Musings from the Moonroom

Thoughts on Art, Inspiration, Creativity and Spirit


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Standing at Water’s Edge: Chapter 3

StandWatersEdgeCover

The Need for Others

The third chapter in Standing at Water’s Edge is a preface to Dr. Paris’s discussion on relationships and the importance of relationships in the creative process. She begins with an interview with Loren Long, a book illustrator. In a nutshell, Mr. Long has an ideal situation: he has a strong connection to his family and his art. His family is a strong support network for him and his art. At the end of the interview, Dr. Paris tells Mr. Long: “I view your lifestyle as a sign of your strength, and I believe that your relationships with your wife and children support and enrich your ongoing capacity to create.”

Not that Mr. Long doesn’t have self-doubt. He does say in the interview “I guess that, in general, I always need someone to like my work. If they don’t, my self-doubt comes to the surface. You know, like I’m not living up to the grand fantasies I have about myself or about what my work should look like.”

I remember feeling that when I first started working as an artist full-time. I wanted everyone to like my art. The reality is not everyone will like your art. And I’ve come to accept that because I certainly know that I don’t like every piece of art I see either. However, as creative types, we all need someone (or several someones) to support us. The support we receive from relationships helps to keep us productive, happy, and energetic.

Dr. Paris sums this up nicely:

Positive relationships help to move us forward and help us to grow. Positive relationships also help the artist along in his creative process. Good relationships can bolster our courage to take the plunge into creativity. And likewise, not-so-good relationships, or a lack of relationships, can inhibit our dive.

I know from personal experience that I excel in the company of community. The year I participated in an art salon, I believe my business excelled because I was making and keeping goals and those in the group kept me on track. Since then I feel like I haven’t done quite as well, nor have I found quite the same support network.

Dr. Paris makes this additional point:

Although most people will agree that relationships are an important part of their life and that relationships help them to feel strong and capable, many people have a difficult time developing and sustaining these supports.

BINGO!

Personally, I believe some of this difficulty comes when people change, move forward or backward, change their focus, become overwhelmed by other factors in life, etc, etc. I do believe in that saying about people coming into our lives for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. The hard part is maintaining relationships. It takes effort from both persons.  As Dr. Paris points out Rather than striving to become self-sufficient and independent of others, we must seek to become better at creating gratifying relationships.

In this chapter, Dr. Paris talks a bit about psychology and human behavior and changes in this area over the last two decades. At the end of this discussion, she expresses her belief that creativity is more of a psychological state and process. It requires persistence, resilience, and determination (as various sources on creativity like to point out.) However, Dr. Paris believes that these traits are not a static or given ability. That the capacity to be creative emerges when we feel psychologically strong, safe, and understood by others.

But we all know that we are not all fortunate to have supportive friends, families, and others. So what do you do then?

Imagining Connection

Because of the belief that humans have a natural inclination for connection, it is possible that in the absence of real-life supportive relationships (or in addition to these relationships), imagining this kind of support is beneficial. In other words imagining supportive connections provides us the fuel to continue our attempts at creative immersion and sustains us through the various blocks and fears we encounter along the way.

Okay, I understand this point. I’ve done some visualization tasks, such as before heading off to an art show or before entering a gallery to present my work. And yes, it does give me a boost of confidence. This section also made me think a bit about the Law of Attraction and how visualizing can help bring about that which you desire.

Dr. Paris points out that while many artists are socially isolated or withdrawn, internally we are able to experience connections with others. And we often experience that connection with others through our art.

Before moving on to a discussion of three kinds of relationships, Dr. Paris poses two questions to consider:

What kinds of relationships do you need to facilitate your creativity?

What gets in the way of developing these kinds of relationships?

Join Me

I invite you to join me as I read Standing at Water’s Edge. You can purchase the book through Amazon, Dr. Paris’s web site, or perhaps find it at your local library or bookstore. My goal is to post every 7-10 days a summary of the chapter and share any a-ha moments that occurred. I welcome your comments on this and successive posts. Share your a-ha moments and experiences while reading the book. You can join in at any time. If you have a blog and are also writing about your experiences with this book, please include a link to your blog in your comment. I’ll include your blogs at the end of my posts.

