Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Goddess Within

I've been mulling over the sketchbook I'm doing for the ArtHouse Co-Op's Sketchbook Project 2012 and not coming up with anything fresh. I'm almost finished the book and have been trying to find the right inspiration for the final page. My theme, a path through the trees, has been a metaphorical journey through nature and the last page is about where this path finally leads me. 

I love the way inspiration sometimes shows itself at the most unexpected times. Just by chance I was in our guest room yesterday and noticed a wonderful mosaic we have hanging on our wall. It's made of shell and enamel and is like a huge square tile.  I have no idea who did it, there is absolutely no credit information at all on it, nor any information about the artist or material.  I'd forgotten about it as we never go into the spare room and suddenly I was inspired.  I created this page which is a "Dion" interpretation of what is hanging on my wall.  It's not my usual bright vibrant colors, but the colors I used in this just felt right for the purpose.

The source of inspiration was a wedding gift from a very special friend of mine, Denise Cook, who is also one of my mentors.  She is a personal growth counselor and does amazing work in Sydney Australia. She helped me discover what she calls "The Goddess Within" and has been a vital source of strength and inspiration to me over the years. Teaching me to love who I am, to honor my goddess within, and acknowledge that "I am enough". She is also a breast cancer survivor and her courage is insurmountable.


I may not look like this goddess, but her courage, her beauty and her spirit are very much a part of who I am, and my journey along the path through the trees has bought me to this place. Although the book is not quite finished, with the cover pages yet to be done, I am thrilled and enriched by the experience.  It gives new meaning to the phrase "the journey not the destination".

Thanks for checking in. xx

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Bloom & Grow

Today my toddler came to me with a little plastic duck in his hand.  He looked up said "uk".  It took me a second to get it, but then I realized he was trying to tell me that what he had in his hand was a "Duck".  He looked so proud of himself, with a big grin and a sparkle in his unpatched eye he said it again.  For him, this is a BIG deal. 

My son will be two in a couple of weeks and that is one of the first legible, in context words he's uttered. Of course, being the highly emotional mom that I am, course I swung him up in my arms laughing and singing "Duck, Duck...Quack Quack".  He giggled uncontrollably then gave me a huge hug and did it again.

My son is severely hearing impared in both ears and has been adjusting to hearing aids over the past two weeks.  His world is filled with new sounds which are amazing, but it's a lot for a little kid to handle. He's also loosing his sight through Ambliopia and has major developmental delays due to his micro-prematurity. So this little achievement, in my book deserves a yellow jersey and a gold medal.  Every tiny little milestone is so hard won for him, that he gives new meaning to the term "baby steps". Every moment of his existence is so cherished that our house is filled with wild raucous and celebration every time he does something normal.

I was scribbling these flowers over the weekend and I saw both my children in their existence...."Bloom & Grow".  Each little child, like every little flower, blooms and grows in their own time, in their own way.  Some face more challenges than others, but they all sparkle and shine along the way. The bravery and resilience of all children is so astonishing to me that it helps me rethink my own baseline for courage. 

Tanks for checking in. xx

Thursday, July 21, 2011

A Perception of Reality

"Most of our strong emotions arise from assuming the reality of something that is unreal."  
~His Holiness The Dali Lama

"Sunrise" Watercolor Journal page inspired by Robin Mead of "Insights and"

Do you ever feel like your thoughts sometimes get so jumbled that what you perceive as reality in actuality is unreal?  I had a professor in college who walked into the first class of the year, headed straight for the black board and scrawled across it in HUGE lettering...

She told us that if we walk away from college with nothing else in our heads, we should remember this, and since then I've discovered that in so many aspects of life, it is true...sadly!!  I think one of the most unfortunate realities of our time is the prevalence of mis-perceptions.  I'm not even sure why I'm thinking about this today, I guess it has something to do with my fears about our storm clean up, the insurance settlement, the destruction of what was our beautiful green, park-like home.  I'm stuck on the doom and gloom, convincing myself that it's going to be a nightmare, we'll never get our house back to the way it was, insurance won't pay out what it's going to cost, etc. etc.  I'm stuck on this reality and it's not even real...YET!

"Sunflower" Neocolour II & Twinkling H2O's in journal

I look at our home now and what I once saw was a green oasis, a sanctuary of nature. I spent so much time in my garden enjoying the flowers, the trees, and mostly the bird and wild life. They are such inspiration to me and with these things gone now, I'm scared that my inspiration will disappear too.  In their place there is sawdust and tree stumps and thanks to the blistering heat wave of the past week, charred brown grass.  It seems so unreal to me, but it's yet another new reality to which I must adjust.

