Musings from the Moonroom

Thoughts on Art, Inspiration, Creativity and Spirit


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My First Two Weeks With Flora

As promised, I wanted to share with you my progress in Flora Bowley’s Bloom True online class. This class focuses on painting intuitively. That is, listening to your inner voice for direction, practicing non-attachment, getting rid of expectations, and playing. Lots of playing.

Believe me, it is not as easy as it sounds.

Listening to my inner voice isn’t hard. I’ve been doing that for a while now. Practicing non-attachment, not wondering what the final painting will look like, not letting the inner critic get too loud. Those things are much trickier to put into practice. Even playing with paint on the canvas can be a challenge at times.

Our first couple of weeks have been spent getting to know our canvas, putting lots of layers on it, playing with the paint and textures and shapes. Here is my progress so far.

If you have a cat or dog at home, you know they want to help out in the studio.

"I wonder if Mom will let me help her paint?"

“I wonder if Mom will let me help her paint?”

We experiment with how to apply the first layer of paint. Wet on wet and then blindfolded. (Um, just me. Pippin did not participate. Really. Have you tried to blindfold a cat?)

Three Canvases Ready to Go

Three Canvases Ready to Go

After this approach, we work on adding layers. Warm layers, cool layers. Lots of layers. There is no right or wrong way to add layers of paint. Nor is there any magic number for how many layers to put on the canvas. It’s all about play and listening to your intuition.

First Canvas Progress

Here is the paint progression and transformation of the first canvas. (Click on the first image to start the slideshow.)

Second Canvas Progress

I work on at least two canvases at a time. While one canvas is drying, I can paint on another canvas and stay in the flow. (Click on the first image to start the slideshow.)

At this point, the paintings have gone through the “Wow, that’s cool” stage and the “Ew, that is really ugly” stage. Several times. Toward the end of last week I was getting better about practicing non-attachment and allowing myself to say “Wait until tomorrow” before passing too much judgement onto the piece.

Many times, seeing the painting with fresh eyes in the morning has been all it takes to appreciate the process.

I still have no idea where either painting is taking me or what they will look like in the end. And that’s okay.

I’ll leave you with another cute cat picture. Pippin decided if he couldn’t help paint my canvas, he’d get creative with the drop cloth.

PippinGetsCreativeWithFloorTarp


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Expressions of Love Exhibit-Handworks Gallery of American Craft

I took a leap this month and entered one of my Ornimals into an exhibit. I haven’t entered any art into an exhibit in over a year due to some less than favorable experiences. But the exhibit at Handworks came at the right time.

The Expressions of Love exhibit focuses on art made out of love. Love for a family member, a friend, an acquaintance. Someone or some event that represents love in its many forms. Each piece is accompanied by a story. Some are funny. Some bring tears to your eyes. All are heartwarming.

I entered an Ornimal I created in honor of our first cat, Ren. We adopted Ren shortly after getting married and moving to Massachusetts. She was a beautiful calico who traveled with us to five homes and brought us years of joy.

Ren (1985-2010)

Ren (1985-2010)

Ren Remembrance Ornimal(Amy Crawley, 2013)

Ren Remembrance Ornimal
(Amy Crawley, 2013)

Here is the story I wrote to accompany this piece.

I caught your eye at the shelter as I rubbed the cage door. “Take me home” I said. And you did. I cried all the way to my new home.

We lived in a couple of apartments. You let me play in the sink water and sit on top of your fish tank. I told you I was a good hunter.

I cried when you tried to keep me out of your bedroom. You gave in and I slept on your head. From then on we always snuggled at night, keeping each other warm.

Sometimes you would take me on road trips to visit your family. Remember the time I sat on your lap and stared into your eyes while we waited to pay the toll? You got the message.

One day we moved into a big house and I had more places to run and hide. That other cat you adopted scared me. But I forgave you and still slept on your bed.

I got older and my body changed. Some things inside weren’t working right. You found a nice doctor and he tried to make me better.

You were good at giving me shots and feeding me whatever I wanted. But over time, it wasn’t enough. My body was telling me something. It was getting close to my time to leave.

When the end came, you held me close and that nice doctor gave me a shot. My fur felt warmer and my breathing relaxed. And then you helped me cross to a place where I run freely, catch fish in a big tank, and wait to snuggle on your bed again.

Ren Ornimal & Story

Ren Ornimal & Story

ExpressionsOfLoveExhibitEntry

The Expressions of Love exhibit at Handworks Gallery is on display February 2-24. The opening reception is Sunday, February 3, from 1:00pm to 4:00pm. If you’re in the area, stop in to see all the great pieces.