Book Outline

Standing at Water’s Edge is divided into three parts with 10 chapters as follows:

Part 1: The Secret World of Creativity
Chapter 1: The Secret World of Creativity
Chapter 2: The Light and Dark of Immersion

Part II: Relationships
Chapter 3: The Need for Others
Chapter 4: Finding Strength in Mirrors
Chapter 5: Finding Inspiration in Heroes
Chapter 6: Finding Comfort in Twins
Chapter 7: Connecting with the Audience and Meeting Deadlines

Part III: Stages of the Creative Process
Chapter 8: Approaching Immersion
Chapter 9: Diving In
Chapter 10: Coping with Disengagement and Reentry


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A Colorific Weekend

Dancing with the Rainbow

Dancing with the Rainbow is the title of the Lindly Haunani color workshop I took this past weekend in CT. The title is an apt description for a workshop that immerses you in color from the moment it starts. The workshop was hosted by the Southern Connecticut Polymer Clay Guild.

When I was asked if I wanted to go to the workshop, I immediately said “yes.” And then I had a few moments of hesitation. Could I afford to go? What in the world would I get out of this workshop? I don’t make jewelry or do much canework. Then I remembered a comment Christine Kane once made when you’re in this type of situation: “Can I afford not to go?”

I began to think about my own fear of working with color. How I’ve never been comfortable enough to play and experiment with color. I use polymer clay colors primarily as they come out of the package but I’ve never made my own color palette. That, however, was about to change….

Day One: Color Collages & Heads Explode

After an introduction and a little color history, we started the workshop by sorting through the color magazine clippings we brought. We quickly sorted into two piles; images we liked and images we didn’t. Then we sorted the “like” pile into sub-piles according to color families. Finally, Lindly walked around the room and worked with each of us to choose a color family to create our collage. Most people chose colors that they did not normally work with.

ColorExplained

Discussing Color

ChoosingColorImages1

Choosing Color Palettes

ChoosingColorImages2

Choosing Colors Isn't Always Easy

It was really interesting to watch people choose their colors. Sometimes our eyes gravitated to a pile of images, sometimes people took a small step toward the pile of images that attracted them. For some people the tone of their voice changed as they talked about the colors that excited them versus the colors they typically worked with.

After our color family was chosen, we created our collages. And then the real work began.

MyColorPalette

My Color Palette

I typically work in more muted tones or earth tones. I knew I wanted to work in a brighter color family. I initially gravitated toward the red color family but when I stood back and looked at my two choices-the vibrant yellows, oranges and lime greens and the reds, I immediately went for the above color palette.

MyColorCollage

My Color Collage

MoreCollages

More Color Collages

The collages above are examples of those created by some of the ladies in the workshop.

So what is this about heads exploding?

After we created our collages, Lindly walked us through the process of determining the base primary colors in each collage. Now you have to remember that Lindly has been working with color and honing her expertise in color for 20 years. She can pick out the primary colors in any collage with ease. And for me…not so much. Isn’t blue, is blue, is blue?

The primary colors we worked with were cadmium red, fuchsia, cobalt blue, ultramarine blue, cadmium yellow and zinc yellow in Premo polymer clay. And then there were the secondary colors of orange, violet, and green. And of course there are the in between colors that result from mixing your primaries in various proportions. Oh and there is this “color” called mud which results when you combine equal portions of your primaries and you use it to help you create your custom colors.

Yikes! Let the brain overload and head exploding commence :-)

I had a pretty hard time wrapping my head around this whole concept with the first few collages we reviewed. I have rarely looked at color from this point of view. Remember, I tend to work work with polymer clay colors directly from the package. I have almost every color available in the Premo color line. Why mix colors when the colors are already prepared for you? Oh silly, silly me.

Lindly placed primary color tiles on the collages and helped us to determine which primary colors made up the collage. If the primary color tiles didn’t click, we worked in reverse and used secondary colors and their variations to help us determine the primary colors. (The primary colors are essentially the DNA for all the color variations.) This approach seemed to work better for me. Surprisingly, after some time, things were starting to click for me.

By George, I think she’s getting it!

