Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Send Me A Sign

It is an astonishingly gorgeous day at the harbor today. As I walked the dog and watched the Seagulls soaring overhead, I found myself thinking how strange it seemed that I've never found a pure white feather at the park in all the time I've lived up here. I find beautiful white ones with sharp black stripes, or charcoal grey ones with white at the tips, mottled and matted ones that look like something put up a good fight, but not a single all white feather in the past three years.
And then, as if it were a scene from a movie, I looked down and saw it tucked among the blades of grass at my feet. I almost missed it.
I am a sign kind of girl. And this surely fit the bill. The morning started with a fleeting prayer - I just need to see your presence today Lord.

The week has been a busy one, catching up with work at home and working hard in the studio on some very good things. But it has also been a melancholy one, as I process a fading friendship that has stirred memories of other faded relationships from the past. And a cousin, who is also a dear friend, phoned to say her health issues have entered a new stage, so she was heading to the hospital where she'll stay and receive aggressive treatment. 

It's not the first time that God has responded to my need for a visible sign by reminding me that He holds me close under His wing. I've been around the block enough times to have had that question answered for me- He is as close as the very breath I breathe. I carry Him in my head and in my heart. But, sometimes we need to hear "I love you" more than once, sometimes we just need a visible reminder. Yes, I am with you. Yes, I am here. Yes, you matter to me. 

More than head knowledge or heart knowledge. More than sending a person to be "God with skin on". He gave me this pure white feather at a moment it was sure to catch my attention. I will hold it tight today, imagining it came from the very wing of God himself, and not a simple seagull soaring through the clouds. 

"See, I am sending an angel ahead of you to guard you along the way and to bring you to the place I have prepared.” Exodus 23:20

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Maybe It's Not So Bad To Be Like Delilah

Last week so many of you wrote to say that my message about not giving up on a goal too soon (aka - Don't Be Like Delilah) resonated with you, that I decided to post it on my blog. If you didn't get a chance to read last week, you can check it out here.

Today my walk with Delilah taught me a very different lesson. At a steamy 90 degrees outside, we set off for our walk already dragging our tails. Now I had it in my mind to get out and do our business quick so we could get back home to a tall drink of water and the air conditioned living room, but not Delilah. No, with the temperature turned up, she was in no mood to rush at all. As a matter of fact, she deliberately stopped at every single patch of grass that was covered with shade, throwing herself on her back each time to cool off. Our twenty minute walk was nearly doubled by the time we got home, but Delilah didn't care.

Yesterday, I spent the entire time in my studio shoving papers round and round the work table in an effort to complete the collage pictured above. By the time I went home I was under no small amount of stress; Not quite satisfied with what I had on the table and knowing I'd have to keep working on the design when I returned. I felt like the day had been a colossal waste of time. My image list is due for the SOFA Chicago Exhibit at the beginning of September and I've committed this month to getting the fronts of at least 8 of these 30" x 30" works done. The proverbial heat is on and my inclination is to rush.

So often this is what happens when I have a deadline. I get in the studio and let my inner critic take charge. She's such a bully. No time to sit and gather wool, or look at a magazine for inspiration. Every move I make must result in a display of brilliance or she's quick to jump in and tell me just how lacking my efforts are and how much I am blowing it.

Yup, the inner critic is a real tough cookie to work for. Is it any wonder I felt so stressed out when I left? 

That's why I needed today's lesson from Delilah. With the heat turned up, Delilah knew the only way to get through the walk, was to take it nice and slow.

I won't get to my destination with the quality of work I want to produce if I let my inner critic stay in control. I need to follow the other voice- the one I often call my intuition. My intuitive voice is the one that tells me to slow down and be curious. She knows that the time I spend sorting and sifting and trying new papers isn't wasted. When I follow my intuitive voice, it often looks like I'm just gathering wool-or rolling on my back in a patch of shade. But my intuitive voice is kind and encouraging. She doesn't get mad if I need extra time to work on one piece. As a matter of fact, she knows that this is how the best work will actually get made.