Note: Pieces in the exhibit are not for sale.


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A Wednesday Full of Woody

My deepest heartfelt thanks to everyone who left a comment on my post Preparing to say Goodbye. I appreciate your kinds words and compassion. My friend passed away peacefully on Friday. It was an honor to know her and to have been a participant in her life.

Mr. Woody is recovering and is progressing in the right direction. A change in antibiotics for an underlying infection seems to be working, along with sub-q fluids to keep him hydrated. He must be feeling a bit better because he has carried his toy mouse from one floor to the other and back again.

And I’m back working in the studio making art and working on the business side of my art. A return to some form of normalcy.

I hope to get back to some regular schedule of blogging in the near future as well. Until then, enjoy these pictures of Woody taken over the past few weeks. (Click on a picture to enlarge and to scroll through each image.)

What can I say. The cats are my kids. Spoiled and they know it :-)


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Preparing to Say Goodbye

The spirit of death weighs heavy on me this week. A friend who has been battling cancer for nearly 3 years has entered hospice in preparation for her final days. At home our dear, sweet oldest cat also appears to be preparing us for his last days. I am heartbroken. We knew these times would come. Someday. Yet all the mental preparation in the world really doesn’t prepare you.

Run

I want to run. I want to run hard, fast, and away from the pain that grips my heart. I feel it ache and tears well-up in my eyes. I want to scream and push the pain aside. I want to tell death to F.O.  And then I find a moment of calm. My heart relaxes and relief washes over me. I don’t like this roller coaster. I want to busy myself with something else. I cannot. I must embrace my fear.

Time is Precious

I look back on the days when I would visit my friend. A group was formed after she returned home from surgery. We would take turns visiting, providing food, conversation, helping around the house. Whatever we could do to be of service. It was a bit hard at first. What will I say? What will we talk about? There were good days and not so good days. Months of good health in spite of the situation. Laughter, jokes, walks, and ice cream. Sharing of art. Sharing of spirituality. On the days when I really didn’t feel like going, I was glad I did.

At home, I find myself missing Woody cat, even though he is just one floor below me curled up on our bed. He has fought kidney and thyroid disease for more than a year, but less than two. So many blood tests & pills to give. Through it all he has been our Zen kitty. So tolerant. So accepting. I wonder how I would’ve put up with all he’s gone through. Changes in his health were mostly gradual. And then one day you notice something isn’t right. This latest change happened over last weekend. It is the one I’ve dreaded.

Preparing

How does one prepare to say goodbye? I honestly do not know. This isn’t like “goodbye, I’ll see you later.” This is the final goodbye. I know you won’t be coming back. You tell yourself you’ll be alright. That this is the circle of life. Then you tell yourself that is a bunch of BS. The pain grows stronger inside. The grief. It swells and then I burst.

I’ve spent most days this week in silence. No music. Some TV. Meals are quiet with some conversation. A pall hangs over us. This has been a pretty sucky week. Sometimes it hurts to be a heart-centered person. I know my heart center is large and it absorbs much of the pain and sorrow around me. That is why my heart breaks so easily. I feel it down into my hands and all around my chest.

I wake each morning and thank the Universe for another day. I thank the Universe for bringing my friend and my pet through the night. I spend time thinking of good memories and the joy these two beings brought into my life.

I don’t know if I’m truly prepared for what comes next. I only hope that when it comes, I can let it wash over me. Welcome it. Then let it go.

Woody


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Mothers, Don’t Let Your Kids Grow Up To Be Punk Kitties

A few weeks ago, I introduced you to one of my new Ornimals, the Graduate Owl Ornimal. This piece received good feedback so I decided to make more for the upcoming Graduation season. And then I hit a wee little snag. I couldn’t find any 2″ glass bases in order to make more Graduate Owl Ornimals. I only had two left in my studio and one of those bases was supporting my prototype.

Geez, I really hate it when a good idea comes along and then you can’t find the necessary materials to make more.

I hunted around online, talked to some friends, and finally found a source. Thrilled with finding an online supplier who had the bases in stock, I placed my order. A few days later a box arrived. I anxiously carried it to my studio, opened it up, pulled out one container and said “Oh crap, they’re the wrong size!” And I mean they really were the wrong size by a whole 1/2 an inch.

The thought of returning the bases didn’t cross my mind. I was sure I’d find a way to use these small glass bases. I accepted this as a challenge. Thankfully the creative muse was on my side and within a few days this new little guy was sitting on my worktable.

