Thursday, December 05, 2013

A Boundless Moment

 A Boundless Moment

He halted in the wind, and -- what was that
Far in the maples, pale, but not a ghost?
He stood there bringing March against his thought,
And yet too ready to believe the most.

 A Boundless Moment; Right

"Oh, that's the Paradise-in-bloom," I said;
And truly it was fair enough for flowers
had we but in us to assume in march
Such white luxuriance of May for ours.
 A Boundless Moment; Left

We stood a moment so in a strange world,
Myself as one his own pretense deceives;
And then I said the truth (and we moved on).
A young beech clinging to its last year's leaves.
~Robert Frost

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Journey to the Unknown

Darest thou now, O Soul, 
Walk out with me toward the Unknown Region, 
Where neither ground is for the feet, nor any path to follow? 

No map, there, nor guide, 
Nor voice sounding, nor touch of human hand, 
Nor face with blooming flesh, nor lips, nor eyes, are in that land. 

I know it not, O Soul; 
Nor dost thou--all is a blank before us; 
All waits, undream'd of, in that region--that inaccessible land. 

Till, when the ties loosen, 
All but the ties eternal, Time and Space, 
Nor darkness, gravitation, sense, nor any bounds, bound us. 

Then we burst forth--we float, 
In Time and Space, O Soul--prepared for them; 
Equal, equipt at last--(O joy! O fruit of all!) them to fulfil, O Soul. 

~Walt Whitman

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Without Further Ado

Love Came Down         by Crystal Neubauer
So I'll just get this part out of the way right up front, today is my birthday. I'm a 48 year old woman and I pouted first thing in the morning because my husband hadn't wrapped my presents yet and I really wanted to open them RIGHT NOW!

What an embarrassing confession to make. You see, I have never been the type to really like surprises. But I actually love surprises!

Such a contradictory statement. What I really mean is that I don't like waiting when I know something good is coming, but I honestly do love a good surprise. And yesterday two packages arrived, both were presents from my husband and I knew one was exactly what I asked for (engaged my excellent sleuthing skills via return address label) and the other was a mystery and I could hardly wait to find out what it was!

So here I am now, sheepishly sitting in front of the fireplace, new boots on my feet and two beautifully handcrafted mugs sitting on the coffee table in front of me, grateful for the many changes that have marked my life this year, and for those in my husband, who didn't get defensive or upset at my momentary lapse into self-centeredness, but instead good-naturedly "snuck" into the living room to wrap my gifts, refusing my embarrassed pleas to wait until dinner tonight like he had planned.

And as if this little story weren't enough to make a girl feel completely happy on her birthday, today I get to share some really exciting news with you and some really really exciting new news with you! (And WOW! Have I had a tough time waiting to share the surprise!)

First off, I am so thrilled to be the featured artist over on The Altered Page today. Seth Apter, author of said blog, is spotlighting 30 artists in 30 days. Each one of the 30 are featured in his newest book, to be released this month, titled "The Mixed Media Artist: Art Tips, Tricks, Secrets, and Dreams From Over 40 Amazing Artists"

Really, he is the amazing one. Seth has a way of truly finding the best of the mixed media art world and sharing it through his unique vision in texture, color, rhythm and harmony. His own art and pictures resonate deeply with me and has brought me back to his blog time and again over the many many years that I have been following him. Each time I have been moved to comment on something (which happens often!) he is so gracious to reply. To say that I was honored to be invited to be a part of the stellar line up in his second book would be the understatement of the year. I am still in awe of the invitation and even more in awe of the visual stimulation and ideas that will be found within its pages.

Don't walk, run on over to Seth's blog and check out the artists he has featured so far this month, leave him a comment on any of the 30/30 posts and you will be entered in a drawing for a chance to win a signed copy of your own!

Come What May      by Crystal Neubauer

And now without further ado, the news I have so eagerly been waiting to share with you - you know the confession I made above, about my love/hate relationship with surprises?? This year has been an absolute dream year, both in my personal life and in my career. It seems to be a year of reaping a harvest that just keeps getting better and better. . .

A long long long time dream of writing my own book is coming to fruition. After writing for, and sharing my own work in, three different books in one year, I knew it was time to finally submit a proposal of my own.

Over three years ago I was approached by an editor for North Light Books asking if I would be interested in writing and I said "hold on, let me think about it". . . HA! No, I said a wholehearted YES!!! But then life was happening in waves at that time and I knew the timing was not right for me so I pulled back.

But this year I knew it was my year. And indeed it is! Not only did I begin to have absolute clarity on what I wanted to say and share, but the editors at North Light so caught my vision that they approved my proposal and expanded it beyond what even I had imagined, deciding to make a special hard cover edition out of it and cross promote it between their fine art and mixed media divisions!

Whew! This is one lucky and blessed girl and to get to share it with you on my birthday is just plain icing on the cake! Yes, without further ado, this month marks a life long dream come true as I begin writing "The Art of Intuitive Collage".

This truly is a redeemed life.

