COMPOSING A FEELING

COMPOSITION – The nature of something’s ingredients or constituents; the way in which a whole or mixture is made up.

Let’s use a shirt as an example of a composition. Isn’t it true that as pieces of material are sewn together, a 3-dimensional composition comprised of size, shape, color, and texture is the result? A construction of fabric, buttons, zippers, snaps, collars and cuffs is arranged and assembled into a distinct garment. These garments can become a favorite piece of clothing that possess the ability to make us FEEL, not only the physical sensation on our skin, but an emotion within us. As in, comfort, warmth, happiness, hipness, even sexiness. How can a simple, ordinary object elicit such a sense of satisfaction? A beautiful memory? Nostalgia? What is it that provokes us to reach for that favorite shirt or sweater? The one with the looseness or tightness in just the right places. The one that feels silky, smooth and sexy. The one full of holes that has seen better days, yet reminds us of a past lover or experience. The one that is just so fuzzy and soft that it’s the only. thing. that will make us feel warm and comfortable in that moment. Need I go on about that perfect pair of jeans that fit just right? We can cover ourselves with clothes to hide our perceived imperfections, or we can reveal ourselves, accentuating the parts of us that we love. Clothes are a representation of both our vulnerabilities and our confidence and strengths.

The definition of composition in artistic terms is that of a work of literature, music, or art. It can be a painting, a poem, a play, a symphony, or a drawing, to name a few. My goal as a painter is to create a composition, often using ordinary objects, like a shirt, painted on the canvas in a way to evoke a feeling. Sometimes it’s about the light. Sometimes it’s about the space and how it’s occupied. Sometimes I’m capturing a moment from my own experience. It’s no different than a poet’s ability to use words to capture an emotion. Just as I use my canvas to arrange my composition, a poet arranges words to create a poem. It can be how the words are arranged, using meaning, sound, and rhythm. It’s not only these things that define a poem. Creativity defines a poem. A beautiful mind, life experience and imagination define a poem. A poet is a poem.

Sometimes it’s the inherent meaning in how the shirts are placed.
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Sometimes it’s just about capturing the beauty of an ordinary shirt. Comfortable T’s. They just make me feel good.
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Sometimes it’s just about the shirt.
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SOFTENING THE DARK BY ENHANCING THE LIGHT

I started painting feathers a couple years ago.  On a technical level, feathers are challenging, primarily because I use a color palette that is devoid of black.  The color black is essential to contrast, clarifying the difference between the lightest and darkest areas of my compositions. But if I’m trying to capture the lightness and fragility of a feather, I have to soften the definition and sharpness of the edges. That’s not always easy. It requires a lot of patience. It’s a continual cycle of lightening the dark into more natural tones in combination with neutralizing the vividness of the brighter colors, making them quieter. By softening the dark I enhance the light. And through that evolves the fragility and vulnerability of an object that symbolizes strength and majesty. A feather.

This is the first painting I’ve ever done without using black.
Feather 36 x 48 $2900Acrylic Painting – 36”x48”

There is symbolism in the color of a feather.  A blue feather has a calming, peaceful energy that encourages you to have faith in yourself  and express your deepest truths.
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White feathers represent peace, love and hope.  Also, they help us to understand that everything is okay.Feathers 3 canvases at 24” x 18” $3500Acrylic Painting – 3 canvases @ 24”x18”

KNOWING WHEN TO STEP THROUGH, STEP UP, OR SIT DOWN

I’ve learned that it takes a dose of self-awareness to discover true authenticity. How do we know what feels in alignment to us if we haven’t explored our depths? We need to question and challenge the beliefs that no longer feel good to us, those that have been programmed deep within us, not only by our ancestral DNA, but by those of the societal ‘norms’ enveloping us. Finding authenticity is taking the deep dive into ourselves, facing our shadows and flaws to uncover our empowerment and strength. We can discover the core beauty and truth that combine to form our uniqueness as kind and loving human beings. It is the graceful and elegant essence of our unique individuality that combines with others to turn the smoldering embers back into a healthy passion for change. We will start to understand what it means to find a solution instead of contributing to the problem.

This journey into self-awareness, unbeknownst to me at the time, was unfolding on a subconscious level through my creative process as a painter. The inspiration for my paintings morphed and changed over the course of 25 years. It is a fascinating realization to now understand how the compositional elements in my paintings were a subconscious manifestation of my self-awareness journey.

