Monday, March 31, 2014

Redemption Stories Series with Guest Artist Kelly Williams

Redemption Stories Monday: For the next ten Monday's join me in welcoming 10 guest artists as they share a story of redemption from their own life or work. These stories may be a broad overview or observation, or they may be very specific, deep and personal. The post may be very short or very lengthy. I have left the specifics up to each of the ten. View images of their work as you read their words, and bios. Be sure to check out the links each one will provide to learn even more about them. 

Kelly Williams is such an inspiration to me.Not only can I identify with the emotions of much of her healing journey, but with the desire she has to pay that healing forward through the arts.I had the privilege of talking with Kelly several years back and being able to view some of the "Recovery Panes" created by her students. Her Crossroads project has helped countless homeless youth process & grieve their experiences, affirm their worth and empower them toward a healthy future. Her life and her work as an artist is truly a redemptive story and I'm honored to introduce her to you.
"Below The Fault Line" by Kelly Williams
I am a survivor. That can mean a lot of things to a lot of different people. Many, if not most of us are survivors of one form or another. The details of my own journey no longer seem terribly important to me as they did at one time. It is the journey that matters to me now.

My childhood was one that required survival. I did. I thought. But it didn’t end when I entered “adulthood.” It wasn’t over by a long shot.

I was lost in a personal hell that kept the memories more real than the people and activities happening right in front of me. I often didn’t know my own children when they spoke to me. When I looked down at my hands, they belonged to another body. I was confused when I saw the reflection of someone else in the mirror. I would hear myself speaking across the room and not know that it was my voice. Standing in my home, I would not know where I was or when it was. I was haunted by my past, overwhelmed by the shame and constant pain. I was exhausted and just wanted it to end.
"Redslash" by Kelly Williams

It didn’t. For a long time.

Until I found a voice: A voice that captured my past and my present in a way that resonated my truth.

I found my voice in art. I had never painted a day in my life until someone handed me a paintbrush. Suddenly, the paintings poured out of me. The ability to articulate without words the paradoxes and layers of my experience, both past and present, was foundational to my journey out of the darkness.

I kept painting and painting and painting. What began as nightmarish images that overwhelmed me transformed into a language that finally allowed me to express the deep and complicated layers of my shattered mind and stolen sanity. I discovered I had developed a powerful visual expression that finally allowed me to tell my truth without words. It was the lifeline I clung to and painstakingly climbed until each breath I took was no longer only a reminder of the pain to be endured. Painting was hope.

I found to my surprise my artwork resonated with others. People could see meaning in my images, saw their own reflection in these wordless spaces. Those that once believed their voice would forever remain silent now saw in this process a way to honor and heal their past and move forward.
"Notes On Peace and Acceptance" by Kelly Williams
My professional and educational background in psychology and development converged and I found new ways of expressing my experience on a broader scale, to help others through social artistry. I started providing opportunities for individuals to do similar work in a safe and supportive environment. That grew into creating community projects that targeted disenfranchised individuals that needed an opportunity to voice their experience, as a way to help them move forward in their own lives.

Artist Kelly Williams
My current project, Crossroads, opens on April 3 and will show over 150 pieces of art created by homeless and transitional youth. Through the use of encaustic painting methods of layered wax and fire, they have embedded their personal tragedies and hopes within the layers of the wax. They were able to burn away or bury the words they have never said aloud for a symbolic release and honoring of their story. Many of these kids have never felt safe enough to express the foundational experiences that have put them on the road they now travel. Respectfully acknowledging their journeys is the first step in their making choices to change their lives, their stories, for the better.
As I discovered, there is great power in knowing that someone has gone before you in difficult circumstances and has emerged transformed at the other end.  There is profound healing that comes in speaking your truth and knowing you are understood, accepted and encouraged to move forward.  There is deep affirmation in believing you are worthy of the time, effort and resources of another human being interested in your personal journey.  The foundation of healing is about relationship and communication, a willingness to hold space for another exactly where they are and with deep respect, stand with them until they can stand on their own. This is what I now do. 
Artist Kelly Williams

