New(er) Pictures

Roses in glass vase, oil on boardIMG_2773

This painting was a blast! I used a palette knife instead of a brush for a good portion of it, which is a new technique for me.

Below, horse is also oil on board

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IMG_2874Here comes the next feather! (Incomplete as of this posting.) This is the largest painting I’ve attempted yet, with a dimension of 36″ by 18″ — so, it’s not like the Sistine Chapel by any means, but a definite step in painting in the larger scale for me.

The name of this painting is “The Source”. When I think about creativity and from where it comes, I imagine a cool, dark place where earth and sky seamlessly intersect. There is a soft, chilly and audible wind that moves across the land, bringing beauty and invention to the seekers. This place is called “Inspiration”. While it may look like a place of endless dark, there is much to behold. When I visit this magical place, I am sometimes gifted in feathers, which float down from the starlit heavens to land softly upon my offered palm. But this particular feather emerged from the clear inky sky, softly backlit by stars. This painting is many layers, many colors, from navy to lilac and sepia tones and a lot of gray. Being that it’s not yet complete, I don’t know quite where it will end up yet, but it has been a blessing and joy to make.

When Creativity Visits

The welcome mat is always out, inviting inspiration. I believe that the creative process is a unique experience for every person. I’ve read stacks of books advising how to nurture the artist within. One of the best is Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert; Her conversational format was enjoyable to read and her advice something like practical and sisterly. I really identified with her bit about ideas coming to us by means of us inviting them – but if we don’t act upon them, they will move on to someone else. This explains how someone may have had the idea, only for someone else to bring it to life at a future date. So, when we have a wonderful idea, we must act upon it, or at least explore it, lest it be lost to the sands of time.

I gather a lot of inspiration from magazines: rich colors, glossy paper, the effort that goes into the photos with all the styling and originality. Heeding the advice of one of my favorite authors, Julia Cameron, I indulged my inner child and started cutting out photos of my favorite things and rubber cementing them into an oversize sketchbook. The result is a “diary” brimming with color swatches, extravagant floral arrangements, sweeping landscapes, photos of horses, and other creative “knick-knacks”. The result is two-fold; I find it creatively stimulating to indulge in the simple act of focusing on interesting objects; the other is a “tangible Pinterest”. These pages have inspired several dozen paintings, some successful, some tossed in a pile to be gessoed over. Either way, it has been fun. I think that’s the most important part of the creative process. Julia Cameron talks about this extensively in The Artist’s Way: she recommends that we allow ourselves the freedom to explore the fun and/or beautiful aspect of art with child-like delight, giving ourselves permission to simply enjoy ourselves.

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I’ve employed these tactics for about a year now and my creative process has evolved from intermittent and somewhat forced into a garden bearing fruit. I’ve learned about my own creative “triggers” (I’m obsessed with color and design) and that I need a fair amount of privacy. I’ve heard this often, in various forms; contemporary artist Brian Rutenberg unapologetically stresses the requirement of aloneness in his book Clear Seeing Place.

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This “new-school” way of thinking about the creative process is terrific in the sense that it strips away any pretentiousness about art and focuses on the why: why do we create? It’s like the cool art teacher you may have had as a child, the one that always encouraged you and saw the good about your invention, no matter the level of artist you were. It’s the freedom to dream, to put your brush to canvas without fear of flaw or failure.

Thank you for reading. I wish you that freedom, wherever you are in the creative spectrum. – Julie

Out of Sequence!

I bought this delicious dish of a novel, used, and upon reaching a very crucial part of the story, discovered a huge swath of pages missing!?!?

pagesSkips from page 96 to page 161

I tried flipping thru to locate pages, to make some sense, but they’re all out of sequence!

…Guess I’ll be locating another copy on Amazon…

What April 16th Means To Me

green ribbonDid you know that April is National Donate Life month? Each April, we celebrate the generosity of those who have saved lives by becoming organ, eye, tissue, marrow, and blood donors.

What does this mean to you?

Organ donation is something that people tend to feel uncomfortable about, as it involves end-of-life decisions. I do not understand this hesitancy to explore things that involve death; we celebrate birthdays, the coming-into life. We must also consider the going-out-of (which we all hope shall be merciful).

Firstly, I find it amazing that we can perform the act of transplantation – organs, tissues, everything. Initial attempts at transplants were devastating. The transplant teams were fighting hard for their desperately sick patients but were failing time after time. It broke their hearts – they had grown to know their patients and their families. The brave pioneers of transplant surgery failed so miserably that they shut down the program for years. One of their biggest hurdles was in preventing rejection of the transplanted organs, chiefly due to a lack of reliable anti-rejection methods and medications. The concept was revived as technology evolved, and modern transplantation is nothing short of amazing.

