Musings from the Moonroom

Thoughts on Art, Inspiration, Creativity and Spirit


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The Daily Head: 4/5/11

Today’s head was inspired by the swaying trees that surround our house.

To help me keep track of when I create each head, I am scratching the date onto the bottom of each piece. Ironically, the idea for yesterday’s and today’s head came to me as I lay in bed at night. It makes for an interesting experiment in memory retention and in how an idea received at bedtime manifests itself the following day.

This head is 3.5″ tall (at his highest point), made from copper and metallic green polymer clay, sanded, washed with white acrylic paint and buffed.


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New Wall Art: Within 1

About a week ago I wrote a post about an evolving idea where I shared how I went from one conceptual idea that failed, to another idea which really sent the creative muse into overdrive.

With a new vision in mind, I proceeded to take one of the new polymer clay focal disks I created and combined it with a beeswax design applied to an artist board.

Here is the artist board with colored beeswax before attaching the polymer clay focal disk:

"Within 1" artist board

I applied several layers of beeswax to the board, incised the circles and lines, and then colored the surface with alcohol inks.

Then I added a polymer clay focal disk:

"Within 1"

I’m really happy with the way this first piece turned out.

Abstract art is a completely new area for me to explore. It isn’t something I’m typically drawn to. But like I said, I really like this new combination of polymer clay and beeswax and I really like making these focal disks. Trying something completely new and different also falls in line with choosing the word BIG as my word of the year.


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The Ever Evolving Creative Idea

Now that I have emerged myself in this new body of work, ideas for new pieces in the series frequently bubble to the surface quicker than I can write them down. And each new idea is often an evolving process. I sketch out the idea, I try to create it, and it morphs into something slightly different. Or the original idea is a complete failure upon creation. You know that feeling “Um, that isn’t what I wanted to make” or “That isn’t what I pictured in my head” or “This is a piece of crap.”

Such is what happened with a recent idea.

Taking a break from sculpting Spirit Messengers, I’ve been focused on making wall pieces. I had an idea to make some pieces with abstract forms on the surface. Since I was already working with alcohol inks, pearl ex powders, gold leaf and polymer clay, I decided to use these items on my first attempt.

I pulled out several molds with abstract forms and conditioned both white and translucent polymer clays. I pressed the clay into the molds, popped them out, and worked on their surface designs.

And you know how some things look really cool in that raw stage? The colors are appealing. The shape intrigues.

And then you pop those pieces into the oven, sand them when they’re cooled, and buff them on the buffing wheel.

And they come out like this:

Abstract Forms

Yuck. I’m not feeling the love here folks. I mean, several of the shapes are cool. But the colors aren’t doing it for me. I also wasn’t pleased with the Kato Liquid clay that I applied as a final layer over each piece. Maybe Kato Liquid clay works better on flat surfaces. It certainly wasn’t staying on many of these raised surfaces…as I found out when sanding and the gold leaf started to flake off.

Again, could be a neat effect, if that is what you’re going for. But I wasn’t going for that.

Doing my best Pooh bear imitation, I place my paw, I mean my hand to my head and start muttering “Think, think, think.” Idea one failed. The concept remains a good one (abstract shapes) but the execution…not so hot.

So I pulled out one of my art books* for inspiration and guidance.

BINGO!

There they were, disks and caps, textures and abstract forms. This excited me. This spoke to me. This would be the answer to what I saw in my head.

Getting to work with a few simple tools (always a plus), I made various sized disks and caps, textured them, combined them, and gave them an acrylic wash.

Viola! The new abstract forms that will be incorporated into future wall pieces:

Abstract Forms

Creating these pieces reminds me of the tiny underwater studies I put together last year. You can see those here. I’m not sure what it is, but I’m really excited about these forms. I know I’ve found something here because I’m already working on a slightly different version from the ones in the picture. Now the muse is off and running again.

*Thanks to Rona Sarvas Weltman’s book Ancient Modern for providing the inspiration.


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Experiments in Beeswax

The beeswax/encaustic medium has really caught my interest. Last week I spent some time experimenting with beeswax, alcohol inks, gold leaf, and pearl ex powders. I don’t normally dive into a new medium without understanding it a little more. In other words, I’m not always one to experiment with a medium I know very little about. Diving right in seems to fit living my word of the year: BIG.

All of these experiments were done in my mixed media sketch book. I’ve since learned that paper is not the best substrate for beeswax beyond the experimentation stage.

Experiment #1

Everything but the kitchen sink....

Experiment #1 has everything in it: beeswax, gold leaf, alcohol inks, pearl ex powders and swirls created by impressing the wax with an unmounted stamp.