AnalyzingCollageColors

Analyzing Collages

AnalyzingCollageColors2

Using Tasting Tiles on Collages

AnalyzingCollageColors3

More Tasting Tiles

Day Two: A Door Opens

On Sunday something magical happened. A door opened as I finally became comfortable with this new experience. I found myself getting excited about making my own colors. I thought about the designs I’ve created in my current pieces. I realized that with this new knowledge, my current work seemed rather boring.

On the second day of the workshop, we finished reviewing the collages, Lindly demonstrated a few techniques for creating designs with Skinner Blends and various texture tools, and then we got to play with our color palettes. Our goal was to cover a wood mirror frame using our color palettes.

Then a bit of hesitation set in for me. What did I just learn? How did we make those colors? What color combination makes green?

Have you ever had that happen where you learn something and then you say “what are we supposed to do?”

So I slowly played with my color palette and started to learn the color formulas. I wasn’t being terribly exact and stopped trying to write out the formula (a little of this color, then a pinch of that color, and a lot of that color.) As I became more comfortable with playing, I found I was able to look at my color collage and determine that I needed more yellow, or white, or mud, to create a better match.

This was fun!

CollagesandFrames1

Collages & Custom Color Frames

CollagesandFrames3

More Collages & Frames

ChristysCollageandFrame

Christy's Frame & Collage

KarensCollageandFrame

Karen's Frame & Collage

MyCollageandFrame

My Collage & Frame

We were having such fun making our colors that most of us didn’t cover our mirror frames. So I’ll post my finished mirror at a later date.

I must thank Lindly for an awesome workshop and for opening a new creative door. I now have a greater appreciation for color and for making custom colors. Thanks too to the SCPCG for being gracious and welcoming hosts.

Note: Lindly Haunani is co-author with Maggie Maggio of Polymer Clay Inspirations: Techniques and Jewelry Projects for Creating Successful Palettes. To learn more about Lindly’s workshops and order her book, visit her website. She also has a blog. For more information on the Southern Connecticut Polymer Clay Guild, visit here.


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Standing at Water’s Edge-Chapter 2

StandWatersEdgeCover

Chapter 2: The Light and Dark of Immersion

In this chapter, Dr. Paris shares various scenarios on the struggle of immersion. I love the passage from Joseph Campbell that introduces this chapter:

Destruction of the world that we have built and in which we live, and of ourselves within it. But then a wonderful reconstruction of the bolder, cleaner, more spacious, and fully human life-that is the lure, the promise, and the terror…that we carry within

And so it can be with immersion; a struggle to begin, fear of starting, fear of the unknown, but the promise of a potentially wonderful outcome.

This chapter focuses on artistic blocks and how recognizing and understanding our blocks helps us get past them. And if we don’t recognize the nature of these blocks, we risk staying in a state of being unproductive.

I have to admit here that I still cringe at the word “productive.” The reason being the nine years I spent working as Speech-Language Pathologist. Whether I worked as a therapist for contract companies or whether I worked internally at a specific facility, we were expected to track our hours. Hours spent treating patients, time spent evaluating patients, time spent in meetings, etc, etc, etc. And though I understood most of the rationale for this (e.g. billable time), I couldn’t help but feel like someone was constantly looking over my shoulder. In some ways, it instilled a feeling that we weren’t trusted to do our jobs effectively.

Even today I tend to track my hours in the studio but sometimes I wonder if seeing that time written on a piece of paper contributes to my feeling guilty that I didn’t spend enough time working on my art or if it keeps me from getting started on a project in the first place. You know, because someone is looking over my shoulder checking to see if I’m being productive.

But I digress…..

In this chapter, Dr. Paris shares two examples of artists experiencing blocks and how they dealt with their individual situations (one through therapy, one through addictive behaviors.) But regardless of how these people dealt with their situations, the resolution in both cases revolved around understanding the situation and the significant role relationships play in the process.

It is when we disengage from one immersive experience and have no where else to turn for another immersive experience that darkness can set in. We become vulnerable to this “darkness” which may take the form of loneliness, hopelessness, feeling unsupported, or feeling worthless. The feelings may be fleeting or they may last for a period of time.

I can certainly relate to these feelings. I felt this way when I returned from France this summer. I now realize it was the immersive experience, the sense of community and friendship that made the trip so enjoyable. When I came home, I felt a sense of emptiness, loneliness, and overall blah. This is when I learned the importance of community in my artistic life. That is, connections.

