail list
  • Add new pictures to my Flickr account
  • Clean up my blog: remove old or broken links, update bookshelf images, and general rearrangement
  • Update my LinkedIn page
  • Continue studio cleaning/clearing and house cleaning/clearing


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Happy 2nd Blogiversary

Happy 2nd Blogiversary to Musings from the Moonroom!

Well, technically, the blog’s second anniversary was last month but I was on this little trip to France and, well, it is better late than never.

This year, I’m offering readers a chance to win one of my collectible Friendship Bowls. Just leave a comment at the end of this post and your name will be put in a drawing to win the Friendship Bowl.

It is always fun to review the past year and the second year of blogging has seen some changes.  For one, I’m not as anal (yes, I am not afraid to use that word) about blogging. When I first started blogging, I was determined to blog 5 days a week. That, in reality, became way too stressful. I admit to being a bit of a perfectionist about some things, hence the high standard I set for blogging frequency.  It is possible that some of the gray hairs that have found their way to my head are due to my self-imposed stress. I do feel some twinge of guilt if I don’t blog at least 3 days a week…but I usually get over it. And I’m definitely not ready for a full head of gray hair yet. (And if my mother’s gray hair track record is any indicator, I’ll be in my 80′s before mine really start blossoming.)

I originally intended to blog about creativity and my art creations. Boy did that change. Sometimes I feel the content is all over the board. Some may say that isn’t a good thing. You know, choose a niche, a brand, a market, and stick with it.  Sorry, ain’t gonna happen on this blog. I’ve too many interests, too many thoughts, and sometimes too many distractions to keep myself on a narrow path.  You know how us creative types are.  Bruce Baker has referred to artists with multiple art medium interest as M.A.D (multiple artist disease). I think the same can be said about my blogging topics.

This past year I even attempted a second blog devoted to fitness; the trials, tribulations, and funny stories that result from exercising. I didn’t get very far with it or the exercising for that matter. It was hard enough maintaining one blog, a business, and the other things that life throws at me and trying to keep up a second blog.  However, I had to try it, realized it wasn’t going to work, killed the other blog, and moved on.

Robin Williams once said, when asked about some of his less popular movies, “we don’t make mistakes, we make interesting choices.”  I like that attitude. No mistakes, no failures, just interesting choices.

Here are the top 10 posts over the past 365 days. Do you have a favorite?

Art Date: Frida Kahlo Art Exhibit

Why Keep Art Curriculums in School?

Sarasvati and Ceibhfhionn

Stone Cairns-The Beauty of Balance

Chakra Energy Angels-The Group

The American Craft Council Show Part 1

Laurie Mika Workshop

What Does An Artist Look Like?

Book Review: 500 Handmade Dolls

There is a tie for the 10th spot:

Reflections on Gratitude-Word of the Year

The Yes Men

And about that Friendship Bowl.

These bowls were inspired by the Quaich, which is Scottish Gaelic for “friendship.” A quaich or friendship bowl was used to hold whiskey or other libation. The whiskey was then shared among friends with each person taking a sip from the bowl. Some of the early quaiches had glass or clear bottoms. When the leaders from two or more clans would gather, the clan leaders would share a drink in these clear bottom bowls. The reason? As one would drink from the clear bottom quaich, it allowed him to keep an eye on his rival.

This particular Friendship Bowl has an Asian influence. Made entirely of polymer clay, this bowl features the hand carved kanji symbol for “thanks” and hand carved bamboo leaves. Around the rim of the bowl is hand formed polymer clay bamboo. A turquoise wash brings out the carvings. The bowl measures approximately 4″ in diameter. A display stand and story card are included.

AsianFriendBowlThankYou

So leave a comment below and you might win this Friendship Bowl.

Thanks for your visits!


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A Wonderful Day for a Whale Watch

One of the most fascinating experiences I’ve ever had is going on a whale watch. It is absolutely stunning to take a boat out into the ocean and then bob on the waves in the quiet while watching whales feed, blow, play, and slap their fins on the water. When this happens you truly are standing in the presence of nature’s giant and gentle beasts.

On Monday, a gorgeous sunny day with minimal wind and one foot waves, we boarded the Yankee Freedom and traveled approximately 1 3/4 hours to Stellwagen Bank at the mouth of the Massachusetts Bay. Stellwagen Bank is a National Marine Sanctuary where whale watching originated on the east coast.

It takes some time to locate the whales as they are always moving in search of food. So, before our first sighting, here are some shots of the scenes we passed on the way.

Fishing Boat at Dock

Fishing Boat at Dock

Rowers

Lighthouse

CaptLeoBoat

Our whale watching boat had several members of an Elderhostel who were visiting the east coast from various places across the country. I loved the shot below of one of the couples. Aren’t they sweet?

Couple

And this woman made me smile with her whale shirt and nautical hat.