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Reaping a Harvest: Fall News

Couldn't Outrun Grace    by Crystal Neubauer
Fall is here and its reaping a harvest Thanksgiving is still nearly eight weeks away, but I am already counting my blessings. This year has been, hands down, one of the best I can ever remember, both on a personal and a professional level. Truly it feels as if I am reaping a harvest from seeds that have been planted long ago.

News From Annual Juried Show at Sylvia White Gallery 
The 6th Annual Juried Show at the Sylvia White Gallery in Ventura is underway and will be hanging through October 19th. I was thrilled to receive an email from the gallery manager saying that both of my works, Beethoven's First Symphony and Around the Mulberry Bush, were sold at the opening night reception! I am waiting on the edge of my seat to hear who Sylvia chooses for the three solo show awards. If you aren't able to stop by the gallery in person, you can look at the outstanding work in this year's show here.

American Craft Council Show Acceptance, St. Paul 
This is one of those long time dreams that proves persistence does pay off. After participating as an emerging artist a few years back in one of the nations top fine art craft shows, the American Craft Expo Show and Sale at Evanston, I knew this type of event was a path I wanted to pursue in earnest. Since that time I have applied to, and been turned down for, five different shows at that level. For just a slight minute this time around, I considered setting this dream aside, but something in my spirit told me that this would be my year, and indeed it is. I have recently been accepted to participate in the American Craft Council Show in St. Paul, to be held in April of 2014. I hope to see many of you there!

Local Opportunity, Annual Party at The Fine Arts Building Chicago 
And a little closer to home, I am super excited to have been invited to hang my work to show and sell during the Annual Party at the beautiful Fine Arts Building downtown Chicago, to be held during the Second Friday Open Studio Event on December 13th. It has been a long time since I've had an opportunity to connect with my local art friends and supporters, I am really looking forward to this fabulous party. Please do come out and join me if you can- I would love to see you there!

Not one, but two new books released! 
Being published is always a thrill and an honor, but having my work appear in two books being released within a month of each other is an over-the-top experience! First off, Incite Dreams Realized: The Best of Mixed Media has been released and my copy has just arrived in the mail. This book is a lovely hardcover edition CHOCK-FULL of sumptuous art images. You can head over to the North Light website here for a preview, including my entry, to wet your appetite, but if you are an art book lover you will want to own a copy of this book for your own collection!

Any day now I expect to open my mailbox to find my copy of The Mixed Media Artist: Art Tips, Tricks, Secrets and Dreams From Over 40 Amazing Artists by Seth Apter waiting for me. I am really excited to have been selected to participate as one of those 40 (amazing? amazed, is more like it!), and along with several images of my work, you will find a tutorial on gluing by yours truly. Though I do not have this book in my hands yet, I know it is another one that you will not want to miss out on adding to your collection. Aside from being an outstanding artist himself, Seth already has a top-selling Mixed Media book under his belt and is known for finding the best of the mixed-media world and promoting them. This book is sure to be another hit!

And Speaking of. . .
Not one, not two, but. . . maybe one of the most exciting bits of news for me to share yet, and I'm so close to being able to tell you just what it is, but I can't say yet! I'm just going to go out on a limb here and tell you, it is another dream realized, and this time it will be by yours truly! ;-)

Don't Miss Out On Class Opportunities At Ephemera Paducah!
Classes are starting to fill and I am getting so excited to head out to Ephemera Paducah (Kentucky) in November. Ephemera Paducah is fast becoming the Mixed Media workshop destination of the Midwest and Southeast by hosting favorite artists from national art retreats, as well as showcasing local talent. Don't miss out on the opportunity to take back to back workshops, Intuitive Collage with Encaustic, and Encaustic Wax on Plexiglas. Each day is an independent workshop that can be taken and enjoyed as a single day of instruction, or at a discounted rate for both days. No supplies are necessary, just bring yourself, your creative desires and enjoy!

Darkness is Overcome      by Crystal Neubauer
Smalls are on sale for a cause! 
I've just uploaded images of twelve new small works to my website and will be extending the summer special rates through Sunday October 20th. All sales from my website in the next two weeks will fund an art field trip I am organizing to take eight students from my neighborhood to visit the museum at The Art Institute in Chicago. I have been opening my home studio to these boys and girls since moving into this home last year as a way to give back to my community and I have simply fallen in love with them. They are bright outstanding young men and women who I long to see reach their full potential in life. If ever you may have considered purchasing one of my works, this would be the time to make the investment - not only in art, but in giving the experience of art to a very deserving student!

Check out the small works available for sale here and take a look at my most recent larger works now available here. Thank-you once again for the support, encouragement and continuing interest in my work and my adventures as an artist!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Just Stopping By

It has been far too long, my friends. Far too long since I've stopped to write and I have so much to say and so many things to share, but not today. For now I will leave you with a couple of images from my current body of work. All just listed on my website . . .
Darkness is Overcome     by Crystal Neubauer

Upon the Waters      by Crystal Neubauer

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Dear friends, I wonder if you would all take a minute...