My work is a symbolic narrative process. It is a progression of disentanglement, a developing of a story, layer by layer. It is only upon coming closer and becoming intimate does one experience the intricate textures, subtle imagery, hidden text and imperfections that make up the whole. Secrets are hidden within the layers, embedded truths expressed and hidden again for a visceral journey through the soul.  The written word is often used as a form of layered texture to engage my deeper self and invite the viewer to do the same.
The use of encaustic painting allows for the metaphorical layering, burning, burying and exposing that are all relevant to the deeper meaning of my work.  This ancient medium being used in contemporary visual expression further supports the timeless messages and questions I am driven to explore
My work has appeared in multiple galleries, businesses and publications both locally and nationally.  I have a busy studio practice in Portland Oregon, teaching in my West Burnside Studio.  I help those who wish to explore their inner landscape or work through specific issues, using encaustic painting as a cathartic medium in both private and small group sessions.  I have developed several healing arts projects that bring this art form and method to disenfranchised populations and speak to audiences about how to use art as a powerful social advocacy tool in our communities.
Crossroads Opening on April 3rd:

Facebook event to Crossroads Project

Review on UNSPEAKABLE at White Space Gallery

Friday, March 28, 2014

Found Object Friday with Guest Artist Kariann Blank

Found Object Fridays: We artists love our collections don't we? Even as a child I remember foraging through flea markets and looking for special trinkets that caught my eye. Going for walks, to this day I find myself scanning the ground looking for interesting bits of metal or unique rocks to add to my collections. Long before I knew what I would be doing with them, I collected objects that pulled on something inside of me. As an artist I was thrilled to find there are others who love and collect little oddities and curiosities too. 

Over the course of ten Fridays I am honored to introduce ten different guest artists who will share some of the objects they love. You may recognize some of these names, while others may be new to you, each one is somebody whose style I admire. Check out the photos of their found object-and in a virtual show and tell, read about how it caught their attention and what they plan to do with it. Then check out their bios and links to learn more about each artist. . .

Kariann is the author of a very popular blog called Daily Poetics in which she showcases things that catch her attention on the internet. It is a dreamy ethereal blog that you just can't help falling in love with. Indeed it is like a dose of visual poetry. I was facebook friends with Kariann for quite some time before I connected her with her blog. She is humble and soft spoken and a wildly talented artist with an eye for composition and beauty. 
Kariann Blank's Found Object 

In high school, psychology class, we were taken on a fantasy journey. Eyes closed and we entered the woods ... deep into the woodland we walked and eventually on our journey, came upon a cup which we were to describe ... Well, this tiny porcelain crackled cup I found at a garage sale, and years later it was that very cup I envisioned in class (the cup represented ourselves) ... I fell in love with it's symbolism and metaphor as who I am and what I long for. Imperfect, capable, and devoted with aching heart to everything flawed and honest.
I planned to wear it on a frail chain around my neck and then it broke - the handle. I love it all the same. I love the cracks, the flaws, the dirt and grit. I love ... this ... and know it wants to be loved. Like all of us do.
The lead seal was simply interesting to be / snipped it off of some plumbing in my home. Feels like a seal of official earnestness and un-deniability. It's all about flaws, vulnerability and the beauty or grace in that.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Studio Spotlight with Guest Artist Patricia Oblack

Over the course of ten Wednesday's join me in welcoming 10 guest artists as they share a glimpse into the spaces that foster their creative process. One of our ten guest bloggers referred to the artist's studio as "Sacred Space", and indeed it is just that for me. Working in the silence of my own studio is the place I am most easily able to connect to my Creator. As our guest artists share images of their own sacred spaces, they tell a bit of their creative process through the answers to four simple questions. Read about the artist in their bio and then explore the links each one will provide to get to know them a little more.

I have a deep admiration for artists who do abstract painting well, and Patricia Oblack is one of those artists who does abstract very well! Her color palette, the use of the knife to apply the paint, the layering and depth she achieves, all work together to pull me in and speak to my senses. If ever I am able to fulfill my dream of collecting art for my own home, Patricia's paintings are on my short list. I am thrilled that she was eager to share a glimpse into her studio with us!

Patricia Oblack Studio Spotlight
What is your favorite time of the day to create & why?  I am a very early riser & prefer to paint when the house is empty. My favorite time is around 7a.m., by then, I've brewed my coffee, checked emails & the light in the studio is coming through the window, my music is playing, the paint sticks come out & the process begins.
Patricia Oblack Studio Spotlight
What do you love most about your studio?  My studio is in my home, the space is large by some standards, very efficient & comfortable. The carpet has become a wipe rag for my knives, cabinets from my former kitchen hug the back walls, giving me tons of storage & my painting table is on casters, for movement towards the light. The table & it's exact height, is by far, the best thing in the room.