Punk Kitty

Because of the size of the glass bases, I thought they’d be perfect to make baby ornimals. But something happened on the way from inspiration (a picture of a baby kitten) to action. Introducing Punk Kitty:

Punk Kitty (Amy A. Crawley, 2012)

Punk Kitty Side View (Amy A. Crawley, 2012)

And don’t forget his paws…

Somewhere a proud Tiger Striped mom cat shakes her head and smiles.

And I won’t lay blame for this little guy on Robert Palmer, who happened to be singing away in iTunes while I worked.

As always, thanks for your continued support on this journey. And thanks for stopping by….

Have a great weekend.


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Welcoming a New Brood of Kitties…

Ah spring, when the flowers bloom and baby animals are introduced to the world. Here in my studio this spring I am “birthing” new artwork. So it seems rather fitting that today I introduce you to my newest brood of kitties.

Cat Ornimals In Progress

My large cat ornimals are sculpted with Super Sculpey clay over a glass base. There are several steps involved in the process from prepping the glass to the final curing of the paint. Here are a few in-progress shots.

Cured Cat Ornimal

Cat Ornimals after acrylic wash

Hanging out on the display

Cat Ornimals get some character

A New Brood of Kitties

Though I enjoy sculpting my animals, the real fun happens when I paint on their “fur” and add their eyes. Because each piece is hand sculpted, slight variations occur. That is the nature of sculpting for me. These fur balls were all sculpted in the same week, yet each one has a slight difference in its face that gives each cat its own personality. That personality becomes evident as the painting occurs. Between the sculpting and the painting, I hope to capture some of the humor in the animals.

Cat Ornimals 2012 Group Shot (Amy Crawley)

Grey Tabby Cat Ornimal (Amy Crawley, 2012)

Brown Tabby Cat Ornimal (Amy Crawley, 2012)

Siamese Cat Ornimal (Amy Crawley, 2012)

Tiger Striped Cat Ornimal (Amy Crawley, 2012)

Tuxedo Cat Ornimal (Amy Crawley, 2012)

This first group of five Cat Ornimals will be available for purchase in my ArtFire Studio in a few days. I’ll let you know when they have been added to my online studio.

Next I’ll share with you what happens when life gives you the wrong sized glass base and the creative muse is activated.

As always, thanks for your continued support on this journey. And thanks for stopping by….


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A Chicken and A Cat Walk Into A Bar…

Expecting a little adult humor?

Sorry to disappoint. I’m just popping in to share pictures of my newest Ornimals (Animal Sculpted Ornaments.)

Let’s start with that chicken…

Little Cluck

And the cat…

Tuxedo Cat (sold)

Followed by a bird…

Blue Jay (sold)

And bringing up the rear, a dog…

Golden Lab

Small ornimals (55mm) are $25.00

Large ornimals (67mm) are $30.00

Little Cluck, the Golden Lab, and more will be available for purchase this weekend at Artspace Maynard, my final holiday show of the season.


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Tabby Cat Ornament-Giving Myself Permission to Start Again

Last week I shared my first process in creating new cat ornament for the 2011 holiday season. I wasn’t completely satisfied with the result and created a second ornament over the weekend.

For this second ornament, I decided to use Super Sculpey. I prefer it as a sculpting medium. The clay is malleable and pretty forgiving. I prepped the glass ornament and covered it with the clay.

I began to sculpt the cat’s face. But the more I looked at the face from the side, I realized the proportions weren’t right. In fact, it was downright yucky. So, I kept the ears and took off the cat’s face.

Cat Face Bits

You might be able to see a nose and potential eyes in the picture above. This is one benefit of working with SuperSculpey. Just take a small spatula or palette knife, gently place under the clay you want to remove, and scrape it off.

Feeling frustrated that the picture in front of me and in my head wasn’t traveling from my brain to my hands to the ornament, I stopped and went for a walk. I let the ornament sit on my work table for a day.

When I returned to my work table, I sat down, took a deep breath and said to myself “Now, remember what you’ve learned about sculpting. Use those techniques to sculpt the cat.” I gave myself permission to start again.

I rolled a log of clay for the nose and made pads for the whiskers and cheeks. I took my time, studied my reference picture, and sculpted.

Now I felt like I was getting somewhere with this little guy.

Here he is before going into the oven. With the fleshy tone of the SuperSculpey, the cat ornament was reminding me of Sphynx Cats.

Yes, they are ugly. How do you think you’d look without your fur? Personally I think these cats are fascinating. Ugly and cute at the same time. Makes me giggle to think about putting a knit sweater on a furless cat for warmth. Wait, my fully-furred cats like to curl up in my sweaters….

Anyways. Here is prototype #2 cooled from the oven and given an antique wash.