Throughout this past year I have been impacted over and over by the importance of having a family-like community of like-minded people in my life. Just now I've come inside from an impromptu conversation in the yard with a couple of good friends, and neighbors, about what it looks like to truly love. How that giving love without expectations, unconditional love, can truly be life changing to somebody. I know, in my own life, what a difference it has made to know there are people who believe in me, and care enough to show it, as I work toward achieving my goals as an artist. Artist, Julia Cameron calls this type of artistic-goal oriented friendship a "believing mirror".
Alphabet Series©    by Jan Avellana

My good friend Jan Avellana has been this type of believing mirror for me. In spite of the ocean between us (Jan lives in Hawaii), we have managed to stay in contact over the years almost daily, supporting and encouraging each other as we work toward achieving our artistic and personal goals. She has been such an encourager to me that I know there are dreams I would have given up on long ago if it weren't for her believing in me.

Today I want to ask you a favor that is as much for me as it is for my friend Jan, you see, when she accomplishes something she has worked hard for, I get to celebrate! And this one is pretty big. Jan is a semi-finalist in the Global Talent Search at Lilla Rogers Studio, an internationally recognized licensing agency. Out of over 1500 entrants, only 50 people were selected as semi-finalist so this is a really big deal! At this point 5 of the entrants will be chosen by the judges and 1 will be chosen by popular vote, so I am asking if you will take just a minute out of your day today and head over to Lilla's website to vote for Jan.

I'm not asking that you vote for her just because she is my friend. I'm asking you to because of the incredibly talented and deserving artist that she is (Just look at the outstanding work I've stolen from her to include in this newsletter!). In all the years I have known her, Jan has worked hard to help support her family and two young boys, while passionately pursuing her dreams as an artist, most of the time after the whole family has gone to bed at night, and for her to even be in the top 50 of this prestigious talent search is an outstanding achievement! If Jan were to win this coveted position as a licensed artist at Lilla Rogers it would be life changing for her and her family.

Self Portrait©    by Jan Avellana

All you have to do is click on her art (second row from the bottom: here) and enter your email at the top of her page where it says to vote and then confirm your vote when you receive an email from the agency.

Lilla Rogers Semi-Finalist Entry© by Jan Avellana

I so appreciate all of you and the support and encouragement you've given me over the years. Thank-you all, for in your own ways, being believing-mirrors to me too!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The In-betweeness of Life

Untitled  by Crystal Neubauer
It seems impossible that I've been home from Seattle for something like 2 1/2 weeks now, I blinked, and my time there was over and now on this end of it looking back I can hardly find the words to describe the experience. And so I've waited to write. and waited to write. and waited to write. But still the words would not come.

So I'm pasting bits and pieces from private emails, conversations and posts elsewhere, creating a virtual collage with my own words...

May Day  by Crystal Neubauer
....I've been obsessed with buying coffee mugs lately. I had a sudden desire to replace every white mug in the cabinet with color, deep rich earthy color, and now the cabinet is overflowing.

And I've started seeking out hand crafted tea cup sized mugs- artist made- to display in a cabinet I don't own yet.

And pillows. And pottery. American art vases- the McCoy's and the Haggar's and some pretty squat vases. The affordable names, not the expensive brands. Not that I don't covet those.

I guess I've been nesting. After a year in this house without my own things, I have this deep urgent need to make it my own, to put my stamp on it and sink in my roots.

By and By  by Crystal Neubauer
Oh, and art supplies. I came home from the trip and ordered some things I wanted to use with the neighborhood kids. And then I walked through Blick and picked up more things I didn't really need, but really wanted. And then I came home and ordered more. I bought ten tubes of milk paint. Beautiful rich matte colors- Shiva Caseins. Somewhere I saw somebody using matte paint with collage and I ached inside. I don't even know what the other artist was using, but I stumbled on these and I knew I had to have them. There are pictures burning a hole in my mind and pressing in me to be birthed, but I'm not there yet. 

I had an appointment at a fine art gallery in Pioneer Square on my last day in Seattle, Gallery IMA, where I picked up representation. Walking in to that beautiful space, I felt an ache deep inside. A fluttering of recognition stirred my soul. This is something I knew God placed in me- this desire to create art and see it hanging in such a beautiful place. He spoke to me about it last year, just after leaving the house with the mold, just before moving to this new home- the ministry house, as it is referred to in this neighborhood. Yet in the waiting place, I allowed myself to doubt, just a little bit, that I heard Him correctly.
Earnestly I Seek You  by Crystal Neubauer
I came home from my trip bursting with inspiration, nearly two weeks of solid creative stimulation will do that to you. I could not wait to get home and get started. To get all these pictures out of my head and onto the canvas. Yet somewhere between arriving home and taking care of what needed to be done before I could get to the studio it disappeared. The inspiration, the images, the words. Only the ache remained.
Untitled  by Crystal Neubauer
This is the in-betweeness of my life. This is the type of year it has been. Between homelessness and finding my true home. Between finally coming into my own voice as an artist and suddenly feeling that raw passionate need to create something new. Between familiar old relationships and a new community. This is the life God has led me to. The step-by-step journey He has had me on. Between learning that I can fully trust Him in it, yet still being in awe when what He promises comes true. I settle into this room and gaze at a few carefully placed objects and relish in His goodness because of it. Finally knowing He is okay with me and that my life is in these in-between days, not at some distant place of which I have yet to arrive.