Furthermore, transplantation demonstrates the transparency of color, gender and class, which I whole-heartedly support in my overall view of society. Additionally, I think it’s beautiful that someone can simultaneously leave this life and give life to another.

That said, on to the date of April 16th. On that day in 1995, I was twelve-years old and withering away in a hospital bed. People chose not to give up on me – family, doctors and nurses, and complete strangers.

April 16th, 1995, is the date of my first liver transplant. I went to sleep, the doctors went to work, my parents tried to nap in an uncomfortable waiting area throughout a very long night.

As this was happening in our lives, another family was dealing with sudden tragedy; the death of a twenty-one-year-old: son, perhaps a brother, a friend or a nephew. I’ll never know.

While volunteering for the cause of organ donation, I have had the pleasure to meet a number of very brave donor families. Many have shared that donation was and is a small comfort to their grieving hearts: knowing that another human being was able to live and carry a part of their loved one. I speak for the community of transplant patients in stating that we all are very grateful and regard our donor as a hero.

After my liver transplant, I enjoyed sixteen healthy, happy years. Unfortunately, my disease is chronic, and I would go on to require a second transplant in 2011. Both donor families chose to remain anonymous, and that’s OK. Regardless, I think of my donors every day. And each year, on April 16th, I pause and reflect upon the day that changed our lives.

Organ donation saves lives. The spectrum of donation is very amazing and does incredible things for people: corneas can restore sight for someone that is blind, bone can mean the difference for someone’s ability to walk, a heart can beat for someone else. I urge you to consider this important decision. If you haven’t already, you can register here.

Perfect Design

I had a bit of an epiphany today while walking one of my two adorable dogs, Stella Mae. In Florida, where we reside, this time of year brings lots of falling leaves and foliage. The sidewalk was littered with heaps of brown leaves, sticks and other plant matter. It had rained recently so I was trying to avoid the squishy and slippery globs of leaves and didn’t pay them any mind until one in particular caught my attention. About twelve inches long and a camel-tan color, it’s like a smooth, elongated pinecone. It was absolutely beautiful and reminded me of a textured leather bracelet or the handle of a well-made handbag. And so, the epiphany is that my love of art comes from my obsession with design, and more particularly, beautifully designed objects.
Perfect design

My great uncle Eugene Lux was a fairly successful packaging designer during the 1940’s. Compact cases were one of his specialties, and this was during an era where little compacts and mirrors were a trademark of luxury and class. He made other things as well like packaging for children’s toys, but I’ve always regarded compacts with a special fondness. What an elegant and lady-like little luxury – a beautifully designed little piece, like jewelry! They’ve been out of style for many years now, but a few cosmetics companies still carry beautifully designed compact mirrors, meant as a special treat and a nod to an era of supreme elegance.

Eugene was an avid collector of art and even collaborated with some very chic artists of his time, including the incredibly famous Piet Mondrian. His rubbing elbows with the likes of such incredible fame and talent were as natural as any peers that you or I have in our lives today. As a designer and art collector living in New York City during the 1940’s, they all ran in the same circles.
The 1940’s are an era that have always fascinated me; we took our time, we made things with quality and pride, we made things just to be special things. I do get a thrill when something comes in great packaging. Side note: I’ll hand it to some of the present-day cosmetics companies, as I feel there has been a noticeable shift toward elegance with some of the new palettes at Sephora and Ulta!

Nature is the master of utterly perfect design. Nature is the creator and root to many artists’ inspiration. Artists toil to replicate soft petals, their delicate shape and sumptuous colors in perfect balance. The colors we name things come from nature, such as rose, peach or avocado. As an artist, I’m always looking at beautiful things, which are everywhere. I started seeing how we replicate nature in design in nearly all things, ranging from our clothing to home design and so many other things. I believe our pursuit of beauty leads us to make great things, and those that resent or reject the notion of beauty are missing a sensory opportunity that’s unparalleled.

Aren’t You Scared?

One of the most gratifying gifts we can give another person isn’t an object, but an experience.

My father took me flying when I was a young girl. The thing I remember most about the day was how the flight made me feel simultaneously interested yet calm. There was so much to look at, between the airplane itself and the incredible view.

But, something I’ve noticed: When people learn that I fly, they almost always inquire “aren’t you scared”?

I’m so not a thrill-seeker. Flying fits my world view that life is meant to be enjoyed, which includes, being accepting of and embracing things (and people) with an open mind. Flying is what I want to do as a means to escape or take a break. I seek out an hour or so to get away; in the air, it’s quiet and beautiful. My phone doesn’t work above a certain altitude, so the act of unplugging is assured. I see things that move me beyond words; You haven’t seen a tree until you’ve seen its shadow from the sky, said Amelia Earhart. I wish more people would experience it, and understand how it works; I feel the fearful aspects would lose their power. Furthermore, I don’t feel that it’s as inaccessible as people assume.

