Re-Committing to Writing/Blogging

I haven’t posted since late September, so I am going to post a list of topics and try to get back to regular posting.

-Yoga Practice Book I’m reading and my own thoughts on my Home Yoga Practice

-Mini Double Sided Vision Boards as an Art Therapy activity

-Cut out poems using text threads as an Art Therapy activity

-My Mandala Project in progress and where it is

-My Still Life Revival and Oil Painting

-Paintings and Drawings, Abstraction or “Non-Objective” work and where it is

-Commitment, Focus, Discipline, Persistence with making a body of work, what distractions come up to self redirect

-Burning Bridges and Building Bridges, a DBT skill

-DBT class and what I’m learning so far

-The challenges of focuing on positive energy and reframing “problems” as challenges. The work of turning the mind towards compassion when in the midst of chaos or emotional reaction

-Daily Rituals and Gratitude Practices, Evolution

 

New Series in Progress

In August I started doing line drawings with fountain pens and Micron pens. Like a lot of my work, it started as materials driven; I had ordered a set of various thickness Micron pens and was playing with them during my daily drawing. At some point these images started repeating and I explored further. I started with small square paper.

At first I was limiting to the square format which I really enjoy. When I returned from vacation with a bunch of small squares, I decided to try to pick one and “copy” it to larger square wood panels, hoping to then follow that with larger scale oil paintings using the same image. I’ve been interested in using oil paints again all year and had a few forays into it.

It’s always interesting when you’re into a repeating type of line work what happens. Do I get more limited in repeating certain shapes? Do I cover the whole space? Do I discover new line work to add to the box of tools? All of these things happened. Color also became part of it through use of fountain pens.

There are plans and ideas you have as an artist and then the interesting left turns you take that are unexpected. How did I go from these:

To do hat happened the other day with a totally separate project, my Mandalas?

I had been making these mandala collages that were all chaotic and pieces together based on an old series from over ten years ago. On Wednesday I started adding ripped up tape and ripped up drawings to a blue mandala as shown above. The next day, I had this breakthrough where I had to follow an instinct to cover the whole piece in light blue oil paint. As I always do with mixing color, I didn’t mix it all first to keep the whole thing uniform. I’m not patient enough for that. So the color varies but it had the effect I needed of simplifying the piece that was feeling “too out of control”. I was inspired by discovering a British painter’s simple compositions, William Scott. While reworking the circle I planned to add linework similar to my drawings. As always with going from thin pen to oil paint, there is an adjustment. If you’re not waiting for the paint to dry, your lines will pick up the lighter color. And the lines are thicker. Depending on the brushes and nature of the marks, the quality of line changes and you have a kind of interrupted built up line.

The piece is called, “Find Your Center”, at least for now. I had added stitching work to the edges and inside which I don’t want to completely cover. I’m not sure yet if I want the stitching completely around the edges and how to make stitch marks as part of the line work, but it’s exciting to jump into this totally new territory that changes the nature of the pieces.

A client saw the drawings up in my office and said they were soothing. I’m hoping the circles will take on a soothing sort of simple quality, which is definitely a big turn from how they started. It makes sense that under this still blue circle, there is chaos and upheaval, symbolic of the meditation process for me where one starts with a “loud” mind and ends up with at least a slightly quieter one.

For sure I am feeling more inspired and excited about this work than I have been about anything for quite a long time…

Art Homicide: Is it Common?

We rolled it to the point where it was a 7 foot paper taco and carried it down the street home like that. It was too thick from collage to roll up completely. Once home we put it on top of the wood bed posts on the frame around the posts. Every time I lay on the bed I could see the underside of my masterpiece slowly crumbling from the weight in the middle that wasn’t supported.

Having it there along with another big round mandala piece was not a great idea psychologically. If we had stashed it somewhere it may never have met its gruesome end and the other piece wouldn’t have been collateral damage.

Most people don’t get angry at their apartments to the point of feeling like destroying stuff, but I never was” most people”. One day or week I got so frustrated with the chaotic state of my house, that the feeling kept building more like a fire when it catches on to something and the next minute the whole building burns down. As I couldn’t burn down the building, I decided it was time to destroy the mandala. I’d been eyeing it for weeks wondering how and if I wanted to fix it as it was getting damaged.