Patricia Oblack Studio Spotlight
What can always be found in your work space?  Stir sticks, knives & gallon cans of paint are the necessary tools, music on my iMac is essential & sometimes, Lucy keeps watch from her perch.

Patricia Oblack Studio Spotlight
What dream supply would you purchase if money were no issue? Actually, I have just about everything I need. This little room never lets me down, it's just about perfect. It's so easy to come in & work through a piece with no real distractions, then walk out while the paint dries. I have no desire to move away from my current style or approach to art. I'm very comfortable as I am. But recently, I've been considering flat files for painting on paper & as of this writing I have since acquired a sizable oak set of  drawers. I am blessed.
Patricia Oblack Studio Spotlight

About Patricia
Patricia’s work for the past 20 yrs., has been greatly influenced by 
music, a palette knife & their relationship with every piece, which 
forms the glue that collects her thoughts and emotions onto the surface 
of every board. Each painting has an intended suggestion of crumbling 
fresco, through line and form, just short of definition or reference to 
land and cityscapes. When painting, she keeps close watch on the 
evolution, encouraging it to grow, while allowing for spontaneity & 
color structure. During her personal process, only the emotional output 
of creative energy, being guided through the knife, creates the end 
result of controlled magic.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Redemption Stories Series with Guest Artist Bridgette Guerzon Mills

Redemption Stories Monday: For the next ten Monday's join me in welcoming 10 guest artists as they share a story of redemption from their own life or work. These stories may be a broad overview or observation, or they may be very specific, deep and personal. The post may be very short or very lengthy. I have left the specifics up to each of the ten. View images of their work as you read their words, and bios. Be sure to check out the links each one will provide to learn even more about them. 

As I write each week's introduction, I'm discovering that many of the artists I have invited to join the three series currently running on my blog are people I have known since very early on in my own career. Bridgette is one of those artists. I used to faithfully read each one of her blog posts and drool over the work she posted there. I was ecstatic to find that she lived in the city and even more ecstatic when she came to meet me at a show where I was vending. Since that time, our paths have continued to cross and to my delight she also became one of the instructors at EncaustiCamp the first year I taught there. (She has a chapter in the upcoming book about the camp!). Read on to hear one of Bridgette's childhood memories. . .
"Where it Begins" Encaustic Collage by Bridgette Guerzon Mills
Boom, boom! Thunder shook our home and I covered my ears with my 6 year old hands.A big crack split and lit up the sky. Then darkness. I screamed. My older sister put her hand on me and asked, “What happened?”“I don’t know,” I answered, trying not to cry. “But the lights went out. I’m scared.”“Don’t be scared,” she replied. “Darkness isn’t scary. You just need to know where you are. I’ll take care of you.”

“But I can’t see!”

“Don’t worry. I’ll be your eyes.” 

And with that my blind sister took my hand and led me confidently through our shared bedroom, through the hallway, and to the top of the stairs. I felt her other arm move ahead and grab the railing. She said to me, “Hold on to my hand. Now, hold on to the railing with your other hand. Ok? We’re going to go down the stairs now. There are 15 steps, let’s count together. Ready? One. Two. Three...”

We made our way down the stairs, then through the living room, down another hallway and then into the pantry. The whole time my sister spoke softly but confidently, explaining where we were and to “just follow her.” We finally stopped in front of the drawer that held the flashlights. Her hand reached out and felt around until she found what she was looking for. “Here, here are the flashlights.” She took the flashlight in her hand and handed it to me. I fumbled in the darkness to find the button. And just with the push of the button, my world was mine again and I shone the light up and into my sister’s smiling face. She reached out and patted my head.

"Moirai" Encaustic painting by Bridgette Guerzon Mills
When Crystal invited me to write about redemption, I was honored and said “of course!” But when I sat down to write, no words came. Well, that’s not entirely true. I have all sorts of personal stories of past tragedy and crisis and from each of those, lessons that I’ve learned about rising up again and persevering. However, I kept coming back to the story of my sister who had lost her sight before I was born. Her story, her hardships. But they were also mine because our childhood homes are like cocoons; our edges overlap and our stories feed into each other.