I know I'm not alone with these two opposing voices accompanying me in the studio. That's why when I teach, I don't like to focus on technique alone. It is just as important that we learn how to tune in to the right voice- the one called your intuition, and let it lead teach you how to trust your time on the artistic journey, especially when the heat is up in the studio.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Big and Little: An Intuitive Collage Workshop

Big and Little: An Intuitive Collage Workshop  

Where: My Studio- Racine, Wisconsin
When: Friday, Saturday, Sunday March 1-3
Time: 10:00am - 4:30pm
Register now using the coupon code SOFA2018 at checkout and save $100 for a limited time at this link! *

"The intuitive artist is the artist who trusts what her eye tells her is good. She allows for the fact that she has a story to tell through art, but lets go of the notion that the story will be known before she starts working. It is not so much about learning a technique, as it is learning to trust that you know what you know. It is letting go of a plan, letting go of expectations, and creating in spite of your fear. If you have been formally trained in art it may mean learning to trust your eye rather than the rules. If you have never so much as taken an art workshop it may mean giving yourself permission to play with the tools and materials you once thought were only for professionals. Either way, to work intuitively allows for the finished work to be more than what the artist is capable of producing on his artistic merits alone. It allows for the voice within to translate to the canvas without the need to have to spell out the message and make it obvious to the viewer. "
Except from "The Art of Expressive Collage" by Crystal Neubauer
Join me in my Wisconsin studio where we will delve in to the art of paper and glue, developing a working knowledge of collage, while connecting to the design and composition knowledge you already carry within, to create satisfying works of art in your own authentic style. 

Whether you are an experienced artist or a novice, this workshop will dare you to let go of expectations and ignore the rules, beginning with a series of collage exercises designed to infuse freedom into your creativity and help you tap in to that intuitive voice as your personal guide. 

Using these little works as small studies, we will turn our focus to a more intentional placement of elements, coming from that place of freedom and trusting what our eye and intuition knows is good, while learning tips, tricks, and techniques from a professional point of view, to translate what we see into a series of completed works on paper incrementally increasing the scale as we go. 

Students will leave the workshop with a series of small 4" studies and multiple big works of art ranging from 6" up to 30" in size. Discussion will include a variety of ways to display your completed collage work. 

Register now using the coupon code SOFA2018 at checkout and save $100 for a limited time! Follow this link to register. 

Students Supply List:
Personal collection of ephemera and found/collected papers
1 junk mail catalog or old magazine - (will not be used as collage material)
Baby Wipes
9" x 12" or larger- spiral bound pad of 140# Cold Press Watercolor paper 

I will provide:
paper for small studies and largest works
all other tools and supplies necessary

*Registration fees are not refundable however in certain instances, may be transferable to another person, or credit provided for another workshop taught by me in my studio - within six months of the original class. There are no exceptions to this policy! In the event your plans change, please contact me to inquire about a waiting list for the workshop, I may be able to help you find someone to take your seat. Transfer fees will apply.

Thursday, August 09, 2018

Don"t Be Like Delilah!

So many of my newsletter readers resonated with last week's issue, I decided to post it here on the blog as well. You can get all the latest news on workshops, shows, and other events by signing up to receive my newsletter on my contact page at this link.

Hello dear friends!
I'm fresh on the heels of my annual teaching trip to Encausticamp in Federal Way, Washington, where I taught three mini workshops this year. Each one of the classes turned out to be an outstanding experience in its own way and I was left with that familiar feeling of gratitude for it all.

Back home, I took the dog out for an early afternoon walk yesterday, along the same path and the same routine that we walk each day- about 10 blocks and a mere 20 minute trek in all. Though our temperatures didn't even reach 80, the humidity made it feel much hotter, and Delilah is no fan of the heat.

So here she is, laying on the sidewalk, with only two short blocks left to get home. She was done, threw in the towel, finito! She had reached a patch of shade and saw no reason to go on. It must have seemed like a good solution to her at the time, the walk was hard, but she had no idea how close she actually was to the finish line - where air conditioning and fresh cold water awaited her return.

Can you relate?

I can't tell you how many times over the course of my career, and especially in the past month- dealing with unexpected health issues and financial obligations, that I've been tempted to do the same thing. Throw in the towel and accept that it is just too hard to keep going. It makes me wonder how many times in the past I've quit working towards a goal, when I was only a short distance from achieving it.

It is seldom a straight path to success when you are an entrepreneur (aka - an artist trying to earn a full time living from your art). We are in a constant state of flux between determining our next goal and the steps it will take to achieve it, while simultaneously working on the every day tasks that help us pay the bills, and all the myriad of things it takes to thrive, not just survive, as a creative being. We frequently have to make decisions that look irrational or far too risky to anyone but us, and it can be lonely and isolating to be surrounded by family and friends who, though they love us, might lack the same vision.

In other words, when something difficult happens, it can be really easy to just throw in the proverbial towel - wave the flag of surrender and go back to something deemed more safe and secure.