Experiment #2

Feels like autumn....

Experiment #2 includes beeswax, alcohol inks, gold leaf and a texture sheet impressed into the wax. At this point I continue to have problems with the texturing. The wax is peeling off the paper and sticking to the texture sheet (or unmounted stamp as in experiment #1.) In experiment #2 I also tried incising or cutting into the wax with a needle tool. I like the way it directs the alcohol inks.

Experiment #3

Did Monet start out this way?

In experiment #3, I decided to keep it simple and applied three colors of pearl ex powder to the wax surface. I like the way the wax moved and blended the powders. The overall effect is very soft and dreamy.

Experiment #4

Mysterious words

In experiment #4 I started by stamping with black ink onto the sketchbook paper. Then I applied a layer of beeswax, followed by pearl ex powders and another layer of beeswax. Using a fine tip exacto knife, I “wrote” in the beeswax and back filled the marks with alcohol ink.

Experiment #5

The kitchen sink over wood

In this final experiment, I lightly sanded a small piece of wood and applied beeswax, gold leaf, alcohol inks, pearl ex powders, and texture. The wood is definitely a better substrate for the beeswax. I still had a minor problem with the texture plate pulling some wax off the surface. I think this may happen because the wax was still too warm or the layers were not fused well enough. Given that I’m using some very basic tools that don’t have exact temperature controls on them, I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised.

But boy is this fun!


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Glimmer Spirit Messenger #2

Glimmer Spirit Messenger #2 is the second piece in my new body of work. You can read about Glimmer Spirit Messenger #1 here and what prompted this body of work here.

Glimmer Spirit Messenger #2 started out similarly to #1; a sketch, a head, and building a core body from 13g wire, aluminum foil, hot glue and masking tape. The face for this piece was modeled after a picture I took of myself.

Using myself as the subject helps me to better understand facial structure and movement in various facial expressions. Glimmer #2’s head was sculpted as follows:

From here the body was constructed using 13g wire folded in half, wrapped with aluminum foil and secured with hot glue.

But Glimmer #2 needed a little more support and girth to keep her upright. So I wrapped the body with some masking tape and attached the neck to the head and body.

From here, as with Glimmer #1, I add two layers. One from scrap clay and then the outer layer with colored and embellished polymer clay.

And here is Glimmer Spirit Messenger #2 all dressed and ready to join her sister.

Glimmer Spirit Messenger #2

Glimmer Spirit Messenger #2 has a bit of a military look; epaulletes on the shoulders and 9 pairs of seed beads “laced” together with thin strands of polymer clay.

Glimmer Spirit Messenger #2 also has kernels of gold clay at her base. However, she holds a special pearl in the center of the gold. This area is covered with a small piece of netting for protection.

Glimmer Spirit Messenger #2 is 10.5″ tall and 2.5″ wide at the base


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Glimmer Series: Mixed Media Wall Art Prototype

I want to create mixed media wall art pieces as part of the Glimmer Series. As I started to develop this body of work, I had a strong urge to work with beeswax. Don’t ask me why; I have no idea. But the muse said to give it a go and to see what happens.

Ideally I would love to create the mixed media wall pieces on artist panels. I bought a few 4″x4″ panels with a 3/4″ profile last December. Those panels are intended for a different project but they might be incorporated into this body of work.

Anyways, before jumping right in and working on the panels, I created a prototype wall piece on 5″x7″ artist canvas panel. This gave me the chance to play with beeswax, papers, oil paint and polymer clay all on one surface. Beyond that, I didn’t plan out the piece with a sketch and just worked intuitively.

Glimmer of Hope Wall Prototype

I started out by applying beeswax to the canvas, placed a page torn from an old book into the wet wax, and then fused more wax on top. From there I built layers with rice paper, paper beads, and oil paint. I fused tiny pieces of branch around two words from the book: “Changed” and “Beautiful”. The polymer clay face is taken from a mold made of Glimmer #1’s face and painted gold.

When the entire piece was cooled and dry, I highlighted the raised areas with Gilder’s Paste. Gold stamped words “Glimmer” and “Hope” finish this prototype.


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New Body of Work: Glimmer Spirit Messenger #1

Glimmer Spirit Messenger #1 is the first in a series that I am creating as part of a larger body of work. This first part is called Glimmer (of Hope.) The Glimmer series developed out of a series of  health issues that I have been dealing with since last November. Specifically, these health issues revolve around that change of life known as perimenopause.

Glimmer Spirit Messenger #1 embodies a time of contemplation, reflection and hope. Below are a series of pictures documenting her creation.

Glimmer #1 starts out with a solemn, contemplative face.

Glimmer #1 Cured Head

I have chosen to paint all the heads gold in this series.