Because of her condition, I grew up understanding death and the fragility of life at a very early age. We were told that she was an angel that God had sent down for us to take care of and that He would be sending back for at any moment. I didn’t feel fearful about that, but rather I learned that life is a precious gift. It is a gift that is painful and sad often,but at the same time it is a gift that is filled with beauty and joy and above all, compassion. My sister taught me to see all the varied hues and shades. She taught me to feel the wondrous textures of everyday objects, the warmth of the sun, and that so much can be learned through one’s fingertips. She taught me the power in the simple actof being present and holding one’s hand. 

I believe that she was an angel sent down to take care of my family. She taught us and guided us. In the studio, she still guides me. As her baby sister, I was often her eyes, explaining the world to her. 

She taught me to see.

"Gathered and Pieced Together" Encaustic Collage by Bridgette Guerzon Mills
Bridgette Guerzon Mills is a mixed media artist whose work primarily focuses on paintings, but at times delves into book art. Her work incorporates a variety of materials including photography, oil paint, acrylic paint and encaustic (wax-based pigments). Her artwork, artist books, and journals have been published in magazines and books and her work has been collected in the United States and internationally. She has exhibited nationally and abroad. She currently resides outside of Baltimore in Maryland with her husband, two children, and dog.

Her work can be seen online at and

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Slow Down Sunday Weekly Review: A Day In the Life of an Artist- Lessons Learned on The Road

Slow Down Sunday Weekly Review: A recap of my weekly activities in and out of the studio to give you a glimpse behind the scenes, both the highs and the lows, of the life of an artist- well at least this artist- Crystal Neubauer.

"Ten Thousand Miles" 6" x 6" collage by Crystal Neubauer
It has been one of those weeks- so busy- but at the end of it, hard to recount exactly what I did all week.

  • Monday and Tuesday were writing days, blog, book, new offerings on the RocketHub campaign and an e-newsletter.
  • Wednesday and Thursday were studio days. I now have nine 10"x10" collages, two 12"x24" collages, and one 24" x 24" collage all pieced together and glued; and now just waiting for the next step in my process, mark-making.
  • Friday I took the day off and enjoyed the morning meeting friends for coffee.
  • Saturday I took off on a road trip to visit family and today I am wiped out from it all, sitting here reflecting on some observations I had while making the 3 hour drive home. 
You might not always know exactly what's around the corner, but you at least need to know what direction your heading.
Driving mile after mile on long stretches of highway, especially after a long day of family visits and late night chats, I easily lost track of exactly where I was. A few times I even panicked a bit and wondered if I had somehow gotten turned around. I sometimes joke that if you could open my husbands head, you would see a brain with the grooves laid out in a map-like grid, he has an innate sense of direction. My brain, on the other hand, would be a mass of colorful swirls and shiny things with nooks and crannies and zig-zags that lead nowhere. My compass is not just permanently broken, but seems to have been misplaced altogether. I have been known to get turned around coming home from the grocery store a time or two, but handily enough, on this trip, there are interstate signs at regular intervals to let me know that I am still heading in the right direction. 

The fact of the matter is there are weeks, like the one I just had, that seem to stretch out in front of me with endless tasks to accomplish and I can wind up at the end of it feeling quite lost. Did I spend too much time working on the wrong project? Did I somehow make a wrong turn somewhere?

I have found that the most effective way for me to stay on task and not feel lost or overwhelmed is by using the calendar and note apps on my ipad. As soon as I make a commitment I put it in my electronic calendar, setting alarms for specific tasks if I need to and then I make a list of the steps I need to do in order to accomplish that thing. When I start to feel anxious about my work load, I can pull out my list and my calendar and double check my progress to be sure I'm still heading in the right direction.

For a steadier ride, keep Your eyes on the road ahead of you.
The drive from my hometown to where I live now requires that I drive the crazy interstates around Chicago, and though I've lived up in this area for nearly 15 years now, sometimes driving in four lanes of traffic zipping around at lightning speed can be dizzying. A few times today, I found myself watching the car next to me as I started to pass and feeling a little shaky and unsteady at the wheel. Inevitably when this happens, I have to remind myself to put my eyes back on the road in front of me, and when I do, I feel myself regaining control and relaxing my grip on the wheel.

How often do we look at another artist and let it shake our confidence in our own abilities? I know when I have a specific goal, and I manage to keep my sights on that goal, my working time in the studio is so much more effective then it is when I spend time looking at what other artists are accomplishing. This is in no way saying that I'm not happy for others, or cheering them on when I see my friends and colleagues achieving their goals too. But when my focus is on what they are doing and not on the road in front of me I am risking a major crash.