Suddenly it was clear how to solve the problem. This huge piece used to hang in my old studio on one wall and took up all the wall space. It was up there so many years I remember looking at it and thinking, “What will I do if someone buys it or if I have to move it? Maybe it will be here until I die.” It felt that permanent. Fast forward to me ripping the whole thing apart and destroying it. I don’t remember it well even though it was probably only 4 years ago. After that, I took on the piece that was my height in diameter, like a lion after a kill who finds an extra dead animal baby and eats it just because it’s there.

Do I regret doing it? Do I miss the piece that I still consider one of the best or at least most ambitious things I have ever made? I don’t know because I had forgotten about it until I recently destroyed something else that I liked. I guess if I could have it back I would and it might be in my studio now or  I would have sold it and been happy it had a place. It did serve a purpose in its short life of being on that studio wall because my clidnts faced that wall when they sat in the chair across from me. I remember one client seeing a person in a wheelchair in the middle of it. It was a completely abstract collage. I can probably find a photo of it to post with this. So when it was alive on the wall, it was serving a purpose and beign seen by lots of people. Back then the Tribeca Open Artist Studio Tour still existed, so for those few days in April annually, I had crowds of people come through my studio and see it as well as the smaller piece.

I know a lot of big deal artists have destroyed their work, but in a very calculated way, not in a sudden fit and not something they thought was one of their best work. Part of the delight I took in murdering my big mandala was that it was really one of my greatest achievements, so it was a really crazy meaningful kill.

I have destroyed many peices before and since which I will write about in another post…

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year 2019!

I’ve been foregoing lists of goals, resolutions and intentions for the new year and replaced it with choosing a word for the year that reflects what I want for the year. This year’s word was a search for something that would be fun, like the word I chose for 2018 – AWESOME, and related to aspirations and intentions like 2017’s word, ABUNDANCE. I had decided for my professional aspirations to focus most on selling my art, involving getting more art made, making a good new artist website and using the app Spreezy that I downloaded over a year ago, which is an easy way to sell work already on one’s social media. I also looked into an old Flickr account I haven’t used and decided to post on that too.

First I thought my word would be “Wonder” or “Magic”, to follow up a word like Awesome. So I was thinking of words to express success, achievement, actualization, fruition, and accomplishment, but something more fun and special.

Then I watched the movie “Serendipity” again during my holiday break, when I always watch a few holiday movies, some cheesy and bad, some cheesy and great. I hadn’t seen the movie in years. The main thing I noticed in watching holiday movies was enjoying old New York; “Serendipity” came out in 2001 and was pre 9/11 2000’s NYC, so you see a lot of NYC from that era. On a side note, my favorite Christmas movie of this break was “Three Days of Condor” made in 1975. It’s great as a Christmas movie as it has nothing to do with Christmas but you see NYC during Christmas throughout the movie, and it’s a thriller. The topic is not a romantic holiday type movie. Within the first 20 minutes or so, the main character played by Robert Redford comes back from a lunch break, and all his co-workers at the CIA have been murdered. The movie shows the twin towers often, and there is a scene in the lobby and in an office in the Trade Center. It was great to see the twin towers from so long ago.

After watching “Serendipity” which is an overdose on the idea of synchronicity and the concept of serendipity. When the characters try too hard to refind each other it doesn’t work; eventually the concept of least effort applies, and they bump into each other finally.

So I decided to make my 2019 word “Serendipity”. It is a good confluence of my original words about magic and wonder and my wanting to focus on a specific goal. It has the meaning of happy accidents, fortunate events happening in an unplanned and unexpected and delightful way.

Usually with my art career as with most other things, I find if I put effort into specific things and then balance it with letting go and trusting in serendipity, things will indeed happen in an unexpected and delightful way. Like my most recent sale of a drawing through Facebook. It was unplanned. I just posted images of my drawings and writings from starting my 15 minutes a day in May. One day a friend who lives Berlin Facebook messaged me that she wanted to buy one of the drawings I posted and she did. I sent it to her in Berlin. I’ve had other Facebook inquiries and interest, but this was the first time I sold an art work directly from posting images on my personal Facebook page, and I do have a separate professional Facebook page.