Friday, July 19, 2013

I Was Afraid and So I Hid

"I Was Afraid and So I Hid"  Mixed Media Collage Painting by Crystal Neubauer

The fifth of July found me waking to this feeling of deep gratitude for the place I am in after an evening spent in our neighbor’s backyard watching the profusely abundant, if not wasteful, display of fireworks being lit all around the lake.

A thick cloud of acidy smoke hung in the air and over the water, as if a mist on a chilly fall morning. Cars lined the narrow street, with every backyard, and the neighborhood park- smaller than a postage stamp itself- filled with celebration and revelry. Jarring explosives shook the ground sending thundering like tremors echoing across the water between the smaller cracks and pops of the legal variety of fireworks. I sat soaking it all in, fingers stuffed in my ears, among old friends and new, feeling at once connected to those around me and yet oddly detached from it all; a spectator from another country not quite certain how I came to arrive at this moment.

To observe my life from the outside, I imagine, would be less than impressive. Especially to the semi-close observer, those old friends and acquaintances who know just how broken and messy it's been. But I am in awe of the transformation I've seen in my husband and that in which I know has taken place inside of me. I think back to a day I sat bemoaning life to my wise counselor, and questioning my commitment to my marriage for the lack of physical evidence that anything solid or trustworthy was happening, "God is working an inside out change" she assured me.

At that time it was less than comforting to hear, but today I understand it to be different than the type of change that is equivalent to a band-aid being slapped on an infected wound. When change begins on the inside you can trust the thing to be healed.
"I Was Afraid and So I Hid"  Mixed Media Collage Painting by Crystal Neubauer
For so many years, decades really, I spun my wheels trying to make what I wanted to happen in life happen in order to have the peace and security I craved, but it always seemed to elude me. It was this thing that was as tangibly visible yet, as hard to hang on to as that cloud of smoke that hung across the water last night. A Pandora’s Box of voices cried out in the dark recesses of my mind wreaking havoc on my physical and emotional well being, anxiety swelling each time I peeked inside; "you're not good enough! You never do it right! You are a fool to think you can ever be (have, do) what you dream of!” they cried.

Those twelve steppers are on to something with their declarations of being powerless to change. How easy it is to see the need to say these words in the face of a true addiction, but for those of us who aren't feeding our insatiably hungry wounds with drugs or alcohol it is harder to recognize the addictive nature of the false self. Not feeling good enough? “Run! Hide!” it says.

“Fake it till you make it” is a good remedy if making it means trying to fool everyone into believing you have it all together, all-the-while living in constant anxiety of being found out for the imposter you know yourself to be.

Those people at the academy awards who upon receiving the coveted gold statue, I wonder if they know how profoundly they speak? "I'd like to thank God…” Yes. Yes, I would. I’d like to thank God for bringing me to a place where I was finally able to see the beauty of powerlessness and His willingness to do what I was never meant to on my own. 
I Was Afraid and So I Hid"  Mixed Media Collage Painting by Crystal Neubauer
 I imagine I learned the words “I can do it myself!” pretty early in life. They served me well when it came to tying my shoe or putting on my pajamas as a child. But what was intended to be the cry of a toddler bent on learning basic life skills, wound its way into my belief system so tightly it became a strangling mantra. It’s kind of hard for God to steer the thing when you’ve got a death grip on the wheel.

How sweet a lesson it is to learn just how capable He really is at handling it all. It’s the little things, more than anything, that set me back on my heels and reminds me how different life has become. There is a savory sweetness on the tip of my tongue upon waking after an evening spent with family and friends when I no longer feel the need to hide behind self-control. I am not perfect and that is okay. I’m learning that I am loved and loveable anyway.

And I’m learning to replace those words of stubborn independence, the old mantra, with a new prayer: “Lord, apart from you I can do nothing. I am laying this issue down at your feet and I thank-you that you have taken it.”

"He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.” ~Genesis 3:10

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Swarm: A Journey of Creation in Beeswax

I am excited to share with you a show I am a part of called "Swarm: A Journey of Creation in Beeswax" at the Hanson Scott Gallery in Seattle.

The show will feature over 30 works of art created collaboratively by myself and fellow artists and EncaustiCamp instructors, Patricia Baldwin Seggebruch and Sue Stover. We have been working collectively on these works over the course of the past two years, mailing them between Chicago, Seattle and Santa Rosa with each artist adding her touch to each of the works on display.