Glimmer #1 Gold

Echoes of the song “Goldfinger” bounce around in my head as I paint. Each head receives two thin washes of gold paint and then a final thicker layer. A wash of burnt sienna acrylic paint completes each head. And then I realized I had a bit of a problem.

Each piece in this series will have an elongated neck representing my struggle to keep my head above it all. But it didn’t dawn on me to add more clay to create the elongated neck until after I had already painted the head. And matching the raw clay to the now painted cured clay could present a minor challenge.

After some measuring and finagling, I constructed the wire core and aluminum foil body and blended the raw clay to the painted gold clay as best as possible.

Glimmer #1 Body Core

Glimmer #1 Clay Core

Another issue I often face in body construction is dealing with balance. My Spirit Messengers seem to either lean forward or tilt backward which usually requires some readjustment of the base. In this series, the elongated necks also present an interesting challenge. I often have to bend and adjust the wire support to the right angle before securing the head to the body. However, I am letting these pieces develop naturally. By that I mean, if the head positions itself at a particular angle, I’m quite likely to go with it.

Glimmer #1 Head

All of the Spirit Messengers in this series will have black bodies. I decided to go with black because the “Glimmer of Hope” appeared at what felt like a very dark time for me. It was like a tiny ray of light poking through dark clouds. Each body will have different embellishments. The gold heads and black bodies will connect all of the pieces.

Glimmer Spirit Messenger #1

Glimmer Spirit Messenger #1

Glimmer #1’s body is embellished with peach colored size 8 seed beads, kernels of gold polymer clay and embossing metal. She has a lightly textured surface.

Spirit Messenger Glimmer #1

The word “Hope” is stamped into the embossing metal. The metal was tinted with a blend of alcohol inks.

Glimmer of Hope

Glimmer Spirit Messenger #1 is 9″ tall and 3.5″ wide at the base.

Next: Glimmer #2.


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A New Body of Work: The Glimmer Series

When I was confronted with my health issues late last year, I made a conscious decision to slow down. I also decided to use my artwork as a form of healing. More specifically, I am using my health situation as a muse for my artwork.

I introduced this challenge last week in this video.

Recent events have caused me to relocate my studio and my creative muse has laid quietly while I deal with more doctor’s visits and tests. However, before all this happened, I started documenting my process in the creation of the Glimmer Series.

The Glimmer Series is inspired by this particular picture:

This image is a self portrait that I created in early December in response to receiving the first bit of news that potentially explained what was happening to my body. It was ” A Glimmer of Hope.”

I began this series by sketching some ideas for Spirit Messengers, including faces and bodies. I envisioned different shapes. Some Spirit Messengers are free standing; others want to hang on the wall. Then I sculpted three heads:

Glimmer Heads Pre-Oven

I prefer to use Super Sculpey over aluminum foil. I’ve learned that this keeps the heads from cracking which is especially important when you work on a larger scale. I knew at least one Glimmer Spirit Messenger would have a solemn face. Instead of searching for faces online for inspiration, I decided to take pictures of myself with different facial expressions. Afterall, this series comes from my emotions, so why not use myself, my expressions, as a model?

I was pleasantly surprised how my very first solemn face sculpture turned out.

I don’t know if I’ll be able to recreate another face like this again. But that is also why these are one of a kind pieces.

Another face has puckered lips. A face of concentration or frustration or relief. I’m not quite sure which one.

The last face has a wry smile (and a bit of a bulbous head; oh dear.)

Along with the Spirit Messengers, I plan to create mixed media wall art as part of this series. I’d also like to use fabric and perhaps boxes or other forms for the bodies. My goal is to create 6-8 pieces. I’ve completed two Spirit Messengers so far and will introduce them to you in the next few days.


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My Artwork Challenge for 2011

Woo-hoo, I finally did it! I created my first video and uploaded it to YouTube. But you can see it here:

I will post pictures of this new body of artwork in the coming days as well as another video. Stay tuned.


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When Life Tells You To Slow Down

Note: This post has been through several iterations since I started writing it last month. I alluded to my health issues in an earlier post reflecting on my 2010 word of the year. This post goes a little more in depth on how those weeks of uncertainty called me to slow down and think about the direction I want to take in life. Be forewarned that this post may contain too much information.

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It all started in November and got crazier the weekend of Thanksgiving.

Let me preface that by saying I’m a 47 year old female. I know changes lurk around the corner. You know, that time our mother’s referred to as “the change” or “the change of life.” Growing up, that phrase was sometimes followed by stories of women growing facial hair, going “nuts” and essentially turning into something that resembled Fiona Ogre in the “Shrek” movies.