Another serendipitous sale is my favorite story of selling artwork. I was on an airplane to Albuquerque in the spring of 2006. I took out some art supplies and started a drawing on the pull down table of the seat in front. A guy sitting to my left started asking me questions about being an artist and we had a conversation about his interest in art, etc. Then as I was finishing this little drawing, part of my Inner Landscapes series, he asked if he could buy the drawing. He paid 100$ cash while we were in the air. I love airports and airplanes and flying, so I couldn’t have wished for anything cooler than selling art on a plane. Also I was going to New Mexico for the first time, and I had built up a big fantasy about New Mexico for years as this magical place full of replanted artists and a place where fine art, folk art, jewelry and other media are equally valued. The “Land of Enchantment”. I saw it as a harbinger of a special time in a very special place, which it did turn out to be. I ended up spending the 100$ on a hand made doll while I was travelling the Turqouise Trail.

So I am putting my trust in Serendipity for an enchanting and marvelous 2019. Happy New Year! What is your word or intention for 2019?

Altered Books Process: The Invitation

I had a very long document about the stages of making altered books with clients, so I decided to make it into shorter parts and post each part separately on this blog.

This is about the stages of the evolution of the making of the altered books, and the activities and art therapy “directives” I recommend using. The first part is of course the beginning, which is the introduction to the project. I’m changing the document by including some examples from my experience. The beginning part is perhaps the most important part of the process, as many clients stop/abandon their chosen book at some time during this process.

The first part I call “The Invitation”. I’ve found it works best when the invitation comes from one of my altered books out in my studio; the client sees an altered book and asks about it, so I bring one or two out to show them what it involves and then invite them to do one if they seem interesteed. Often I get excited when they are interested and have to be careful to watch my enthusiasm level. at times I’ve brought the project up as an option, when a client is looking for a new project and seems to want something unusual and unfamiliar.

In some cases people will want to bring in one of their own books that they have a personal connection to. Pertinant Issues to Process include the client’s relationships with books, reading books, and with writing, and what it is like to contemplate using a book to make art with. Usually, given that most people are unfamiliar with altered books and are uncomfortable with treating a book this way, they will find it easier to choose a book you have in your office.

If the client chooses to try the project, I bring out a bunch of different kinds of books to choose from and explain how it can be easier to pick one of these than to bring one from home. It is best to have a variety of choices of books that you supply, so the person does not feel like they have to “ruin” a book of their own and feel that the therapist will hold the “bad” part by giving permission to “destroy” a published book. Most of the time, the client chooses one of my books and we dive into the process.

At this point I have to decide whether I am going to do an altered book with the client, in “parallel process”,  or sit with the client and witness their process without doing one myself. It’s not much different from other times when I decide to do artwork in the session. Sometimes I will ask the client directly, “Will it help you if I do one while you’re doing yours?” In some cases I do start one and then can be aware of times in a session when I stop working on mine and just have it in front of me, as the choice is still there to not actively do mine alongside the client. It’s an important moment to be aware of when a client who naturally talks and makes any kibooksnd of art in the session chooses to stop what they’re doing and start verbal processing, and when they turn back to the art work. My clients tend to talk during the art making process, and thus, we have two dialogues going on, the verbal and the non-verbal. With altered books this is the same.

On several occasions I have had a client follow through on bringing in their own book to use, which has been memorable, as most do not. One graduate student of a psychology related program brought in a copy of the DSM 5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), and had the obvious goal of getting out their frustration with all different aspects of the program and being a grad student. I was able to find on hand a copy of a Melanie Klein for Dummies book and decided to alter it while my client altered the DSM 5.

At this point, we have the book or books and are ready for the next stage.

New Post: Feature, Altered Books

Today is my first day back from vacation. I kept up a lot of daily habits while on break, but did not keep up my writing daily at least 15 minutes habit, so I’m starting up again.