It's not a race, set the pace you are comfortable with.
I don't like to use the cruise control in the car, so I have to check my speedometer frequently when I drive. When I get too absorbed in listening to the podcasts or music I've brought for the trip, and forget to pay attention to my speed, I wind matching the pace of the cars around me instead of sticking to the speed I've determined I'm comfortable driving. Or worse, I find myself passing every car on the road without realizing how fast I'm going. 

The life of an artist is not a race. Set the pace you are comfortable with and stick to it. This is a good reason to use the calendar app as well. Map out your goals for a few months, twelve months, and five year periods with clear steps to meet those goals along the way. The only person you should be comparing yourself to as you work is you. Do you feel off? Get the calendar out and check your progress. Or maybe it is time to speed up or slow down if you constantly feel out of sync. Unlike driving a car, nobody's going to give you a ticket for going too fast if you've decided you are ready to shift into high gear.

Drive in the right lane. 
This isn't about which side of the road to drive on, but getting in the lane that is appropriate for your speed. When my dad was teaching me to drive he would always warn me that the slow cars were as dangerous as the fast cars if they were driving in the wrong lane. 

So you've chosen to take the meandering route to accomplish your goals? You want time to read the paper and head out on artist dates and poke around a good antique mall without fear that you are blowing a major deadline? That's A-okay. But don't resent another artist because she doesn't do these things and winds up accomplishing twice as much as you perceive you do. We are all wired differently. I've finally come to understand that my type A friends would be just as uncomfortable with the amount of down time I need to manage my days as I would be if I tried to match their pace. This, again, is a matter of keeping our eyes and focus in the right place. Be okay with who you are, and just as importantly, be okay with the fact that others are differently wired than you.

Don't fall asleep at the wheel.
Okay, so I didn't have to learn this one the hard way to know it is important. If you're tired don't drive. I left yesterday morning to drive down to connect with my family and head over to the nursing home to see my grandmother, who is not expected to be with us much longer. It was an emotional day, both from the pain of knowing it may have been the last time I would ever hold her hand, to reconnecting with cousins and aunts and uncles under these circumstances. It is only a three hour drive, but I knew better then to attempt to come back home last night. I knew I would be exhausted and I didn't want to be worried about what time I needed to leave to get on the road. I wanted to be fully present to the experience of this special time with my family.

When I was in Seattle a few weeks ago, I walked the gallery floor and was enthralled at seeing my work hanging in such a beautiful space. Though there were a few glitches with the installation of my work and I was disappointed in a few minor things that didn't happen the way I expected, I knew that this time was fleeting and I didn't want to waste it focusing on the wrong things. I wanted to be fully awake and present for each moment on opening night, to fully experience and allow myself to enjoy this precious time. I guess, this point too, is about focusing on the right things, in the right way.

So there you have it; Eyes up front. Set your own pace. Stay on the right track.
And most importantly- this is your one precious life. Be fully awake for it!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Found Object Friday with Guest Artist Mary Beth Shaw

Found Object Fridays: We artists love our collections don't we? Even as a child I remember foraging through flea markets and looking for special trinkets that caught my eye. Going for walks, to this day I find myself scanning the ground looking for interesting bits of metal or unique rocks to add to my collections. Long before I knew what I would be doing with them, I collected objects that pulled on something inside of me. As an artist I was thrilled to find there are others who love and collect little oddities and curiosities too. 

Here is where I say that over the course of ten Fridays I am honored to introduce ten different guest artists who will share some of the objects they love- but what I keep forgetting to tell you is that I've actually invited 11 artists to participate! The eleventh artist hails from South Africa and is author to a very popular blog called Art Propelled, Robyn Gordon. And though it is not Robyn's feature week, I wanted to make sure her name was included on the list and that she got the shout out that she deserves!

While you savor the anticipation for Robyn's feature week, allow me to thrill you again by introducing artist Mary Beth Shaw. I've been a fan of Mary Beth's abstract paintings for longer than I can remember. I'd managed to catch her showing in the Chicagoland area a few times - so Mary Beth had dubbed me her groupie. But her work is so beautiful and inspiring, how could I not want to be? Here we are back in 2009- (gosh I wish I could still fit in those jeans!)- Check out her found object, read about what she loves about it and then be sure to check out her bio and links to learn more about Mary Beth. You won't be sorry you spent the time with her!
Me with Mary Beth Shaw in front of her beautiful work
Here's Mary sharing her found object:

What is it? 
Trio of Leaves and Acorn caps

Where did you find it or purchase it?