I certainly hope time and attitudes have changed.

As I said, I’m 47 and moving toward menopause. I believe I’ve been experiencing subtle symptoms of perimenopause for the past few years. Some sources report that a woman can begin experiencing these changes up to 10 years before the actual onset of menopause. No wonder many women hate their 40’s. Personally, I’ve loved being in my 40’s. It has felt like the right age for me. Unfortunately, on the health front, it is in our 40’s when our bodies pay us back for the abuse we may have given it in our 20’s and 30’s, whether you’re a woman or a man.

I have herniated discs, bouts with GERD, creaking knees, and tinnitus. All manageable issues that do their best, at times, to make me feel, ahem “middle aged.”

And then there is the perimenopause.

Eight years ago, I was diagnosed with a fibroid. Fibroids are very common in women in our western culture. There is no definitive cause for fibroids. It could be estrogen overload, it could be hereditary. One statistic I read stated that up to 75% of women have fibroids. For many women, the fibroid(s) never act up or pose any problem.

And then there are the rest of us. We must be the special chosen-ones.

Everything has been manageable these last few years. My doctor and I have taken a conservative “watch and wait” approach. Then in November things got a little out of control.

There was the biopsy to rule out uterine cancer, the ultrasound to see what was going on inside, and the two sets of blood work. (Make that four blood tests throughout the month of December.)

One blood test indicated I was hypothyroid, a common diagnosis for women in perimenopause. The next blood test said my thyroid was normal but that I was anemic. By the end of the week I’d learned that the biopsy was negative (Yea!) and the ultrasound showed more fibroids.

Now the picture was getting clearer. My hormones had apparently kicked my butt, dragged me down, and shook me up.

Lucky me.

So, why would I share with you something that is rather personal? Because I believe when our bodies put us through the wringer, it is a signal that we need to slow down and regroup. You may not agree with me and I respect that. But for me, I know my body and it was definitely screaming at me.

I also share this because women often suffer in silence during this phase of life. Sure we joke with our girlfriends and cry on our sister’s shoulders. But inside many women are afraid, unsure of what is happening to their bodies. Society, and perhaps core beliefs learned when we were kids, has told us that women are to be svelte, in control, forever youthful with porcelain skin and nary a gray hair in sight. Just look at some of the “Women’s Health” magazines. We take care of others until we drop.

Menopause means we’re getting old. Things start sagging and bagging. The kids leave home. We find ourselves facing a change of roles in our life. Who are we? What do we want to do with our new self?

During these last few weeks, I found myself slowing down, not only because I felt like crap, but also because my body was telling me to do so. I returned to daily meditation and daily reading of personally uplifting passages. My dreams became more vivid and I started to analyze their personal meaning. I had my first Reiki treatment. I released myself from all structure in my schedule.

Instead of blocking out time to get this or that task done, I wrote a one page to-do list. Whatever got done, got done. If I was tired, I took a nap. If I wanted to read, I read. If I wanted to watch TV, I watched it. I wrote in my journal almost every day, sometimes three times a day. I started exercising again, even if for only 15 minutes.

And I spent a fair amount of time thinking about my business. What is important and what isn’t. What I can let go of in order to create that which is most meaningful for me.

All of this has left me feeling empowered. My health is improving, a solution has been found, and a new plan put in place for moving me forward. I feel a burden lifting and a new door opening.

This time has not been easy. I’ve had more anxiety and stress than normal. Sometimes it feels like two steps forward and 10 steps back. I keep reminding myself that I am well, that I will be well, and that all will be well.

Writing this is cathartic. I admit to having prided myself on my health; that I wasn’t experiencing this or that problem. The risk in that attitude is the shock and fear that comes when life deals you a bum card. Granted my situation is not as bad as what some other women go through. However, when you think all is “normal” and then trip on the rug, it does make you stop and re-evaluate. Writing this is also part of my process of acceptance. Acceptance of this situation. Acceptance of the challenge. Acceptance of a new road ahead.

I jokingly refer to these last few weeks as my “power surge.” You know, there seems to be a double meaning in that phrase now that I think about it. As a result of this situation, I have started to release myself from certain commitments. In turn, new opportunities are already presenting themselves to me. I am moving forward into the power that this change in life is bringing me. I slowed down and I listened.

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During this time, I found the following resources to be of great value:

A GYN’s Second Opinion

Brigham & Women’s Hospital: Obstetrics & Gynecology

BWH: Center for Uterine Fibroids

Advanced Gynecological Solutions

As always, talk to your doctor. Write down your questions and write down what the doctor tells you. Don’t be afraid to get a second or third opinion. This is your body. You need to be at peace with any decision you make.