"Double Impatience" Watercolor Journal

The same thought process can be applied to so many other aspects of our crazy lives.  The proliferation of our addiction to cyber-space is a perfect example.  What is reality there?  The manufactured lives we live out on Facebook? The feelings of anxiety when we are disconnected for any length of time?  The overwhelming need to self-validate using what our friends post as a benchmark?  Or worse, the often unintentional judgements we make about people based on profile pictures and status updates?

"Climbing the Walls" Twinkling H2O in Journal

I've just joined these social networks in the past month or so and I'm agog at how fast they move, how skewed some peoples perceptions of boundaries and courtesy have become. Even more frightening is the lack of attention some people pay to what they post.  The internet is written in INK!!  It can't be erased, it can't be hidden.  There is so much chatter, so many choices, that so much of what is real gets blurred in the chaos.
"Graceful Beauty" Twinkling H2O in journal
On the other hand, it has proven to be an invaluable medium for me to connect to like minded people.  People who share so many of the same interests and people who I consider mentors, teachers, and guides along my artistic and somewhat personal journey.  I love the openness, honesty, and courage of some people, and I love it when others respond with encouragement and compassion (which doesn't always happen).   I am of the mindset that by the very nature of humanity, we are all flawed in some way, no one is perfect (as we would like so many people to believe), and I don't think we need to to try to prove you? 

Thanks for checking in. xx

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Amy's Garden

Each week I visit my sweet friend Amy, who is also my children's piano teacher. So when they are having their lessons, if the weather is good, I get to sit quietly in her garden and sketch.  She has a beautiful garden filled with rambling wild flowers and every time I visit, there is something different blooming.
Over the past few weeks I have been putting together a montage of the various flowers as they bloomed.  I took some liberties by adding a frangipani or two, which are one of my favorites (I think one of the things I miss the most about home is the tropical flowers). I just love the chorus of color that explodes and the beautiful insects it attracts. 
I've tried growing wildflowers in my garden, but they seem to just look messy.  I did manage to plant some beautiful garden beds filled with impatience, but sadly they were all destroyed in the recent storms.

These paintings represent elements of Amy's garden.  Sometimes I wonder if my love of painting colorful flowers gets boring, but it's something I feel energized by doing.  Every now and again I try something else, but I always find my way back to the flowers.

 If you'd like to see more of this montage, and the page in full, check out flickr here.

Thanks for checking in. xx

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A Path Through The Trees

A path through the trees leads to healing.

I've been plugging away at my little sketchbook for the Art House Co-Op's "Sketchbook Project 2012".  I chose the theme "A Path Through The Trees" and have focused my pages on where that path takes me.  So far it's lead me through the forest; to the beach; over the ocean; across the desert; and into the garden. Along the way I found the path of regret; the many paths of identity; the path to healing; and then finally, the path home.  It's quite the journey.
A path through the trees leads to the beach.
A path through the trees leads across the ocean.
I decided to paint all the pages, including the covers, with black gesso, then use a combination of my treasured Twinkling H2O's and my prized Neocolour II's.  I'm new to the Neocolour world and am still learning how to use them. I love the creamy, rich, vibrant colors and the buttery texture. At first their response to the gesso was horrible, but once I learnt how to manipulate them subtly with water I was surprised by the results.
A path through the trees leads to the garden.

Unfortunately, the work done using Twinkling H2O's is nearly impossible to photograph effectively, unless you're a professional with a great camera and control over the lighting...unlike me!!  Mostly I get glare or washed out color, so to get the full effect of the pieces done in Twinks you'll have to see the book in the flesh.
A path through the trees can be seen out my window.
I start by masking out my design with liquid frisket.  Then I lay down the paint or the crayon.  When it's dry, I very lightly sponge on some acrylic paint, usually some kind of metallic color to give it some 'pop'. When it's dry, I peel away the fisket and then highlight the edges with gold or silver gel pen. 

A path through the trees leads to regret.

If the subject calls for it, and it often does, I very lightly sprinkle a flourish of the finest glitter I can find.  It get's lost in the painting, but adds another subtle dimension.  Of course, they lend themselves better to viewing live.  One day I plan to do some large pieces in the same way...maybe big wall art that would work well in a dark, moody room like a dining room or a bedroom...who knows!! 
A path through the trees leads me home.

I love the color effects that this technique gives me.  I'm never sure how it's going to turn out.  I've found that this technique works well on black drawing paper too, but I have to go light on the water.  The colors and shimmer in the twinks is astounding and I love watching them dance over the page. I've still got a few pages in the book to finish, along with the cover, so stay tuned!!

