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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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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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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NEST FEATHERING

While it typically connotates a monetary reference, I’m opting to remove the financial emphasis from the phrase……

Feathering One’s Nest – To achieve benefits by taking advantage of the opportunities with which one is presented.

I’ve had the opportunity for the last several days to observe a female Cardinal building her nest right outside my window. I sit in front of this window in the early hours of the morning, drinking my coffee, feeling peace in the quiet, contemplating the day ahead of me. To have had the opportunity to watch as she constructed her nest, while sitting just a couple feet away, made me kind of giddy. I find birds nests extraordinary. The engineering and design have always filled me with amazement, fascination and intrigue.

There is usually a space around us where we can find some peace, whether it be the couch in front of a window or even the bed we crawl into every night. We all have nests. Line them with beautiful things that make you happy and give you peace.

Part of my birds’ nest collection.
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Acrylic Painting. 36”x48”
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Acrylic Painting with antique frame. 8”x10” (canvas size)
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FEAR OF THE UNKNOWN

I love picking words apart.

Fear – An unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.
Unknown – Not known or familiar.

Let me introduce myself.
My name is Melissa, and I’m an artist.
Have you ever heard the phrase “Starving Artist”?
Yup, that used to be me.
Been there.
Done that.
Yet, oddly enough, the reason why I’m no longer a starving artist is because I’ve become a master conqueror of the above, Fear of the Unknown. But don’t get me wrong. I am by no means a millionaire. Not. Even. Close. In fact, my sole method of making a living off my art has been put on hold for at least the next four months. But you know what? The amount of gratitude I feel because I can power through is beyond measure. That gratitude overpowers my fear. It feeds my creativity. It did not happen overnight, it’s been a journey. I am thriving.
So. I’d like to share the variety of artistic endeavors I pursue on a day-to-day basis. I draw my greatest ideas and inspiration from the unfolding of the process once I have a starting point. This is my starting point. I have no idea where it will go.

I’ll begin with the Great Room Design Haus. It took me 14 years to get up the nerve to paint these walls.
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14-1/2’ tall Fan Shelf. I had the fan collection, built the shelves to accommodate the different sized fans, backed with xtra corrugated metal that I had laying around.
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