I found the leaves in Florida several years ago and I can't remember where I found the acorn caps but it has also been several years.

What caught your attention about it? 

The color of the leaves is so beautiful, their veins are quite interesting. The acorn caps, I honestly can't remember but they looked lonely without their acorns and I like the way the caps are so big on that tiny limb. Three is a number that frequently recurs for me. 

How will you use it? 

I don't imagine I will use them in anything, but I just enjoy looking at them. I keep them in my office in a dish (made from marbled paper) that I bought in Florence, Italy. 

Mary Beth Shaw works in Mixed Media because she loves to play with art supplies. The owner of StencilGirl Products, she uses stencils on anything and everything. She is author of  Flavor for Mixed Media and Stencil Girl, both published by North Light and is a Columnist for Somerset Studios. She is also a certified Golden Artist Educator.  Living in Wildwood, MO with her husband and three cats, Mary Beth is passionate about every moment of life.

Links below;

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Studio Spotlight With Guest Artist Jason Twiggy Lott

Over the course of ten Wednesday's join me in welcoming 10 guest artists as they share a glimpse into the spaces that foster their creative process. One of our ten guest bloggers referred to the artist's studio as "Sacred Space", and indeed it is just that for me. Working in the silence of my own studio is the place I am most easily able to connect to my Creator. As our guest artists share images of their own sacred spaces, they tell a bit of their creative process through the answers to four simple questions. Read about the artist in their bio and then explore the links each one will provide to get to know them a little more.

I don't remember if I saw Jason Twiggy Lott's work first on Pinterest, or Facebook, or his website, or somewhere else on line. It doesn't really matter - what I do remember is being moved deeply, not quite in a take my breath away feeling, more like in a punch that knocked the wind out sort of way. Jason's work, whether it is his assemblage, or his mixed media, or his paintings, or his photography, hits me between the eyes and right in the heart. It leaves me gasping, searching, wondering, and wanting to know more. The level of professionalism in his compositions speaks to the fine art lover in me, while his choice of material and subject matter can be gritty and raw and emotionally charged. At once a story I recognize and yet altogether unfamiliar. 

Jason sent me a folder with shots of his studio and told me to choose what I wanted to show you today. Does it make me greedy if I wanted to use them all? 

Well call me greedy then, because that is exactly what I did! Really, be sure to check out the link to his website at the bottom as well, it is a virtual feast for your senses. 

Jason Twiggy Lott Studio
Jason Twiggy Lott Studio
1. What is your favorite time of day to create and why?

I don’t necessarily have a particular time of day that seems to be peak hours of creativity. I’m a freelance graphic designer and furniture maker in addition to an artist. Those two occupations usually wind up paying the bills. As romantic and noble as it may sound to truly be a starving artist, I do like having a home, humble as it may be, and a studio to work in. Those of course come with bills. Therefore, my artwork production typically revolves around my graphic design and furniture business schedules. It’s unfortunate that my artwork often must be pushed to the back burner, but that’s just the way my life is structured for now. If I have an upcoming art show, there typically comes a crunch time for artwork production a few weeks before the show. I do find that the necessity of meeting a deadline plays into both my creative output and inspiration. When I’m under the gun, I produce work and I produce it well.

Jason Twiggy Lott Studio
Jason Twiggy Lott Studio
2. What do you love most about your studio?

Currently I just love the fact that my studio space isn’t in my home. There was a time that I had to produce my work out of my apartment which is cramped to say the least. I like living in a small space, but I also like having more room to produce my art away from my living space. Having a separate space that is strictly for work helps me stay focused. I’ve been blessed to now have a great studio space that I share with two friends and collaborators.

Jason Twiggy Lott Studio
Jason Twiggy Lott Studio

3. What can always be found in your work space?

Assorted reference books on topics including ancient alchemy, symbolism, religious doctrine, and modern art.
A large assortment of bits and pieces for my assemblage work like scrap metal and wood, bones, antique photographs, and large quantities of aging paper products.
Various trinkets and religious icons that I find beautiful and inspiring.