The show will be up from July 3 through August 31 and the artists reception is set to coincide with our EncaustiCamp "field trip" day July 26 from 5-7 pm. Be sure to mark your calendar if you are in the Seattle area!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

My Best Friend

Today my husband and I have been married for twelve years and I can honestly say I am married to my best friend. For those of you who know us, you know this isn't just a story of longevity and happily ever after. We aren't the "childhood friends who grew up and got married" kind of best friends. 

No that isn't our story.

Ours is a story of passionate pursuit, perseverance, and persistence. A story of brokeness and of depth of experiences, refusing to give up and finding joy in the midst of it all. It is a journey that grows more deeply and richly and continues on, flowing like a river - sometimes gentle and sunny and sweet and I can lie back in it, feeling the gentleness of it and the warmth on my skin; while other times it has been tumultuous and wild and risky and exuberant and I've had to hang on with everything I've got - not teenaged trashy movie, melodrama for the sake of a good conflict in the storyline of boy meets girl/loses girl/wins girl back; but truly a story of redemption. Coming to the cross and looking up to find the love that heals and makes whole and restores and rebuilds and repairs and renews.

It is this story that has made him my best friend. The realness and the rawness. Beauty from ashes. As the card he left by the coffee pot this morning reads "life isn't perfect, but love doesn't care." I eagerly await the next imperfect twelve years with you Larry Neubauer. I love you, my best friend. 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Taste and See

 "The Waiting is the Hardest Part"   collage mixed media by Crystal Neubauer

This weekend I found out three of my works were accepted into White Stone Gallery's annual Summer Show and I couldn't pretend this isn't a major big deal to me if I tried. This gallery represents Makoto Fujimura's work, so I am pretty much slobbering all over myself in stunned amazement. 

There is this side of me that wanted to play it all cool in front of you, like, I'm such a professional that I take this kind of thing in stride; that oddly self-protective side that doesn't want to show my vulnerability by telling you just how excited I actually am. But I can't help it, I am bouncing-on-my-tippy-toes-waiting-for-Santa- while-standing-by-the-shore-watching-my-ship-come-in-excited!

I really wanted to get in to this show but I tried not to get too anxious over it. I kept reassuring myself that God has me on a journey and I can trust him with it whether this opportunity opened up for me or not. But then the day the list was supposed to be posted online came and the gallery decided to reschedule the announcement by two whole days! 

And so my anxiety anticipation grew. 

I tried to let go and, you know, carry on with normal life. But there it was in the back of my mind for those two days tantalizing and keeping me ever so slightly on the edge of my seat. Finally the new time rolled around so I calmly logged on to the website, took a deep breath and squeezed my eyes half shut, peeking through my lashes, only to read that they rescheduled again! 

This time by just a few hours but once again my anxiety anticipation grew. I believe the words that came to mind were "I want this so badly I can taste it!"
hmmm...I want it so badly I can taste it? The thought caused me to stop as a feeling of condemnation started to creep in.

You see nine months ago I was looking for God's direction during an intense time of prayer; work, life, goal setting kind of direction and a very distinct word from the Lord came to me that I was to be a fine art artist and that was the avenue I should continue to pursue. In some Christian circles this kind of personal promise/word from God is called a "Rhema" and I had it to hold on to. I knew that it was mine and God wanted me to trust Him with it.

But after a few rejections from other shows that I had really hoped for this year, I was beginning to feel as if this promise was never going to come to fruition and maybe, just maybe, I needed to remind God about it. So there I sat on Saturday night during church having trouble focusing on just being with Him during worship and I prayed  "God you promised!" and "I want it so badly I can taste it!" with just the slightest bit of foot stomping for emphasis.

As soon as the thought formed I knew that I had gotten off track. The weight of condemnation settled on my shoulders with a heavy sigh. But just as quickly it lifted as I felt God's comfort wrap me like a caring friend.

"Yes, taste my child! Taste and enjoy this desire, but don't let it worry you. I placed this gift inside of you and it is I that is drawing it out. I gave you my word and you can trust me."

"Taste and enjoy. Taste and see that the Lord is good."

Taste and see that the LORD is good! How blessed is the person who trusts in him! ~Psalm 34:8

Thursday, May 30, 2013

With The Summer

"With the Summer"  Mixed Media Collage by Crystal Neubauer

"And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.”
~F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

And so it is with the Summer, a season of beginning over again. I have a sense of new beginnings. Fresh breezes coming in the windows prompt me to throw the curtains in the wash and soak in the sun for the day. My thoughts stir with the excitement that the summer season promises to bring.

I feel a long post stirring inside. Snippets of words and thoughts float to the surface of my mind. but not today. It is still as a dream upon wakening; just beyond my conscious and still too abstract to touch. 

Today I simply want to celebrate the season. A lawn mower hums, the birds can be heard in the branches of the trees and the water laps at the edge of the lake just beyond the neighbors back yard. I am mellow and filled with joy. It is my youngest daughters 24th birthday. New things are certainly in the air and it is tempting to worry over them. but not today.