One suggestion I do have when working with SuperSculpey is that you may want to tent your piece with aluminum foil. The clay has a tendency to color shift and get slightly darker during the curing process. In this case that was fine because I was planning to paint the cat. However, when in doubt about your final piece, put a tent of aluminum foil over the raw clay while it cures in the oven.

In prototype 1, I used oil paint and colored pencils to create his fur coat. I realized I put too much texture on the raw clay which then made it harder to use the colored pencils over the cured clay. I also didn’t really like the color of oil paint I chose.

This time I used black, brown, white, and yellow ochre oil paint to color Tabby’s fur. Here is the final result:

Tabby Cat Ornament 2011

Here are the two ornaments side by side for comparison.

Cat Ornament Prototypes 1 & 2

They look quite different. I’m happy with how prototype #2, Tabby Cat, turned out.

Permission Granted

I’m glad I gave myself permission to start over again. I know that each piece will be different and continue to evolve with more practice. Sometimes my biggest frustration is that subsequent pieces don’t turn out like the first piece. Yet that is what makes each piece unique and one of a kind. Some days my hands flow easily with the clay. Other days they ache and feel stiff. All of this translates to the clay and gives the piece its character.

I’m off to make more ornaments. More medium round ones, some smaller round ones, and also some disk shaped. I’ll post additional results here. And I’ll continue to give myself permission to start over again.

How about you? How easily do you give yourself permission to start over again?


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Holiday Ornaments-My Process to Create a Cat Ornament

Now that I’ve completed the Languedoc-Roussillon series, I must move on to the next task on my list: Holiday ornaments. I need to make several for NOA for their upcoming holiday season display (which sounds really nice; 5 white Christmas trees displayed in both stores & decorated entirely with local artisan-made ornaments.) And there are the upcoming shows on my schedule (Merrimack Valley Artisans, Bolton Artisans Guild, ArtSpace-Maynard.)  Time to GET BUSY!

Last year I made a few ornaments using disk shaped glass ornaments as my armature. Here is one example:

This year I decided to try sculpting over a round ornament. That comes with a different set of challenges as the shape can change the perspective.

I wanted to make a prototype piece first. This one is the practice piece and takes all the grief. Poor ornament.

Here is my process for this cat prototype. I started with white polymer clay, covered the glass ball and added facial features. I really struggled with the face. That could be because I haven’t sculpted in a while and was shifting gears from the encaustic work back to polymer clay.

I know I was also hard on myself in seeking perfection on a practice piece. I know better but it happens anyways. Just have to remind myself “this is only a test….”

Back view with tail

After proto-cat was cured and cooled, I added an antique wash of acrylic paint.

Not bad. Now you can see the texture I added with a needle tool.

Next up is adding more color. This year I’m experimenting with oil paints and coloring the clay. So I rubbed, smooshed, and then wiped off several oil paints to give proto-cat some color.

Well now he’s glowing. It takes a little trial and error when applying the oil paint. Be sure to wear gloves! At this point I’m not really happy with the results. What I see in front of me isn’t matching what is in my head…or my model/inspiration for that matter.

Taking a clue from my model (who is sleeping on the studio floor), I take a break and come back to the ornament in the evening. I add some more oil paint and additional color with Prismacolor pencils. This adds some depth and definition.

And a back view. I think I like his tail the best….

Sigh. I’m still not feeling the love here. Proto-cat looks a little alien to me. But that is why this is a prototype.

I spent some time really looking at the cats and the shape of the ornament. Proto-cat’s face still seems flat to me. It looks like a cat but it doesn’t. Some things I’ll change on the next one:

  • build out the face instead of adding face parts
  • make the eyes rounder
  • make smaller marks with the needle tool
  • work from a picture versus memory or a sleeping model
  • try a different polymer clay that is easier to manipulate

What do you think?




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Blog Anniversary Week 2 Winner

Thanks to everyone who left a comment on the Week 2 Blog Giveaway post. In keeping with the medieval theme, I chose a gold drawstring bag to place the names of those who entered the week 2 giveaway. And I also had some special help this time around. First the names were placed on top of the gold bag. Purple paper, gold bag. Nice medieval colors.

Then the names were placed in the bag….

No peeky…shake the bag

Then my assistants provided their approval.

Pippin Inspected the Bag

Woody Approved the Bag

The winning name was pulled from the bag…..

And the winner of Cris Dupouy’s book, Creating Your Own Antique Jewelry and one of my art doll necklaces is….

Marlea A

Congratulations Marlea!

Thanks again to everyone who participated. Check back this Friday, 8/19, to see what you can win in Week 3 of my blog anniversary celebration.

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