Dr. Paris discusses five symptoms that can result as a lack of immersion and lead to blocks:

  • anxiety and restlessness which leave one feeling lost and without direction (yep, felt that one)
  • distrust and paranoia; lack of trust in the self and in others (sure, sometimes I don’t trust my self, my ideas out of fear of failure)
  • underachievement; that is, it is safer not to immerse and risk failure (yep, related to that one)
  • numbness and social isolation when the vitalizing effects of immersion are not present (makes me wonder if working in a home studio contributes to social isolation)
  • anger, aggression, and violence; connections with other detached and angry persons can lead to aggression

So many lightbulb moments here!

This chapter concludes with a section titled “The Light” and this sentence seems to sum it all up:

We know what we need: to feel special, to feel safe, to feel understood, and to feel connection.

In the guides section, Dr. Paris outlines three points:

  1. To be aware of and respect the fears you are facing. To take a deeper look at what fears you are facing. Awareness of these fears is the first step in stretching beyond them.
  2. Understand your dread to repeat. Here is where you want to identify previous experiences of disappointment, failure, etc and how you coped. Then identify moments of success. Together our memories of disappointment, failure, and success contribute to our fears, dreads, and hopes.
  3. Reach out for support. When you disengage from creativity, turn to other relationships or activities for immersion.

Join Me

I invite you to join me as I read Standing at Water’s Edge. You can purchase the book through Amazon, Dr. Paris’s web site, or perhaps find it at your local library or bookstore. My goal is to post every 7-10 days a summary of the chapter and share any a-ha moments that occurred. I welcome your comments on this and successive posts. Share your a-ha moments and experiences while reading the book. You can join in at any time. If you have a blog and are also writing about your experiences with this book, please include a link to your blog in your comment. I’ll include your blogs at the end of my posts.

Book Outline

Standing at Water’s Edge is divided into three parts with 10 chapters as follows:

Part 1: The Secret World of Creativity
Chapter 1: The Secret World of Creativity
Chapter 2: The Light and Dark of Immersion

Part II: Relationships
Chapter 3: The Need for Others
Chapter 4: Finding Strength in Mirrors
Chapter 5: Finding Inspiration in Heroes
Chapter 6: Finding Comfort in Twins
Chapter 7: Connecting with the Audience and Meeting Deadlines

Part III: Stages of the Creative Process
Chapter 8: Approaching Immersion
Chapter 9: Diving In
Chapter 10: Coping with Disengagement and Reentry


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Art Show Post-Mortem

Art Show Post-Mortem

I’m mostly recovered from the Paradise City Arts Festival show this weekend. As I’ve done in the past, I wanted to share my impressions with you.

First, thanks for all of your well-wishes for a good show. Your encouragement is always appreciated. And there is good news: attendance was up this past weekend as compared to the May show. Saturday and Sunday seemed much busier. Monday, however, seemed slower than in previous years. I guess two busy days plus one less busy day balances out.

Yes, people are buying. I observed more people paying with credit cards versus cash or check during this show. (In the spring the trend was the opposite.) However, I believe the recovery will be slow and gradual. Many people looked at my work, took a business card, and moved on. Sometimes all the talking in the world doesn’t result in a sale.

So I did something different this weekend. I listened. Really listened to what people were saying about my work. I asked them what drew them to my work. If they bought a piece, I asked them what they liked about it. It was an opportunity to learn about how my work impresses people. I know people like my work but I never delved deeper into why.

And what did people say? That my work “has a calming influence.” That my work is “very serene but there is laughter in there too” and that my work “has a healing quality.” Wow. I was honored to hear these statements. My plan is to use these comments for marketing my art work.

I also upgraded my booth design for this show.  In the past, I rented pipe and drape (either black, white, or gray) and used height adjustable tables, a pedestal, and a bar stand for my display surfaces. Here are some before pictures from earlier shows.

Booth Shot May 2008

Booth Shot May 2008

Booth Shot May 2009

Booth Shot May 2009

The old design tended to be a little cluttered and caused people to look down at my work instead of looking up even with pedestals at various heights on the table.

This year, I rented a pop-up wall display from Skyline Boston. These are the trade-show wall displays you may have seen at conventions. They are slightly curved with a heavy fabric wall covering. The rental package included shelves and lights. The cases which hold all the components converts into a desk/pedestal. Here is how my booth looked for this past weekend’s show.