Jason Twiggy Lott Studio

Jason Twiggy Lott Studio
4. What dream supply would you purchase if money were no issue? - or alternatively – what medium would you want to learn if time were no issue?

I’ll answer both.
If money were no object, I’d have a hell of a lot more oil paints. They’re expensive for me and so are reserved for portrait painting which I typically do on a small scale. I’d like to be able to paint on a much larger scale with oil paints, but alas, I can’t afford to do so for now.

If time were not a factor, I’d do many things as far as mediums go. Firstly, I would seek some professional instruction in oil painting. It’s a relatively new medium for me and I’ve mostly just made up techniques myself. I’d love to get a solid education in traditional oil painting techniques. Additionally, encaustic is something I’ve always wanted to learn about, but haven’t had the time to jump into it. 

Jason Twiggy Lott Studio

Part of Jason's Statement from his website:
"So much of the trash I find and use was once very significant to someone, but they lost it, discarded it, or forgot it. Does that negate its significance? Do we as people become less special if we’re lost or discarded? Does our past define us? Are we innately significant and special beings or is our significance dependent on how we’re remembered once we’re gone? Ultimately, my work speaks to our fundamental understanding of the human condition, as well as our lack thereof. What we leave behind can say as much about the present as it does about the past."

Jason Twiggy Lott Studio

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

5 Life Lessons Learned from Flying Standby by Jan Avellana

My dear friend, the extremely talented artist Jan Avellana lives in Hawaii and has the opportunity to travel here to the frozen tundra - better known as Chicago- for a visit on a shoe string budget this week. 

Being on a shoe string budget means that you have a friend who works for the airline who offers you a buddy pass. Score! But the downside is that you have to show up at the airport and wait on Standby for a flight to open up. Tonight will be Jan's fourth and final attempt to get on a plane to spend at least part of her Spring break with me. If she doesn't get a seat we will postpone our visit until summer when the weather may be a little more familiar to my island friend. 

Here we are comparing our Spring wardrobes. I don't think I need to tell you who is who.
Spending all that time on standby at the airport has taught Jan a thing or two about life, which she shared on her Facebook wall and I've stolen to share with you here. Give her advice a read and check out her bio at the bottom and then leave her an encouraging comment. She could use one right about now! 

Jan Avellana's art on the cover of Surface Pattern Magazine!
1. Persistence is key. If you pursue a dream long enough, at some point you are likely to feel desperate and ridiculous for wanting and for having the audacity to try. That can't be the reason for quitting. Get over the fear and self consciousness of looking like an idiot and remember your "WHY". Only stop if your why no longer matters to you--never mind what other people think. Is your life--inhabit it fully!

2. To desire is risky. It's pretty hard to want something without someone finding out. And the more you put yourself out there, the more potential embarrassment you invite upon yourself if that thing you are reaching for doesn't come into your grasp. Nurture that desire anyhow--fan that flame!

3. Show up and hope for the best! Do what you can, all that you can, and show up. Showing up is half the battle--lots of people think about doing stuff, but few people actually show up ready to go all the way. Be that person.

Jan Avellana's Mixed Media Girls
4. Enjoy the process. While you're waiting for your airplane/ship/lottery ticket to come in, make lots of friends, eat some yummy food, read or write some great books and stay humble, stay grateful, stay gracious. Let the experience deepen your empathy for others. Let the process help you become a better human being--more patient, more hopeful, able to dream bigger and more audacious dreams. Think of the process as practice, a dress rehearsal if you will. Because life is unpredictable, and you might never get past waiting at the gate, so make it good for everybody, including yourself!

5. Sometimes the answer is "No". But sometimes it's "Yes". And you won't know unless you try. So try. And then, try again.

Look for me: I'll be there, standing by at the gate!

Jan's Bio: 
I am a mixed-media and digital artist with a passion for art, books, deep conversations, and seaside adventures with my three favorite men (ages 6, 8 and 43). With both a Bachelors of Fine Art in Graphic Design and a Master’s of Education in Teaching, I spent the better part of my adult life trying very hard to be a grown-up with a traditional job. After the birth of my two sons, my newfound-mama-love released me to follow my heart, reclaiming the artist that I have always been. Today, I revel in mixed media messes, making heartfelt connections with others through art and words.​
Kickstarter Project: Here
Website: Here
Blog: Here
Jan Avellana's amazing art on a promo poster for her Kickstarter Project

Monday, March 17, 2014

Redemption Stories Series with Guest Artist Beth Morey

Redemption Stories Monday: Over the course of ten Monday's  I am welcoming 10 guest artists as they share a story of redemption from their own life or work. These stories may be a broad overview or observation, or they may be very specific, deep and personal. The post may be very short or very lengthy. I have left the specifics up to each of the ten. View images of their work as you read their words, and bios. Be sure to check out the links each one will provide to learn even more about them and their work as an artist.