The last assignment in the WordPress Blogging Fundamentals class was about having a Feature topic.

 

  • First, think of the type of regular feature you can commit to — something you’ll publish weekly, biweekly, or monthly.
  • Next, start your new post by clicking the button below. This can be the first installment, or an announcement of what’s coming.
  • Finally, give your post a few tags, including bloggingfundamentals, and publish it.

 

My Feature for this assigment is going to be Altered Books, no surprise, which I hope to post at least weekly about in order to have it be helfpful for preparing for my looming upcoming workshop on Altered Books and Gender Identity.

Last time my Feature was Gender Identity, which should continue to be a Feature and at some point  the two, Altered Books and Gender Identity, will of course come together in some way.

Anyway, I haven’t really approached altered books in terms of writing about what makes me interested in them and topics connected to that. Things have to have a starting point.

Some ideas for separate topics for this Altered Books Feature include:

How did I get interested in Altered Books as an art form.

What was my first altered book that I made.

What led to my using altered books in sessions with clients and supervisees and even for peer supervision.

Some nuts and bolts about altered books, how to make them, the important stages of making them, the materials used.

How altered books involve a great way to use almost anything as an material from paper clips to coffee filters to coins as some odd examples.

What it means to finish an altered book vs. abandon one in some stage of the process, especially with clients in art therapy.

More specifics about the workshop and using altered books to explore gender identity.

I had started writing about the first topic, but I think introducing the Feature is best for this post and I will focus on beginnings in my next Feature post.

 

More on Yoga

“We know what we are now, but not what we may become.” -William Shakespeare

Writing equals ass in chair. Stephen King

I am reading a book called Meditations from the Mat: Daily Selections on the Path of Yoga, by Rolf Gates and Katrina Kenison. Rather, I am being read to, as it’s in the form of an audio book.

I’m able to do my yoga practice while listening to the book. This is not what you’re supposed to do if you’re working on mindfulness. The first idea is to try to do or focus on only one thing at a time. As an art therapist I work with people who often talk while they are making something. There are lots of reasons for it.

Anyway, the thing I like about listening to the book while doing my yoga practice is that it feels like I’m being reminded what is going on that can’t be seen, whether in body, mind or spirit. Also, today I was doing seated head to knee posture right when he started talking about the posture; that was cool. It’s a male voice reading the book, which doesn’t lend itself to remembering that two people wrote it, one seems to be female. They start each daily reflection with a quote, and they quote from a wide range of sources, from Shakespeare in the above quote to scriptures of all religions to poetry to Tom Petty and yoga students.

Both the quotes above kind of go together and to the practice of yoga and writing. In order to do yoga, I have to make the time and get the mat out and get going. In order to write I have to put my ass in the chair and write. Showing up to your life is a concept that we all recognize, easier said than done.

Today I’m not sure what I’m writing about. Maybe this is my reflection on today’s practice. When in my studio, I use the floor and walls. The yoga mat is usually dusty and little pieces of paper or glitter or whatever collects on the floor gets on the yoga mat. My feet and hands get dirty from touching the floor. I shake this stuff off when rolling up my mat.

Actually rolling up the yoga mat has been a constant struggle since I started doing yoga about 18 years ago. It seems so impossible to get the mat to roll up properly the way everyone else does it, so that one side isn’t bulging out. I’ve tried doing it slowly and other things, but often I give up and leave it rolled up but not even. The other day someone said, “Just hold both sides at the same time.” I’m sure I have tried that many times; this isn’t rocket science. For some reason, being reminded or told that, I was able to focus on holding both ends and got the mat rolled up quite evenly. It is still not a guarantee that the mat gets rolled up properly. I have never been a symmetrical person in any way, so I start off balance. My body isn’t balanced; neither is my mind. One of the most important things I learned in yoga is to attend to both sides equally. If you do something on the left side, then you do it on the right side. If you do a headstand, you counter it at some point with a shoulder stand. Even walking down the street with a bag on my shoulder, I hear my yoga teacher Liza telling me to hold it on the other side as well. When she came last week, I found out my left hand doesn’t stay even with my right hand in child’s pose. I felt like I was putting my left hand way in front when she corrected me even though it was now even.