New Booth Display Wall

New Booth Display Wall

Pedestal and Wall

Pedestal and Wall

Bar Stand & Wall

Bar Stand & Wall

The new display definitely made a difference. It allowed me to have most of my work at eye level. At eye level, people could see more detail and get close to my pieces. It also looked less cluttered. Less clutter means people have someplace to fix their gaze. The other thing I liked about this booth wall was the way it directed people into my booth. The slight curve in the wall allowed people to walk toward the center of my booth, turn to their right to see what I had on the center pedestal, and then follow the flow out of the booth.

Impressions

This show was an improvement over the May show. Attendance was up, people were paying with credit cards again, and my revenue was up. However, renting the pop-up wall did increase my expenses. I did cover the cost of the rental but did not cover all my costs. I think it may be some time before that happens. I have decided not to do the spring 2010 show partly due to the expense but primarily because I decided a few months ago to take a break from retail shows. My goals for 2010 are to focus on making my art, working on new sculptures, getting my fine art work into more galleries, and to start teaching and coaching.

Physical Therapy

As part of my healing for my herniated discs, I had a physical therapy evaluation on Wednesday. The plan is to have therapy 2x/week for strengthening. My first assignment is to do “press-ups” 10x every 2 hours. Press-ups are like cobra pose in yoga. I’m also tracking any pain I have during these exercises and at other times during the day. Next week I visit the neurosurgeon.

Standing at Water’s Edge

I’m a bit behind in my own reading of this book. I started Chapter 2 before heading off to Paradise City but did not take the book with me. I started reading again yesterday and will post the Chapter 2 a-ha’s and summary in a few days.


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Come to Paradise…

the Paradise City Arts Festival, that is.

This weekend, October 10-12 marks Paradise City’s 15th Anniversary in Northampton. The show runs Saturday and Sunday, 10-6 and Monday, 10-4. I’m in booth #733. I have a new booth design that I’m excited to debut. I’ll have new Soulful Sprites and Heart in Hand Talisman as well as new cat sculpts.

It is a wonderful time of year to venture to central Massachusetts. The leaves are changing and the colors are quite vibrant. What better way to spend the day than viewing beautiful handmade art along with the beautiful fall colors.

AngelHeartTalisman

WoodyCatStripedPajamas

HHTalisman0909


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Monday Reflection

What In Your Life Is Calling You?

What in your life is calling you?
When all the noise is silenced,
the meetings adjourned,
the lists laid aside,
and the wild iris blooms by itself in the dark forest,
what still pulls on your soul?

In the silence between your heartbeats hides a summons.

Do you hear it?
Name it, if you must,
or leave it forever nameless,

but why pretend it is not there?

-Terma Collective


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Standing at Water’s Edge-Chapter 1

StandWatersEdgeCover

Standing at Water’s Edge: Moving Past Fear, Blocks, and Pitfalls to Discover the Power of Creative Immersion by Anne Paris, Ph.D, arrived on the scene in 2008 and became an instant hit and highly recommended among many artists. Paris is a “clinical psychologist who specializes in helping artists and other creative people reach their potential.”

I remember reading an excerpt online in 2008 and being instantly drawn to the book. I received it as gift later in the year and promptly put it on my bookshelf. This often happens with the many books I want to read. Buy them, shelve them, sometimes forget about them, and eventually read them.

I believe, however, that a book comes to us, or we remember it and read it, when we need it. Such is the case with this book.

After witnessing some curious messages from the universe last week, I remembered this particular book, pulled it off the shelf and read the sleeve. Then I sat down and read the introduction. The introduction alone hooked me and I started reading the book in earnest late last week.

My intention is to share with you my learnings and a-ha moments as I read the book. If you’re feeling stuck, dealing with fear (of failure, of success, of getting started, of moving forward, etc), or struggling with blocks to creativity, I think you’ll enjoy this book and hopefully find it beneficial.

Chapter One: The Challenge of Immersion

In this chapter, Anne Paris defines creativity as coming from a state of experience she calls “immersion.”  That is, an experience of total connection and engagement. You know, being “in the flow” or “in the zone.” And we’ve all experienced that. Paris further explains that the experience of immersion can be found in many realms: creativity (artistic expression), spirituality, intimate relationships, play, learning, parenting, and psychotherapy.