Today I bring to you an offering of new small works on my website and my series of 10x10 collages, sans frames. My own little Summer Art Festival, virtual booth, if you will. Check them out here and here 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

I Rise

"I Rise"  Collage Oil Painting Mixed Media by Crystal Neubauer

"Out of the huts of history's shame
I rise
Up from a past that's rooted in pain
I rise
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise."

~ Maya Angelou

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

True Confessions of an Artist

I have a confession to make....and I hope you aren't shocked by what I'm going to say...but the truth is I don't always know what the hell I'm doing.

There. That feels good to get off my chest.

You see, this internet world - the world of self-marketing and promoting - can be tricky. On the one hand I am selling a product, this is my career, and my income depends on you believing in that product enough to want to invest in it. It has to have some polish and all the pieces need to fit together in a way that is visually appealing.

And so I post the really good stuff. The finished product. The good news of the latest happenings. The places I'll be teaching, the books I'll be published in, the latest sale or the awesome things going on in my community or home.

And it all looks really good from the outside, when all you see are the highlights of a life online.

But on the other hand, I am a real person and, like most real people, I want to be known and seen and heard for who I really am. But who I really am is sometimes often messy. Sometimes I lack direction or the skill I need or the resources or even the motivation to do the things I want to do.

I sit down at my work table with a blank canvas, or my computer with a blank screen in front of me and I have no idea where to start. Sometimes I have a vague idea of what I want to do, but more often then not, I am just as blank as the screen.

And this is where many people get stuck. They think they have to know exactly what to do or how to do it before they can attempt the thing they find appealing. They think "if only I had gone to the right school, had more money, the right supplies, a brilliant idea or some sort of guarantee of the outcome, then I could start.

And looking at somebody else's life online can be a source of motivation, but it can, and often is, just another place to get stuck. "If only I had what she has, the skill, the money, the loving husband or family...then my life would be perfect, I could do all the things I ever wanted to do. I could take risks too if I had that life."

I used to do that, still do sometimes, but then I realized that all the "If only's" in the world weren't going to get me anywhere. I had to start with what I have available and work with the skills I do have.

So here I am. I just wanted to come clean with you today. I really don't know what the hell I am doing most of the time. I try and I fail. I get back up and I try something else and I fail again. And I try again and again and again until I finally succeed.

And that is the difference for me. One day I realized I was more afraid of what would happen if I didn't try, if I didn't write, if I didn't create, didn't apply for the show, or didn't ask to teach, then I was of saying I did risk it all but I failed.

True success isn't in the perfectly polished finished product or the filled up workshop, or the published article or book, or number of sales. No, true success is being able to show off the stack of rejection letters, the vacant seats, the pile of art that didn't turn out well and having the conviction to say "I will try again tomorrow".

" I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." 2 Timothy 4:7

Friday, April 19, 2013

Ruthless Trust

Ruthless Trust (work in progress) by Crystal Neubauer
Sitting with my journal and prayers this morning I contemplate the past year and the journey I have been on. So amazingly good. So many amazingly good good things have come from some very difficult circumstances. 
I look back over the pages of my journal and see the journey scrawled in ink across the pages, the first entry penned exactly a year ago yesterday. These words, sometimes small and neat and other times loose and frantic, often stained with tears, document one of the most profoundly significant years of my life.

Lack of clarity on a personal level this past few weeks, coupled with the sad events in Boston and Texas, the floods affecting so many people I know here in the Chicago area, not to mention the sky convincing me it's Winter regardless of the calendar that says it's Spring, have all served to set my mood low and cast an inner gloom bordering on despair and my thoughts wander back through those difficult times from a year ago. How is it that I made it through to such a remarkable outcome then, and what is it that I am searching for now?

And than God reminds me. It was Ruthless Trust. 

I had written to a friend and asked for a book recommendation, specifically something by Frederic Buechner, but instead she said I should read "Ruthless Trust; The Ragamuffin's Path to God" and it was there in the pages of that book that God broke through the bondage of certain mindsets I had and changed my life.
Brennan Manning, the author, passed away last week and the news stirred in me as I remembered the key role the book played in my life a year ago, so I decided to return to it this morning and within the first few pages I found what I needed to hear. It is not in the certainty of my circumstances, but in the ruthless trust of God that I find my security. Thank-you God, I so needed to remember this today:

"Craving clarity, we attempt to eliminate the risk.of trusting God. Fear of the unknown path, stretching ahead of us destroys childlike trust in the Father's active goodness and unrestricted love. 
We often presume that trust will dispel confusion, illuminate the darkness, vanquish the uncertainty, and redeem the times. But the crowd of witnesses in Hebrews 11 testifies that this is not the case. Our trust does not bring final clarity on this earth. It does not still the chaos or dull the pain or provide a crutch. When all else is unclear, the heart of trust says, as Jesus did on the cross "Into your hands I commit my spirit". (luke 23:46)   ~Brennan Manning, Ruthless Trust; The Ragamuffin's Path to God

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

On Anticipation, Occupying the Land and EncaustiCamp

The last few weeks I've closed with a tease about a major EncaustiCamp announcement and today is the day I get to share the news that I have eagerly been waiting to tell you.