Beth Morey is an artist I connected with through a mutual friend on Facebook. She has a way with words and art that moves me and inspires me to live just a little more openly and real. I am so honored to share her work and story here with you. It is raw and vulnerable and honest and I absolutely love that kind of story. The work of redemption is anything but clean and pristine, and Beth so perfectly and poignantly gives us a glimpse of what it looks like to be in that process. 


"Soul At Sea" by Beth Morey
I didn't know that stillbirth still happened in the western world until it happened to me.  Thirty-one weeks of pregnancy and all the evidence I had for my daughter's life were a few precious items and the yawning ache in my soul that still throbs, two and more years later now. 

After we returned home from the hospital, empty armed, I was brokenhearted but determined.  Determined to grieve well, to to feel it all, to let God use it.  And I did, and he did, I guess.  I don't know, really, who did what, only that I showed up to the pain, to the searing of reality.  And it changed me – and it changes me.

In the church, we like to talk a good line about redemption.  And that's not necessarily a bad thing.  Jesus is redemption with skin on, after all.  But we – especially we here in the first world – like our redemption to be neat, tidy.  We often want to come in on the after of redemption; not the before, and certainly not the during.

"Soul Rising" by Beth Morey
It's odd to me, that we have become so ill-used to mess.  Jesus' life is anything but orderly and expected.  He went to the wilderness, willingly and often.  I don't think you can go there and come back anything but unkempt, with tossed-about hair and a strange new light in your eye.  I wonder if it's the desert that gave Jesus the courage to live and die and live again as he did.

 After my Eve girl died within my body,  after my first pregnancy ended in birthing a dead body, I tried so hard to be the after of redemption, even while I accepted that grief was unpredictable and long.  I thought that if I could be – or really, act – faithful enough, Eve's death would be somehow worth it, redeemed. 

Perhaps it inspires you that I could birth my dead daughter and still profess to love the God that didn't save her.  If it does, I am truly glad.  May he lead you ever deeper through my attempts.

 But it didn't work for me.  I was trying to force redemption, to get to it as painlessly as possible, in spite of the raw and seeping wound that stillbirth had inflicted upon my heart.  And you can't.  You can't force redemption.  It's not neat.  It's not clean.  You can't get to the after until you walk through the fire.  And fire burns.  It hurts, and rages, and consumes.  You cannot walk into flames and come out anywhere near recognizable. 

"A Brave New Magic" by Beth Morey
I am not sure if I have reached my after yet.  I don't know if I ever will.  I think I might be in the during at last, now that I have given my soul permission to flail, to falter, and to doubt.  This place, it is a desert place – harsh, with few comforts and fewer companions.  The daylight burns and the night freezes.  There is nothing tidy about the desert. 

But the desert does make you stronger.  The fire does incinerate the unnecessary, the facades and crutches and everything you were (I was) using to convince yourself that you were just fine, thank you, when you were anything but. 

This is the work of redemption – to live in the desert, the wild of the fire.  To let your skin be scorched, your heart melted like molten glass and fashioned into something new and wonderful.  Jesus was here, and is here, in the muck and the mire.  He is not keeping his hands clean, because it is not about clean hands.  It is about open hands, hands that help and heal, hands that give and receive and give, hands that caress a baby's new-soft skin and soothe the forehead of the dying. 

It is not about clean hands.  It's about new hands, born of fire and clay, and pain and love.  This is redemption.  It is not easy, but it is worth it.  I have lived the truth of this.  I live it still. 

Friend, the desert calls. 


Beth Morey has stopped running from the questions, and all the old adjectives don't quite seem to fit  anymore. You can find her throwing her soul into the mess of not-knowing and Divine-seeking at She also is the artist behind Epiphany Art Studio (, and founder of the Made course (  Beth lives in Montana with the Best Husband Ever, their rainbow son, and their three delightfully naughty dogs.