As Paris states “It is not the activity, per se, that generates immersion, but the doer’s internal state and engagement that define it.”  However, it can be quite frightening to immerse ourselves in an activity.  Instead, we often choose not to dive in, protecting our vulnerable selves but diminishing our sense of aliveness and connection.

Can you relate to that? Sounds like our friend fear is at work here. In this chapter, Paris also describes several universal fears that block immersion: fear of letting go, fear of loss of control, fear of annihilation, and fear of emotions.

So we have the immersive state, or being in the flow. Then we have fear of immersion due to blocks. The other player in this is what Paris calls “disengagement” or the time when we evaluate our work and perhaps feel threatened by judgment. This is when we are out of the immersive experience, perhaps after we have finished a piece of work. If we feel inadequate during this period, we need to find other sources of immersion, such as play, relationships, and so forth, in order to restore our energy. This, in turn, rejuvenates us and allows us to reengage with our artwork.

At the end of this chapter, Paris offers three guides that summarize the chapter and offer suggestions for working through the challenge of immersion. These include: making immersion the goal, accepting movement in and out of immersion, and engaging in alternative realms of immersion.

I had several a-ha moments when reading this chapter and several pages are marked in red ink with notes and underlining. My most significant a-ha moment, however, came when reading guide #3, engaging in alternative realms of immersion. I have always had some difficulty transitioning back to work after a vacation. In the last couple of years, this has become even harder.

What I realized by reading chapter one is that when I am on vacation, I am totally immersed in the vacation. The end of vacation represents the time of disengagement. It often takes me 2-3 days before I can get my groove back and work in the studio. What I need to do is engage in some other immersive activity that will assist me in getting back into the studio (something other than sitting like a lump in front of the computer, if possible :-))

This realization was like a light bulb going off for me. It has helped me to stop blaming myself for being lazy when this period of disengagement occurs. I’m not being lazy, I’m just working through the disengagement from one immersive experience to re-engagement in another immersive experience.

Join Me

I invite you to join me as I read Standing at Water’s Edge. You can purchase the book through Amazon, Dr. Paris’s web site, or perhaps find it at your local library or bookstore. My goal is to post every 7-10 days a summary of the chapter and share any a-ha moments that occurred. I welcome your comments on this and successive posts. Share your a-ha moments and experiences while reading the book. You can join in at any time. If you have a blog and are also writing about your experiences with this book, please include a link to your blog in your comment. I’ll include your blogs at the end of my posts.

Book Outline

Standing at Water’s Edge is divided into three parts with 10 chapters as follows:

Part 1: The Secret World of Creativity
Chapter 1: The Secret World of Creativity
Chapter 2: The Light and Dark of Immersion

Part II: Relationships
Chapter 3: The Need for Others
Chapter 4: Finding Strength in Mirrors
Chapter 5: Finding Inspiration in Heroes
Chapter 6: Finding Comfort in Twins
Chapter 7: Connecting with the Audience and Meeting Deadlines

Part III: Stages of the Creative Process
Chapter 8: Approaching Immersion
Chapter 9: Diving In
Chapter 10: Coping with Disengagement and Reentry


2 Comments

MRI Update

Just a quick post. I received my MRI results today. I was surprised to learn that I have a small disc bulge at L3-L4 and a herniated disc at L4-L5. From what I’ve learned in some brief research, a disc bulge is considered stage 1, a herniated disc is stage 2, and a ruptured disc is considered stage 3 on the damage level.

I’m not sure if this is due to an accident, muscle weakness, muscle misuse, or some combination. (Notice I didn’t say “old age” :-) ) Next up is to schedule an appointment with a recommended neurosurgeon for further evaluation and physical therapy.

While I haven’t had the severe pain and irritation, I have had some tingling in my right leg and foot. Of course, after getting my results my back did start to ache a bit more. Darn that power of suggestion!

I’m going to see if I can get a copy of my MRI. I’d love to see the pictures. I’m fascinated with this stuff.

Studio

Work for Paradise City continues. Today I’ve focused mainly on another cat sculpt. No peekie until he is ready for his debut.

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