You know what does illicit fear in my heart? Illness. Crowds. An inability to pay bills or fulfill my commitments. Car accidents. Cruelty. But flying? I don’t think it’s any crazier than many of the things people routinely engage in; To that end, we can search long enough to find the elements of danger in most anything. (Tide Pods anyone?)

Lastly, no, I don’t think I’m special because I fly. But I think that flying is special, and I want to share it with others.

I have taken people up for their first flights and it’s a gift to me to watch their joy unfold. I have a little mirror in my cockpit so I can see my rear seat passenger; we will be climbing out after takeoff and I can see their eyes gazing down, smile alighting their mouth. Then they’ve got their phone out, and their snapping pictures and guess what they’re doing?
Sharing it.

The Triumph of Kindness

Thank goodness the Good Lord made dogs.

I love all animals, but dogs fascinate me because they’re the only animal (that I know of) that specifically choose humans to be their companions. Even when people are not good to them or betray them, (which is unfathomable to me) a dog remains loyal, and, in most cases, will return to humans again.

Between my parents and Mike and I, we have three canine companions. Two were rescues (Stella Mae, a beagle/lab, and Lili Lupita); and our little chihuahua, Badger Kingsley, was kind of a here, take this puppy, situation.

This story is about Lili Lupita. She came from a small town, Center is the name, in Colorado. Someone found her wandering the streets and she ended up at a nearby animal shelter, where they discovered that she was suffering from neglect and serious injuries. Apparently, someone kicked her, hard, in the chest; this resulted in serious internal damage. (Infuriating, right?)

Lili needed major surgery to fix her. The small shelter could not afford the operation, so they decided to try and adopt her “as is”. Lili went to a family for a little while, but they brought her back. Her situation was becoming dire; she couldn’t really eat and had difficulty drawing breath. She was very skinny and had the most heartbroken look in her eyes. She was very timid and fearful and held her tail tucked under her hindquarters.

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Skinny and homeless, Lili was originally called “Shasta”

The shelter (Conour SLV Animal Shelter) had faith in Lili (then known as Shasta); they reached out to Dr. Jeff Young, also known as the Rocky Mountain Vet (he has a reality-ish TV show on Animal Planet). He offered to perform Shasta’s needed surgery for a reduced cost. But even with the reduced rate, the shelter did not have the funds.

Again, the good souls at the shelter fought for her. They held a fundraiser, and the community rallied behind little Shasta.

Friends of my parents (they are shelter volunteers) offered to drive Shasta to Denver for her surgery. My parents offered to care for her on the day before the trip to Denver. My parents were moved by her story, and the shy little creature snuggled up to my mom very soon after arriving at their house. My parents decided to adopt her, hoping and praying that she would survive the surgery.

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Lili (then known as Shasta) warmed up quickly to my mom

We all waited anxiously – the long and complex surgery was hard on her frail little body. Yet, despite the rough beginnings in her short life, it seemed as though Shasta also had faith and a desire to live. She pulled through! My parents couldn’t wait to receive their new baby.

Lili belly
Lili’s belly shortly after her surgery

Shasta wasn’t unwanted anymore, quite the opposite! She came home to a cozy bed, toys, and good food. She slowly put on weight and made a full recovery. She was reborn with a new lease on life. Shasta was renamed Lili Lupita. Over time, she gained confidence among humans and other dogs. She loves to play with Stella and Badger when they come to visit.

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Lili, Badger and Stella, begging for vittles in my mother’s kitchen

That was nearly three years ago. She is a bright little spirit; she wags her tail constantly, and is the most loving little creature. In an instant, she’ll hop up on your lap and lay her head on you, wanting to snuggle. (Instantly heart melting!)

Waggy

Lili is amazing; her story captivates me. I was already a dog lover, but in watching her transformation, I’m even more smitten. The heartbroken look in her eyes and her gut-wrenching fearfulness slowly faded away. The dog she is today is nothing short of astounding. Lili never gave up: she never wavered on her will to live. Early in life, she learned that humans can be cruel, but she also learned that most are loving and kind.

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Lili, bonding with my dad

Lili’s story is also about a community of people that wouldn’t give up on a small, timid, unwanted stray. Lili’s loving and happy nature suggests that she thinks humans are pretty amazing.

Humans and dogs belong together.
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Lili Lupita’s waggy tail and happy face! Every dog deserves to be happy and loved.