I started with doors. While they were textured and colorful, usually with some kind of structural element, they were always closed.
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Then the doors started opening.
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After the door phase, I started climbing. Staircases became one of my favorite compositions. They always ascended.
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I then entered my chair phase. I was going full throttle at that point in my life and knew that I really needed a rest.
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I began the deep-dive when my chairs started to include pillows and blankets.
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WHAT IF?

I love the word if. I haven’t always. Because the what if? question used to throw me into obsessive compulsive thinking patterns. I’ve somehow managed to turn the pesky logical/analytical reasoning thought processes that often accompanied the what if? question into a simpler process of answering with my imagination. As in, instead of going down the rabbit hole by answering with even if or if and only if or if….then, I can answer the what if? question with……..”Who cares?“ or “Let’s go for it!” or “Can I learn something new if…….?” Last year, I was presented with an opportunity for an incredibly challenging commission. After catching myself turning to my default mode of logical/analytical/conditional ifs as to why I was not the painter for the job, I sunk into my imagination ifs instead. And then the fun began.
It helped that I was given 100% artistic freedom.

This is an acrylic painting of the Charles Evans Whittaker U.S. Courthouse in Kansas City, Missouri. Justice Whittaker served as judge on all three levels of the Federal court, including the Western District of Missouri, Eighth Circuit, and U.S. Supreme Courts. He was appointed by President Dwight D.Eisenhower.
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The painting was commissioned by Loren Whittaker as a gift for her husband Tom, the grandson of Justice Whittaker. Tom Whittaker is CLO of JE Dunn Construction Company, builder of the Federal Courthouse. Tom has a view of the courthouse from his office window, which can be seen to the left of the painting.
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Loren did an unbelievable job of orchestrating the entire journey, down to the timing and placement of the painting. This photo was taken soon after Tom was surprised with his gift. Perhaps the best photograph ever.
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LOOKING UP

Look Up – To turn one’s gaze or attention from something else, often by literally lifting one’s head or turning one’s eyes upward.

It’s very difficult to look up when you’re drowning in the fear of uncertainty. I think most of the world can attest to that right now. Fear and all of its manifestations became my closest friend when I made the decision to own a 9,000 sq. ft., 130 year old building. By myself. With the unpredictable income, or not much of an income at all, that coincides with making one’s living as an artist. It’s an understatement to say that I had to learn a whole new way of thinking. I’ve finally discovered how to conquer fear……I embrace challenge. That means all challenges, whether mental, physical, emotional or psychological. Because something can go wrong, and will go wrong, no matter who you are or how you live your life. That’s for certain. When you truly understand this, and embrace it instead of fearing it, you have gained ultimate freedom. And that’s when your life begins.

So the next time you find your gaze directed downwards, reading the news on your computer screen…….look up instead. And get up.

This is what I see when I look up. The simplicity of it takes my breath away. Each. And. Every. Time.
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The Great Room Design Haus. The challenge that will never end. Fortunately, it’s a creativity-inducing challenge. On a good day.

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This is the start of a monumental paint job.

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VISUAL HYGGE

Hygge, pronounced hue-guh, is a Danish word. It embodies a conscious awareness of slowing down and enjoying the present. It can be a feeling. It is the creation of security, comfort and simplicity.

I’ve been creating a body of work for the last several years that I call my “Life Stills”. I am seeking the extraordinary in the ordinary and the imaginative in the mundane. I am attempting to bring you back into the moment of what is, reminding you to slow down and take notice…..to appreciate what you have before you.
Visual hygge.

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“Pillows”
64”x18”
Acrylic Painting

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“Folded Sheets”
62”x20”
Acrylic Painting

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“Shirt”
56”x14”
Acrylic Painting

TEMPORARILY OUT OF COMMISSION

A lot of us are temporarily out of commission during this Covid-19 pandemic. We are unable to operate in a life-as-we-know-it manner. While we’re being forced into a recalibration of how we navigate through our daily lives, it helps to remember that it is only temporary. Each and every one of us are allowed our own, unique vision of the lives we hope to return to when all of this is over. Some of us just want to return to the comfort, safety, and security of our past lives. Some of us are taking this time to envision new horizons. One thing I know for certain. Having a vision is important. It can help us tread water during uncertain times.