But don't be like Delilah.

Rest if you need to, and then keep going. Your dream may only be a few short blocks away.

♥ Crystal

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

On The Spirit of Immigration and Independence

The few blocks of 55th street where our townhouse is located is a grassy public walkway rather than paved road, which leads to the section of the Harbor Park known as The Point.
It is here on the grassy street, what we refer to as our front yard, that we’ll take our blankets and chairs and set up the vintage beanbag game as picnic headquarters, where family and friends can come and go throughout the day to take a break from the festivities happening at the park across the road. It is from this vantage that we’ll sit under the stars to watch the celebration of our country’s independence by way of fireworks tonight.
The grassy walkway leads directly down to the center of the point, passing between the Civil War Museum on the left and Public Museum on the right, to a fountain monument of Christopher Columbus standing atop a globe, looking very much the proud conqueror.
One freezing day a few months ago, I set off to walk the dog down our regular route on 55th to her favorite place to go, just past the museum parking lots on either side of the sidewalk in the grass. As I glanced ahead I caught sight of that monument and was startled to see it crumpled forward, as if a crowbar had capped it at its knees- a few people were standing around looking at it.
My initial reaction was swift- no matter what my opinion of erecting a statue to honor the “discovery of America” in that overly glorified way we were taught in grade school, I could not feel anything but disgust at the thought of vandalism. But closing the distance from our block to the point, I was relieved to find that no such act had taken place. It must have been some sort of strange mirage. Not a single person was at the point that day, having been too cold to visit the lake.
Curious now, and a little shaken, I walked the dog all the way to the statue to have a look. I’d never bothered to stop and read the plaque paying tribute there before, and I was pleasantly surprised to read these words:
“The spirit of the Immigrant Statue of Christopher Columbus is dedicated to immigrants from countries around the world who have traveled under difficult circumstances to Kenosha, Wisconsin, and America with the hope of building a better life for themselves and their families. Columbus was chosen to depict this select group of people because of the vision and courage that he displayed in 1492. He proved his theory that by sailing west, he could circumnavigate the world, thus he prevailed over the conventional wisdom that this feat could not be accomplished. Many of the immigrants of times past and today have demonstrated courageousness by leaving their homelands under difficult circumstances…”
My breath caught in my throat as I connected the words to the destruction in my vision and I knew what it was telling me; The spirit of immigration has been broken. The shining beacon of freedom and opportunity for the poor, tired, and huddled masses, has become a subject of division.
As the events of the past few months unfolded, I hear those words on repeat inside my head. “The spirit of immigration has been broken...the spirit of immigration has been broken…”
Last week I heard an interview on NPR- something about agriculture, that I only half listened to, but one factoid caught my attention; that America’s agricultural system was in danger for the lack of diversifying crops and the selective breeding of certain varieties over the years. The commenter used apples as his example, astonishingly in the 1800s, there were thousands and thousands of varieties grown in the US. Now, something like a mere 200 remain. He went on to explain about how this selective growing of a targeted few varieties resulted in the extinction of thousands, without which all are in jeopardy of failing. I’m not much studied on the nuances of biodiversity, but it made me think of how purebred dogs are in such high demand, yet often these pure breeds have a higher incidence of health issues and disease.
Biodiversity, as explained by the google dictionary, is the variety of life in the world, the very thing we rely on to eat, breathe, and drink. Without such diversity of animals and crops, humanity can not survive. How then, can we ignore the selective exaltation of certain groups of people in this country and not understand the precarious position this leaves us in as a whole?
If variety is the spice of life, the lack of it must be pretty bland and extremely dangerous. As an artist, I shudder to think of a world where everyone looks just like me.
Yesterday I saw a woman wearing a shirt that said “This land is my land” in very large bold letters. She was accompanied by a man who had the look of someone that used to be referred to as a skinhead. These days the popular term is white nationalist. As someone who is very familiar with creating worst case scenarios in my head, I know the fear that can drive this kind of thinking.
There is a disease eating at the root, the very heart of America. It has to do with the fear of losing our identity. As we close ranks and shore up out of self-preservation, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy. The more exclusive we become, the more we lose the true sense of who we really are. God created us in his image, male and female- his image isn’t one man over another, his encompasses us all as a whole.
Today we come out en masse to celebrate, not as opposing teams of red or blue. Today we are all on team red, white, and blue. As the song goes, yes this land is my land, but this land is also your land. It belongs to you and me.
Happy Independence Day to one and all.