Anticipation is a funny thing. It fills the air with a heightened awareness that something good is about to happen. An eagerness sets in to see the thing being waited for come to fruition and excitement bubbles up from within.
There is a sense of anticipation happening in the home and neighborhood where I live. A stirring of a common vision for the greater good. A building into each others lives, and reaching out to build up a community. God sized dreams are stirring and being shared and the desire to see it become a reality is strong, yet there is still an uncertainty about exactly what "it" is and how it will come about. For me it will be a continuation of the faith journey I have been on for several years as an artist; God gives me a picture of what the next step is, but doesn't reveal the entire plan.

Recently I was reminded of the words God spoke to Moses as he prepared the people for entering the promised land in Deuteronomy 7:22: "The Lord your God will drive out those nations before you, little by little. You will not be allowed to eliminate them all at once, or the wild animals will multiply around you." Essentially God is saying "Hey, I'm bringing you this really good thing but I can't give it to you all at once because you won't be ready to handle it." 

That is what the step-by step faith journey is for me. I have the promise of the big picture in front of me. I know it is good, really really good. But the details are still sketchy and when I think about getting from where I am to that really good thing, it is way too big. It overwhelms me and I freeze.  "The wild animals multiply all around" are like the obstacles in the way of my success and I am too afraid looking into their beady little eyes to do anything but stand there and blink. Eventually the fears and the uncertainty threaten to defeat me, but God in His infinite goodness knows this about me and continues to allow me to hang on to the big picture promise while only giving me what I can handle by way of His direction to the next step. Sometimes the step doesn't seem to make sense, but I've been on this walk long enough to know they don't have to, I just need to follow and the way will continue to open.

The next step for me has to do with restructuring the open studio times and workshops I've scheduled in my home studio. Open studio times, the first of which is scheduled for Sunday April 21st from 1-4 will now be free and I am reducing the fee for the Encaustic Collage Workshop scheduled for Sunday May 12 from 10 - 4pm. Yes, that is Mother's Day, so consider treating yourself and maybe bring your mom along and have some fun! 
Contact me for details on how to reserve your spot.

Speaking of anticipation, I promised to share a big announcement about EncaustiCamp. Have I kept you in suspense long enough? North Light Publishers has chosen to feature the retreat in Patricia Baldwin Seggebruch's third book on Encaustic techniques. Each one of the instructors (including yours truly) have been invited to write a section of the book featuring their workshop project. What does this mean for attendees? Well not only is the camp simply fabulous to begin with, but it will be host to a North Light editor and photographer this year as they come partake of the camp's goodness and shoot photos for the book. You will get a chance to be included and to see what goes on behind the scenes of the publishing process and all this right on the water of scenic Dumas Bay near Seattle. Registration is officially open and already half full. Hurry and reserve your spot today!

And if a full retreat isn't in the cards for you this year, be sure to consider a weekend getaway to my Nashville or Paducah workshops, where I just might have more exciting news to share. You never know what the next step may bring!

Grace Like Rain   Mixed Media Collage by Crystal Neubauer

Friday, March 29, 2013

On Taking a Risk and Building Relationships

In my last post I shared that I had been wrestling with resistance over taking a major step toward achieving a goal of mine. Each time I set my mind on taking that step I let resistance get the better of me, but this time confessing it to all of you, I was able to break free of the hold it had on me and accomplished my goal.  Whether the thing I hope for happens as a result or not, I am proud of myself for taking the risk. I won't accomplish my dreams by sitting on the sidelines of life and playing it safe.

Yesterday I had a group of neighborhood kids in to watch a movie and work on an art project together. I woke in the morning with a little flare up of that same old resistance, wondering why I was taking the afternoon off to hang out with a group of other peoples kids when I have so much work to do. But I quickly squashed that thought as I remembered my biggest goals are about building relationships, something that can't be done in the bubble of isolation I am prone to remaining in at home in my own studio. I'm especially aware of the importance of relationships as Easter approaches this weekend. The cross was the ultimate bridge to building relationship and I am grateful for the reminder.

Last week I announced upcoming open studio and workshop dates scheduled in my home studio and the number of responses I received made me realize I left a few important details out. Gages Lake is located in the far North Suburbs of Chicago close to Gurnee, IL where Six Flags and the Gurnee Outlet Mall are located. I am just a short 20 minute drive to the Wisconsin border, 30-45 minutes from Chicago and very close to I-94.

All of my currently scheduled workshops are listed below. Please email me at if you have questions or want to register for any of the classes. And be sure to sign up for my newsletter here if you would like to receive regular(ish) updates on my workshops, exhibits and other news.

Stay tuned...Major EncaustiCamp Announcement Next Week!

Friday, March 22, 2013

The Issue Is Resistance....

Collage and Encaustic Composition- Class Sample by Crystal Neubauer
Last night I found myself pondering, and asking a good friend, what it was that made me freeze every time I approached a certain goal of mine with any serious intent of taking steps to achieve it. "Sounds like resistance" she quipped "You should get your copy of 'the War of Art' out and read it."