NappingLady

Whale watches are great experiences for kids too.

MomandDau

When we started the trip, this flag was wrapped around the mast. Once we were out to sea it unfurled beautifully.

FlagOnMast

And then we had our first sighting.

FirstSighting

Off in the distance you’ll see a whale’s tail or fluke. Notice all the seabirds flying around the area. These whales were feeding! We’ve never seen this before on any whale watch.

FeedMe

Here you’ll see the whale with his mouth wide open. We were told the whales were following and eating tiny eels that they rustled to the water’s surface. The seabirds are shearwaters and seagulls. If they get too close they might also become whale food.

Here are two whales. One is facing us, right side up. His friend is upside down waving his right dorsal fin in the air.

FeedMeMore

Um, that whale is coming right toward us.

WhaleNose

SMILE!

SMILE!

Did you know whales eat 3,000 pounds of food per day?!

When whales dive, they might stay underwater for up to 30 minutes.

Bye

Bye Bye

Bye Bye

On this trip we saw Humpback, Minke, and Finback whales. The Humpback whales are the most animated. If they are especially playful you might see them breach (jump out of the water.)  That is an unbelievable sight to behold. On this trip the whales tended to display their flukes and wave their dorsal fins. Many of the whales that pass through Stellwagen Bank are identified by their flukes and given names accordingly.

The closest that the whale watch boats are allowed is 100 feet of the whales. Somewhere between 100 and 300 feet is the preferred minimum. At that distance the boats are only allowed stay for 15 minutes. And as the whales move, so does the boat…slowly.

If a right whale is sighted, the minimum distance allowed is 500 yards.  All boats must cease whale watching and return to port 15 minutes before sunset.

Whale Watching is Hard Work

Whale Watching is Hard Work

For more exciting pictures and video of whales breaching, visit Seven Seas Whale Watch

To make a donation in support of whale conservation and protection, visit the American Cetacean Society, the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, or the Atlantic Whale Foundation. To support the Stellwagen Bank Marine Sanctuary, click here.

To learn more about the International Whaling Commission, click here.


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The Belle of Bell Tavern

Earlier this spring I accepted an invitation to participate in an art exhibit, Historic Interpretations: Contemporary Artists Interpret the Historic Collection, at the Peabody Historical Museum. Historic Interpretations challenged artists to choose an historical item from the museum and to reinterpret it in any art medium.  Per the historical society:

“The Society is seeking to remove traditional forms of interpretive practice, leaving the object’s interpretation to the participating artist.”

The historical artifact I chose was a 19th century wallpaper fragment from the Bell Tavern in Danvers, MA.

phswallpapersample2-version-2

After some research, I learned that in 1797 Hannah Webster Foster wrote a novel, The Coquette or, The History of Eliza Wharton, which detailed a much publicized account of a socially elite Connecticut woman’s death in a tavern after giving birth to a stillborn, illegitimate child. Foster’s novel became a statement for women on the issues of individualism, social conformity, social class, and female friendship in the early American republic.

With this information, I was inspired to create The Belle of Bell Tavern.

Using this photo, I sculpted Eliza Wharton from polymer clay.

Eliza Wharton

Eliza Wharton

Here she is, head attached to the body, before going into the oven. (Doesn’t that sound a little sadistic?)

BelleofBellTavernBaldFull

And then I realized I forgot to give her eyebrows!

BelleofBellTavernBaldHead

Here is The Belle of Bell Tavern completely assembled. I really must order a larger photo cube. Belle is 16″ tall when assembled and these larger pieces don’t fit in a 20″ cube. Below are two shots of her; one in the photo cube and one against a black background.

BelleofBellTavern1

BelleofBellTavern2Black

BelleofBellTavernHead

Belle is attached to an antique wall shelf that I inverted for her skirt. Accompanying her is a handmade journal that opens, a pair of slippers, a suitcase, a gold key, and scrolls of love letters to an unknown beau.

BelleofBellTavernJournal

BelleofBellTavernJournalOpen

The quote attached to her skirt reads: I’ll toll you in if you have need, feed you well, wish you speed. These words hung over the door in front of the Bell Tavern.  From what I’ve learned about Eliza, she was a woman who found herself in a difficult situation, surrounded by friends who criticized her actions and warned her against further wrongdoing. Eliza desired independence and freedom. She wanted to avoid a loveless marriage, to choose a relationship on her own terms, and did not accept the idea of a woman being another person’s personal property.

This piece was great fun to create. Who would’ve thought a simple wallpaper sample could provide so much history.

The exhibit runs August 15-October 18. Opening weekend is August 15, 12:00-7:00 pm and August 16, 12:00-3:00 pm. The exhibit is displayed in two houses, the Osborne-Salata House and the Gideon Foster House. For more information, visit the Peabody Historical Society and Musuem.

To read more about the development of this piece go to this post and this post.

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