Yoga evens me out is the message. Balance and equilibrium are hard won. Every action having an equal and opposite reaction. Very basic. Most of the stuff I get excited about that I learn from my yoga practice is very simple stuff I seem to never have really known or completely forgotten. Just getting back acquainted with the hands and feet is a revelation!

That is it for today.

Wednesday: Image Post Day

I started doing “Mindfulness Drawings” at the beginning of this month, February. I got the idea from a patient who showed me their journal and how they were trying to write down the time and do something to get them more in the moment doodling things.

It’s a great idea and has brought me back to drawing in an observational way. It’s also a great way to draw everyday things without judging your drawing harshly.

It started like this one below in my journal, done on Feb. 4. I wrote down words that were either in my head or observations of the environment or conversation if I was with other people.

I was thinking about mindfulness principles in this one here, like “Observe and Describe” from DBT Mindfulness. In DBT there is also noticing when you’re in “rational mind”, “emotional mind” and “wise mind”.

Some of these drawings are layers of time, where I did some one evening and added more the next day.

The drawing below shows the heart hole puncher I drew as I was using it to make Valentine’s. I drew most of it during a phone session. My communications expert friend had told me recently, “Communication creates reality.” and I shared it on the phone. It was resonating for me and my patient.

This image below is the other side of the page posted as the first image, with the words “Observe and describe.”  I was looking at my watch and a clock so I drew the hands of my watch as well, and the song quoted was going on in my head about time…

The image below from Feb. 9 is in my journal. I started drawing scissors a lot because they were there. I hadn’t yet gotten inspired to make the objects talk.
  This one above is the other side of the journal drawing from the same day/time.

This one below is from yesterday afternoon during another phone session, and the tea pot is talking…

The one below was done last Friday, when I discovered that the heads or objects on the page were talking to me and about me. It started with the objects saying whether I drew them right or not and kept going. I had been drawing these heads from the coffee mug I made out of my images. The heads are from a collage piece; I noticed I was thinking about posting this picture of this drawing on Facebook which I do a lot, so the heads made a bet about when I would post it!  

This one above is from earlier yesterday. I had been drawing pens a lot and hadn’t drawn a bunch of pens in a cup as it seemed too hard. I was thinking of Morandi’s still lives and looking at post cards of them. I think I’m also thinking of Morandi as he mostly did still lives of everyday objects, and this series is starting to be about objects which are used, mostly basic office materials or art supplies, cups, etc.

This one above is on a piece of drawing paper and done last night as the date shows.

These drawings have become a way to be reminded to be mindful, in a different way than the bracelet. Drawing things you see often does get you into a different level of discovery, of looking closely at things you see every day.

This morning I drew the keys on my keychain; I’ve been challenging myself to just draw things, which get rid of judgment, another aspect of mindfulness, which is to be neutral about what is going on right here right now.

The added discovery of the objects talking to each other or saying things is partly thanks to my reading more this year, and thus reading more graphic novels, which inspire me to make my own talking pictures…

End of Month Art Post!

I started this as an ongoing regular series of images posted the end of each month, specifically involving images in my journal.

As of this month and for the new year, I’ve decided to change the focus to posting pictures of my art at the end of every month and reflecting on my goals, objectives and accomplishments. So this month I picked my series entitled (for now) Expansion. All work is made with pens on paper. I’m considering adding pencil into the mix.

 
These four are older ones I started in mid May 2015, about 6 and a half months ago. 
This one, begun in May, I have been working on for two days. My current new goal after restarting this series in the fall is to focus more on finishing the drawings I’ve started.

It’s nice to have a goal that is doable and what I enjoy about this series is that my goal for each drawing is to cover the whole paper with marks, so it’s easier to be able to know when I’ve finished one. 
   
This one is a large one started recently. 

 
This one is an example of a finished drawing.  It’s the biggest I’ve completed: 15 x 18 inches.

Here below is a picture of that one with other finished ones on my studio wall: I will end the post with it. So by next month I hope to have finished at least 5-7 more of already started ones!