And so here I am this morning, not even 10 pages in, recognizing it. Yup, it's resistance alright. Resistance is what causes us to step back when everything in us tells us it's time to step forward. It's the thing that makes a hundred million excuses to do anything and everything except the thing that we really want to achieve. It is so much easier to resist the changes necessary to improve my life, or achieve my wildest dreams and most deeply felt desires, than it is to take the action steps to get me there.

Fear is a crippling disease and the only way to overcome it is to walk directly toward the thing we are afraid of and live through it. The worst thing about the way resistance causes me to stop taking steps toward my big dream is realizing this freezing has caused me to spin my wheels and not get anything else done either! Thank God for the well timed wisdom of good friends to keep me on track!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Nashville, Paducah, and Chicago area Workshops

Nashville, TN
Cindy Wunsch
4806 Nevada Avenue
Nashville, TN 37209
Sunday May 19th, 2013
10am - 4pm

Paducah, KY
Ephemera Paducah
Kristin R. Williams
Friday May 17, 2013
Saturday May 18, 2013
9:30am – 4:00pm

Chicago Area Workshop and open studio information to come...
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Sunday, January 27, 2013

Sweet Saturdays and Community

Mixed Media Collage by Crystal Neubauer

Saturdays have become my favorite day of the week, and yesterday was no exception. The workshop was soul satisfying, connecting with extraordinary talented women over art and soaking up the unique flavor of what each one brings to the table. I learn as much as I teach. The exchange of ideas, giftedness, openness and generosity that happens around the work table when art is the focus feels like community.

Coming home afterwards and watching the house fill up with our church community was icing on the cake. Sitting around the dining room table breaking bread together, worshipping, praying and sharing from the heart and from the Word while our hearts begin to be knit together by our mutual love of Christ and sense of purpose, I couldn't help feeling full to the over flowing.

This is the love of God in action. That He could take somebody as broken as me and put the pieces back together in such a way that I could never have even thought to ask for or imagine is nothing short of a miracle. It isn't a destination that I've arrived at. It is a journey that I must choose to get up and continue every day. And trust me when I tell you, I have been tempted to quit. Scared some days to take another step. So tempted to believe certain things could never change.

Jesus said to the paralyzed man "take up your mat and walk!". After 38 years of being lame he believed he could be healed and his life was changed. Essentially he was saying to the man, it doesn't have to be this way. The belief that you can never change is a lie. We all have our mats. What have you been lying in, accepting as your lot in life, that Jesus wants to heal you of today?

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Collage with Encaustic Workshop January 26th!

Encaustic Wax and Collage Workshop

In this class we will be exploring from the heart of collage in combination with encaustic wax. Techniques in the class will cover building a traditional collage utilizing encaustic wax as a top layer to protect and enhance your work, building a collage with encaustic wax as the adhesive between layers, and taking your collage off the "board" with embellishments and 3D effects.

Additional techniques will include stencils, incising and mark-making, adding color with a variety of methods, basic image transfers and will enable the student to express themselves whether their style is whimsical and light or takes a more serious tone.

Workshop Detail
When -  Saturday, January 26
Time -   10:00 - 4:00
Where - PerficalSense Studio

              1209 Hinman Ave., Evanston, IL
      Just south of Dempster, look for the red house with the blue door
Cost - $110 includes everything your need to leave with a big smile on your face.
Please feel free to bring a snack and lunch, the studio will be offering coffee, tea and water.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

HOPE ~ A New Years Promise

Studio on New Years Day 2013

This year I make no new resolutions, but I have set many personal goalsI suppose they would sound like resolutions if I were to list them all out, but somehow the very word "resolution" convinces me of the likelihood that I might fail - the way going on a diet becomes a battle of the inner will and I know I eventually give in to the temptation and, somewhere along the line, forget about my resolve altogether.

I am putzing around the studio reflecting today, New Years Day 2013, enjoying the rare unstructured time, still in my pjs and fuzzy socks. Apron on, paintbrush in one hand, gluten free salted caramel cupcake in the other (thanks to my daughter's very thoughtful boyfriend!), dabbing a little paint here and a little gesso there on formerly unfinished and rejected collage works, happy I saw the value in not throwing them away and pleased at how these flawed pieces often turn into my most treasured work.

My word for this year is HOPE. Hope for a future. Hope for my own life's purpose and a plan to help get me there. Hope that I have redeemed value and worth, that I have a voice and can be used by and for a cause much greater then myself. Hope in promises given to me years ago and the desire to instill and pass on this hope to others. Hope that brings freedom, and new life and purpose, that strengthens identities, binds up and heals old wounds, restores, redeems, and brings about long lasting change. 

This kind of hope has nothing to do with empty wishing, or white knuckled determination or resolve. It is the kind of hope that knows it is not all up to me, and that there is a God who sees me and is taking my flaws and turning them into one of His treasured works.

No this year I don't want the shaky ground of resolutions, I want to stand on the promises of hope.

"He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners."