Musings from the Moonroom

Thoughts on Art, Inspiration, Creativity and Spirit


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Getting Sketchy. Getting Messy

Okay, well, where has the time gone? Each week I put “blog post” on my to-do list. And each week passes right by without writing an update.

With this new month of the new year, I’ve been busy with my volunteer work, which has brought with it a couple new responsibilities, and also taking two online classes. (Actually, I signed up for three online classes. But the third one is a free class, and, honestly, the two that I paid for are my priority.)

So, what are these two online classes?

The first class is called Drawn to Expression with UK artist Gillian Lee Smith. I absolutely love this class and it is getting most of my attention right now. This class is more process & technique based than product-outcome based. I love that I’m learning to use new-to-me materials, like charcoal sticks, graphite powder, Conte sticks, and pastels. And trying to become more expressive in my work.

The other class is Lets Face It with Kara Bullock and 15 other mixed media artists. Kara also lead the “Angels Among Us” online class that I took last fall. In “Lets Face It” the topic is faces. Full on face portrait, side view, 3/4, as well as portraiture with bust, hands, and even a full figure. This class runs the whole year and is chock full of information, process, technique, and final product.

Drawn to Expression: Week One

Most of the work I’ve created since the classes started has been in DoE. So that is where I’ll start.

We’re two weeks into the class but I’m still working through the first week’s lessons. Of course.

We started by sketching a household object. Something with interesting angles or curves. These early exercises are timed. The time limit keeps you from getting stuck in the details.

10 minute sketch-Household object

From here Gillian takes us through a variety of exercises to help us loosen up as we work with our materials-charcoal, charcoal pencil, graphite pencils, Conte crayon, and pastels. I haven’t practiced drawing this much since high school art class. It has been a great practice. I actually *want* to get into the studio to sketch or draw.

Portrait Practice

The first week has also included practice in sketching portraits. Or at least the “hint” of a portrait. When exercises are timed at 30 seconds, then one minute, then five minutes, an impression of a face is about all you get.

30 Second Portraits

Day2.30SecondSketches

One Minute Portraits

Day2.1minutesketches

Five Minute Portraits

When I started this exercise, I stood, frozen, in front of the paper. Literally. I could feel myself stop and not know where to begin. “How the heck am I supposed to draw a face in 5 minutes?,” I thought. What about those guide-lines I’m so used to putting on the paper first? I don’t remember how to draw a face!

Well that moment took up about a minute of my allotted time. The result being the first picture in the upper left corner above. Gradually, I loosened up and was able to start making sketchy, flowing lines.

Now, I love this as a warm-up exercise or to simply practice, to get your hands moving, and get something onto the paper if I don’t have a lot of time to spend in the studio. It’s a great way to get out of your head and to not worry about details and accuracy. It’s PRACTICE. Not a finished piece for exhibit or sale.

20 Minute+ Portrait Sketches

This exercise culminates with a 20 minute or longer portrait sketch. Now you get more time to delve deeper and explore a particular area in your portrait sketch. It’s kind of a balance between having the right amount of time and too much time before you get hung up in picky little details. That is, self-editing and knowing when to stop. (Or as Flora Bowley says “Spiral in, spiral out.”)

Day2.20MinutesketchA

First 20 minute portrait sketch

In this first attempt, I was more hung up on the materials, especially the graphite powder and trying to build layers. This was created on Bristol board. The surface was a bit too smooth.

Day2.20minutesketchB

Second 20 minute portrait sketch

Now I’m getting used to the materials and also the technique. I like the highlights on his chin, nose, and under the right eye. But the darks are too dark, I think. It doesn’t feel like I’m building the layers slowly and gradually enough to give the portrait a more “mysterious” feel.

Day2.40minutesketch

40 minute portrait sketch

Okay, now I think I’m getting the hang of it. I decided to very lightly sketch in some guide lines for this face first, then added in successive layers of graphite powder. I’m learning I have to add in some darker areas, then remove some of them to get the depth.

I really like the highlight on her lower lip and on the philtrum under her nose; on the right eyelid, and around her right nostril. I also like the dark shadow under her chin at the top of her neck and the light area directly below it. She looks serious and pensive. And her face isn’t even finished. It doesn’t have to be completely finished.


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A Fallow Period-Coming Back to Myself Through Spirituality

It started when I made a small twisting movement that Friday morning. As soon as I moved back to a neutral stance I could feel the muscles in my back tighten from top to bottom. “Oh crap,” I thought. “Well, this has happened before and it usually works itself out by the end of the day.”

So I took some Advil and went on with my day. My back was stiff and sitting for any length of time wasn’t pleasant. I stretched as best I could and put on BioFreeze.

When I got up Saturday morning, my back felt much better. I had been taking pictures of the February blizzard the day before and went up to the studio to take another picture out the window. I bent over to take the picture and when I tried to stand up, pain shot through my back and brought tears to my eyes. “Quick, sit down and catch your breath,” I told myself.

A warm shower, more gel and Advil provided very temporary relief. I was in tears as I slo-o-owly walked to the kitchen slightly hunched-over and looking like Tim Conway’s old man character from a Carol Burnett skit. This flippin’ hurt and it scared me.

I spent most of that weekend on our couch alternating ice packs and the heating pad. At least the snow was pretty to look at. Lord knows I wasn’t about to go very far.

I began to think about why this intense pain had struck me. I’ve had back pain before. I’m prone to sciatic nerve pain and muscle tension. But this was different. It ran deeper. It literally stopped me in my tracks.

And then it hit me. All the emotional upheaval of the past 10 months- the death of a friend, my Mother’s death, my Mother-in-law passing, another friend’s spouse dying, my brother’s terminal cancer-all of it had culminated in that one moment that Friday morning. The Universe missed kicking me in the ass and hit me square in a weak spot. All the emotion, the lack of self-care, the pushing forward, the grief came to rest in my back.

Son of a gun.

Laying on my back, I slowly came to this realization that I had to stop the pushing. I had to allow myself the time to grieve. I had to learn to receive. A large hole was forming inside-a void that needed to be filled. My spirit was being crushed under all this grief and crying out.

The Word He Uttered Was...

The Word He Uttered Was…

Spiritual Community

You know how some things come to you just when you need them? A few weeks before my back pain started, I noticed an e-newsletter appearing in one of my in-boxes. What made this unusual is that this particular newsletter was previously going directly into a designated folder. So much for email rules.

Abbey of the Arts, the sender of this e-newsletter, was offering a class on a 13th century mystic, a woman named Hildegard of Bingen. Never heard of her.

Yet my desire to fill a void in my spirit and to find a spiritually based community was strong. So, without even knowing why, I registered for the class. It was a blessing in disguise.

Each week, we received daily readings from one of Hildegard’s books, followed by questions to contemplate. I learned about Lectio Divina, how to use physical movement to express myself, and found my voice in chanting. One of the best parts, as a component of Lectio, was expressing myself through creativity, specifically mandala-making.

For the better part of 40 days, I created a drawing, painting, or photograph in response to the words I read. It was magical.

As this art came forth, I rediscovered my love of drawing, of painting with watercolors, and of connecting with my spiritual side to express myself.

What had once been a fallow period was now greening with new life.

Bloomed In Your Branches

Bloomed In Your Branches

What I learned during this time is that my spiritual side-reading inspiring words or passages, taking time to meditate or chant, being in nature, being silent-is something I cannot neglect. It is part of who I am. And it is part of what defines my art.

This is why I withdrew from many aspects of my business and why my blog fell silent. I had to find myself again before I could be present here.

Discovery of my Voice

Discovery of my Voice


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March Slump

It has been a little quiet here at Musings from the Moonroom. While some experience March Madness, I’ve been going through a bit of a slump and not feeling very chatty these last few weeks. This usually happens to me during the month of February. Something to do with the grey weather I suppose.

This time my March Doldrums had nothing to do with the weather. It had more to do with disappoint in plans I made. Plans that never materialized or didn’t turn out the way I’d hoped. One disappointment after another left me wallowing in self-pity. I started to question myself and my plans. “What’s the point?” I’d ask. “Why bother anymore. I did what ‘the experts’ suggested and still nothing happened.”

I definitely exceeded my recommended 15 minute pity-party. In fact, I was starting to have a pity festival!

This attitude was not conducive to creating.

In place of creating, I attended Jennifer Lee’s 10 day Right Brainers in Business Video Summit which was a fun event. This was Jen’s second year hosting the summit. It features a different speaker each day accompanied by a chat feature. The event is free and you have access to the videos for 48 hours after the live event. Jenn also offers two different upgrade options that give you unlimited access to the videos and other goodies.

This year’s speakers included Mark Silver, Lindsay Wilson, David Goldsmith, Tara Gentile, Hiro Boga, Elizabeth Marshall, Alison Marks, Jeremie Miller, Chelsea Moser, and Jen Louden. Topics ranged from heart-centered selling, social media, and legal basics to earning money, spirituality in business, organization and technology.

Some of my take-aways from this event:

  • make a connection
  • post on Facebook in the morning & ask a question
  • if you need a lawyer, get all your thoughts down on paper first
  • know what sells
  • know how much you make
  • be comfortable with the value of your product or service
  • tap into the wisdom of your inner resources
  • what do you want to achieve with your marketing?
  • define what your organizing first
  • what is your message?
  • a lousy first draft is better than no draft
  • you need to invest in yourself first in order to grow
  • look at each day; are you trying to do too much?

Bench Pressing Away the Doldrums

That last point (are you trying to do too much?) was made a few times during the summit by different speakers. The more I heard it, the more I realized that part of my problem was trying to do too much. I realized that while I was spreading my attention over at least five areas in my business, I had drifted from my original focus for the year. And we all know that when you try to divide your energy over too many areas, something is going to suffer.