I recently took the opportunity to work on a painting commission while temporarily out-of-commmission from selling my work at outdoor art festivals, which is how I make my living. The process unfolded in a way in which I enjoy……after seeing a painting on my website, a customer was wondering if I could recreate the painting not only formatted differently, but with a different color palette as well. I’ve learned, through a lot of trial and error, that while I appreciate each and every time someone asks if I do commission work, this is really the only way that works for me and the customer. It allows the process to unfold relatively seamlessly. They have a general idea of what the painting is going to look like, and I’m able to keep my vision intact. I’m adding to their vision, not trying to create it for them.

This is the painting that was seen on my website.
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Here is the painting that is the result of the commission process.
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HEALTHY LIVING THROUGH THE CREATIVE PROCESS

We’ve all heard of the body-mind-spirit connection. I believe that human beings have the potential to function like well-oiled machines. If we can build and strengthen the body-mind-spirit interplay, we can evolve into fully operational, high efficiency, livers-and-lovers-of-life.

BODY Just like vehicles need gasoline to operate, we, as humans, need to eat healthy and nutritious food to fuel our bodies. While it’s important to move our bodies to get the blood flowing and the heart pumping, it’s as equally important to know when our bodies need to rest, relax, and sleep.
MIND It’s not always easy to pay attention to our thoughts, but we need to. Our thoughts can be the villain, or the hero. They can be the culprit, or the saint. It’s fascinating when you truly understand that you’re in the driver’s seat. Thoughts can be whatever you want them to be.
SPIRIT When we can connect to something bigger than ourselves, we are imbued with a sense of empowerment, safety, and most importantly, what it means to love……ourselves, as well as others. There is no singular way in which seekers of a spiritual connection find their path. The unfolding of that path can be excruciating, but ultimate freedom is what lies in wait.

The paintings below are part of a body of work that I began over 10 years ago. At that time, I had no conscious concept or understanding of the body-mind-spirit connection. It’s obvious to me now that my creativity process at the time was assisting these elements to percolate to the surface of my consciousness.

“Green House”
24”x30”
Acrylic on Canvas.
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“Lost in a Book”
18”x18”
Acrylic on Canvas
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“Having an Off-Balance Day”
24”x18”
Acrylic on Canvas
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THE THREAD THAT HOLDS US TOGETHER

I like to think of human beings as singular, colorful, strands of thread. As individuals, we interweave through and around each other, sharing communication, emotion, skill and passion (among many other things) to form thicker strings that connect and entwine into friendships and relationships. As our lives unfold, we seek authenticity in the deepest part of our soul, allowing us to answer the questions of why are we here? what is our purpose? We hope to form even stronger chords that assist us in taking action and finding creative solutions, contributing to the forward growth of humanity as a whole.

This is a painting that I did for my friend Jamie. It was done in trade for some of the expenses incurred on a trip we took to Romania and Prague. (I’ll save that adventure for another post). Jamie and I have weaved in and out of each others’s lives, ever since becoming friends in high school. Presently, one of the threads we share is a passion for sewing.
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Jamie is one of the most creative humans I know. As an example of an individual thread being a component of a thicker string, here is a picture of what she created for her family and friends. She is a Medical Technologist healthcare professional, Supervisor of Microbiology and Molecular Pathology at VA Long Beach Hospital.
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And here is a pic of Jamie at work. There’s no question in my mind, that not only is she a creative thread to a colorful world…….her ponytail is purple, after all….. but she is a contributing, beneficial chord to the lives of our fellow human beings.
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OUT-OF-THE-WALL THINKING

As an artist, it’s natural to be an out-of-the-box thinker. I would like to write about something a little different…..out-of-the-wall thinking. I’m using this phrase as an adjective, a type of creative thinking which breaks down our walls so that we can step outward to the freedom on the other side. Easier said than done, that’s for sure. It’s possible, with a little time and effort (okay, ALOT of time and effort) to use creativity as a tool to penetrate the walls we build around us. The flow of inspiration that abounds without the entrapment of enclosure is truly endless.

As a visual example, my out-of-the-wall thinking morphed into this off-the-wall idea. Meet Ariel, one of three mannequins I purchased when a local department store went out of business. I painted her with the same color palette that I’m using on the interior walls of the Great Room.

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My intent was to paint her to look as if she’s stepping out of an enormous wall, which matches the enormity of the window next to her. The window represents opportunity. I left the cobwebs in the lower left-hand corner of the window. Cobwebs are allowed. They will appear from time to time.
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