Thanks for checking in. xx

Friday, July 15, 2011

After The Storm

I'm so sorry I haven't updated this week.  As many of you will know a massive "Derecho" storm swept across the mid-west USA leaving a trail of destruction in it's wake.  Our little town was very hard hit and we were without power for 5 days.  The clean up has been huge but we're finally getting back to normal.

At 4.17am my infant son woke up crying.  The power had gone out and he was afraid of the dark.  When I woke up I instantly realized that there was some kind of storm approaching. Little did I know.  I woke my husband, he sat up, listened, then yelled "quick, grab the kids and get down to the basement".  I grabbed little T out of his crib just as a massive tree came crashing down onto his room.  Hubby grabbed our 5yo daughter out of bed and we ran down the two flights of stairs into the basement as the house was crashing under the weight of falling trees.  The storm lasted 40mins as we huddled in the basement listening to our beautiful world above being torn apart.
The back of our house with what's left of the children's playset.
Our garage under the big tree. To the right, under this brush in our house.

Our front porch. Over the next few days the weight of the tree collapsed the porch and tore the side off the house
A Derecho storm is an inland hurricane characterized by massive straight line winds.  It's unique and uncommon, and unlike a tornado, is very wide spread. In this case the storm damage spanned over 20 miles wide.  Our small rural town in Iowa was particularly hard hit with barely a tree or out-building left standing.  Many of the houses however remained in tact...somewhat.  
What was most remarkable was the absence of ANY human casualties whatsoever.  This can be credited to the existence of basements and storm cellars in almost every home, and the unique experience these people have in fleeing from the path of tornadoes...even in the middle of the night. 
For me, an Aussie, this kind of storm was unprecedented and nothing prepared me for the terror I felt as I huddled in the basement with my children in my arms waiting for the worst.  The sound was deafening and the fear was even worse.  When we emerged, we were shocked by the destruction around us, but the first thought that came into my head was "it could have been a whole lot worse".  

So now the clean up continues, and during rest stops I managed to sketch some of my thoughts.  I didn't want to fill my pages with destruction, so I sketched what was left of the beautiful big maple that ended up on our house. I also sketched my interpretation of a homeless frog wondering around our torn up yard. It was uncanny in it's calmness and I realized that life in general is so resilient, especially after a natural disaster.

Thanks to everyone who have helped in the cleanup, and thanks for checking in.


Thursday, July 7, 2011

Summer Fun

I hope everyone in the USA had a great Independence Day weekend and for those of you in the Southern Hemisphere, I hope you're staying warm throughout winter. Our long weekend was filled with BBQ's, water fights, picnics, bike rides and parades.  There was so much fodder for me the capture in my journal, but alas my focus was definitely on my two crazy kids this weekend. It was T's first foray into the world of celebration.  No big deal you say? Well, he turns 2 next month, but was born 16 weeks premature and spent 5 months in the NICU, so 'normal' hasn't always been normal for us. You can read more about his story here.  (Feel free to register, it's a health site so a log-in is standard, but its safe, anonymous, and there's no spam etc.)

By the end of the long weekend, I did manage to sit on the rocking chair on our front porch with my new travel set of 24 Sakura Koi Watercolors and my sketchbook. I've been a bit uncertain about switching watercolor brands because I'm relatively new to this medium and I don't know much about them. What I do know is that I need vibrant, bright, juicy color.  My Van Gogh watecolor pan paints have served me well in this way, but they're running out and I haven't been able to find them in the far! So it's time for something new and I thought I'd try Koi's.

 The thing I love most about this time of year in the mid-west are he stunning flowers.  The summer season is so short compared to my beloved home of Australia and it seems that nature condenses and intensifies everything to make it 'worth' it. Plus, we get a lot of rain so its always green and the blooms are huge and especially beautiful.

Have you used Koi Watercolors? What do you think of them?  For those of you who LOVE intense and vibrant color in your work, I'd be interested to know, what is your favorite watercolor brand?

Thanks for checking in xx

Friday, July 1, 2011


The Sketchbook Challenge introduces a new monthly theme today..."ELEMENT".  Get all the details here.  I'm so excited about this theme because "element" lends itself to so many wonderful interpretations that fit well with me and my style.  Micro, traces of.., earth, wind, fire & water... to name a few. Although I haven't had a chance to get my teeth stuck into it yet, I did go through some of my mandalas that were produced with the four elements as their inspiration. 






Some of these mandalas were inspired by Susanne Fincher's books which give a wonderful commentary on mandalas and their history, and are filled with templates and coloring pages for you to play with. You can see these mandalas in full, along with HEAPS more here.

Enjoy this months theme for The Sketchbook Challenge, I can't wait to see what everyone produces in the Flickr group.

Thanks for checking in. xx