During this time I also pulled out my materials from Christine Kane’s Uplevel Your Life workshop. I took the workshop in 2009. I’m sure Christine has made some changes and upgrades since then, but the basic bones of the program remain consistent. I started to get clearer on my intention for myself and my business. I returned to writing my gratitudes, gifts, and gains. And I started de-cluttering (the infamous, never ending clutter; it’s not just physical clutter either.)

In just a few short days, I began to feel my doldrums lift. Energy started to shift back to the positive and opportunities started to present themselves. The last 10 days have felt a bit more manageable. And I have started creating again (updates soon to follow.)

Bench pressing away the doldrums didn’t come easy. Some days it felt like I was pushing 500lb weights off my spirit. I really was concerned about staying stuck in this mindset. I simply had to kick myself in the pants, listen to my inner voice, and get clear on what I was doing and where I was going. Will the rest of the year be easy-going? Probably not. But I’m hopeful that putting some systems into place will make any future doldrums a little easier to bear.


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From Inspiration to Creation: Taking an Idea & Making It My Own with a Little Help from My Friends

I’m always on the lookout for sources of inspiration as I work on my new line of work with polymer clay focal disks. A recent source of inspiration came from Ford and Forlano’s O’Keefe pin.

O'Keeffe Pin: Steven Ford and David Forlano: Silver & Clay Pin - The...

O’Keeffe Pin: Steven Ford and David Forlano: Silver & Clay Pin – The… (clipped to polyvore.com)

I love the shape and construction of their pin. I thought to myself “Self, that would make a very cool focal disk.” And then I thought “How the heck did they do that?”

My intent was not to replicate Ford & Forlano’s O’Keefe pin. There is no way I could do that anyways. Rather, I wanted to figure out how to create a similar shape with my own style.

The shape and design reminded me of a ribbon. So using that as my starting point I rolled a thin strip of clay and wrapped it into a rose-like shape resulting in experiment #1.

Experiment #1 "Toothy"

Ribbon Disk Experiment #2

Uhm, well, those are interesting but not exactly what I had in mind.

Scratch head, look at picture of pin again, and give it another go.

Rose Disk #1

Rose Disk with Striped Tentacles

Okay, this is a slight improvement but the walls are still too high and I think the clay strips still too thin.

Time to call in the posse, er, my friends. Another set of eyes (or two or three) can be helpful. Maybe they’ll see something I’m not. I ping the folks on Polymer Clay Central. I talk to Dayle and Paula, Karen, and Judy. Everyone has different interpretations but also some similarities in the construction. This is good because I’m getting insight from folks who work in polymer clay, pottery, fiber and mixed media.

Out comes the clay again to experiment. We experiment together with the clay, commenting and making suggestions on how to manipulate the clay. Ah ha, I think we’re on to something here.

Purple Focal Disks

Oh yes, this is much closer to what I had in mind. Thank you dear friends for your input and suggestions.

Since those little purple disks were created, I’ve been experimenting even more, adding my own spin on things, letting the clay lead me and including texture, protuberances, and, of course, faces.

Untitled Striped Disk

Amoeba

Birth

Solitude

I can’t wait to pair some of these disks with encaustic backgrounds. It will give them a completely different look. Stay tuned!


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Monday Reflection: Begin The Journey

It may be that when we no longer know what to do,
we have come to our real work,
and when we no longer know which way to go,
we have begun our real journey.

~Wendell Berry


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Artwork Published in Right Brain Business Plan Book

I’m a little late in sharing the good news, but better late than never. Besides, its a good reason to celebrate again.

Last year, I participated in Jennifer Lee’s wonderful online class The Right Brain Business Plan E-Course. This was the first business plan course that I took that actually clicked. Why? Because it paired my creative side with my planning & organizational skills. It made crafting a business plan fun.

If you’re a creative entrepreneur like me, I bet you go running for the hills when you hear the words business plan. Yet, you know that having a plan is essential to your success.

This year Jenn has put all this wonderful information into a book aptly titled The Right Brain Business Plan: A Creative, Visual Map for Success The book was released in February through New World Library

I’m thrilled to share that I’m one of the 22 featured entrepreneurs in the book and my Right-Brain Business Plan made it in!

Through Jenn’s online class, and now her book, I was able to develop a vision for my business based on values that are important to me. Those values became the basis for my business plan. With Jenn’s guidance, I was able to identify and understand my perfect customers, make the leap into teaching, write financial goals in terms that made sense to me, and develop a sense of who my creative cohorts are.

You can read more about my business plan in this post on Jenn’s site: Spotlight on Amy A. Crawley

The other wonderful aspect of Jenn’s approach to writing a business plan is that I can pick up where I left off. When health issues became my primary focus late last year, I had to put my plan aside. Now that I’m feeling better, it’s time to revisit my plan, update it, and rework some goals. Having flexibility in your business plan is essential. It shouldn’t be a linear, static document.

So, what are you waiting for? The Right-Brain Business Plan has already been a #1 bestseller the Amazon Small Business Plans category. I highly recommend this book!

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