Monday, September 29, 2008

Faerie of Dawn (by A Heart of Mersea)

Mermaid Moon Watch (by A Heart of Mersea)

Interview with Julia (A Heart of Mersea)

I walk in the mornings. It is my way of waking up to the day and shaking the cobwebs out of my head. Especially since my dog, Papillon, died last May, I do not always want to go. Taking that first step out the door is the most difficult one. Sometimes it is rainy or cold or I just do not feel like going. But, once I get into my routine--passed the corner with the tall pine tree, passed the little store on the right, passed the cute house with the flower gardens--something snaps into place. I feel myself sighing, easing in to the rhythm of one step in front of another. It is like my body has a memory for ritual movement that automates and motivates the rest of my mind and soul to synchronize as well.

Most days, I see a woman circling the local park. Usually, she is too far away to greet. From what I have observed, she walks nearly every day in her turquoise pants, white hat and yellow coat. She is tiny, stooped a little at the shoulder and looks as if a breath of wind could blow her down. She walks with a walker. Determined, steady strides--or as determined and steady as an eighty (maybe ninety) something year old can take. She is old. She must have aches and pains and kinks and cobwebs to shake out just like me. And yet she routinely makes the trek around the park--no easy feat with crappy, chewed up city sidewalks. I wonder how her daily rituals and routines have kept her moving forward year after year after year. She has become one of my heroes. I keep her in mind when I am feeling too lethargic to get out of my door.

This is my way of introducing my next guest on this blog: Julia. She is the creative spirit behind A Heart of Mersea. Currently Julia works with colored pencils and her artwork features mermaids, angels and faeries. Julia has been diagnosed with fibromyalgia, a chronic condition that causes people to suffer from an increased sensitivity to pain and fatigue--far from any ache and pain I might have getting up in the morning. I wondered how Julia gets through her days and she was kind enough to share with me some insights about her life, her work, and living with fibromyalgia.

I am honored to bring you this interview.

"I have always loved to write and draw," Julia tells me. "When I was young, I used #2 pencils, pastels, and charcoal when drawing. In the mid-80's I tried my hand at acrylic painting and loved it, but I couldn't afford to continue. Now, I use colored pencils. I started using colored pencils when I became familiar with Mary Engelbreit and her work. I fell in love with the pencils, but not the markers...I am too prone to make mistakes and marker faux pauxs are very hard to hide, for me anyway!"

"I started off illustrating things that happened in my life," Julia continues. "In a lot of my artwork you will find cats, faeries, and angels. I live in Norfolk, Virgina and the symbol for the city is a Mermaid. I began doing mermaid art so the cards will sell better...hopefully! At one point I was asked to paint one of the City's mermaid statues which was great fun!"

"Sometimes when I sit down to begin a piece I will have an idea and start out with that in mind. Sometimes during the process the art goes off on its own and I go along for the ride. It is fun and addictive! Sometimes my art reflects the things I am contemplating or watching on TV. Jane Austen movies always put me in the mood for Edwardian looking faeries and angels."

Along with the Jane Austen series, Julia finds inspiration in books and period films such as the Anne of Green Gables series, Out of Africa, Little Women, Gone With the Wind, the Harry Potter series, The Lord of the Rings, and some of the REALLY old movies. She also loves to listen to Mood music, New Age, Celtic, some Classical, Contemporary Christian music, Praise music, and John Denver. "Also, I have a huge plastic container I call my Inspirational Journal and it is filled with pages and pages and pages of greeting cards and pictures that inspire me to draw, write, and expand my creative mind."

"I am planning on trying watercolor soon," Julia says. "Using pencils are great but I am a bit of an uptight person and when I draw and pencil paint my hands are very stiff and my arm gets to hurting. I am hoping watercolor will help relieve the muscular tension. Ha ha, don't I sound like a medical doctor?"

Almost in passing, Julia mentions she has been diagnosed with fibromyalgia and what Julia calls "its ugly step-sisters": myofascial pain syndrome, fatigue, panic disorder to name a few. "Which," Julia says, "makes life interesting..."

The Mayo Clinic defines fibromyalgia as "a chronic condition characterized by widespread pain in your muscles, ligaments and tendons, as well as fatigue and multiple tender points--places on your body where slight pressure causes pain." Other symptoms include sleep disturbances, irritable bowel syndrome, headaches and facial pain, Temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ), and heightened sensitivity to odors, noises, bright lights and touch. People with fibromyalgia may also experience depression, numbness or tingling sensations in their hands and feet, difficulty concentrating, changes in mood, chest pain, dry eyes, skin and mouth, painful menstrual periods, dizziness and anxiety.

The cause of fibromyalgia is still up for debate and more detailed information may be found on the Mayo Clinic website (as well as through organizations such as the Arthritis Foundation and the American Chronic Pain Association). There does seem to be a chemical change in the brains of people who suffer from this condition that causes an increased sensitivity to pain signals, along with a "memory" for pain that heightens sensitivity further. Reducing stress, getting enough sleep, exercising regularly, keeping activity on an even level (trying not to overdo), maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and seeking support from family, friends and the medical community are all strategies aimed at minimizing bad days over good.

"Upon arising I take my morning medications," Julia continues. "Then I get a soda or sometimes a cup of tea and sit at my desk that faces a big window through which I view the world. I can see everyone who enters and exits the neighborhood. Some days I read a chapter of the Bible. Some days I jump into cyberspace and see what is going on and pray that I have had a sale in my Etsy shop. Sometimes the piece of art I've been working on calls to me, and some days I just sit and dream. No matter what I do though, our fat cat, D.C., has to be in the midst of it and 'help' me in my work. Do you know how hard it is to read, write, draw, or be on the computer with a fat cat sitting in front of you or on top of what you are doing? LOL! I'll leave it up to your imagination as to what D.C. stands for!"

"Exercise is good for fibro, so I have taken up swimming," Julia continues. "I have been swimming a mile a day at the warm water pool at the Fitness center for about a year. What with this gas crunch I have decided to try running again though it is hard on the body. People with fibro usually feel things several times more than normal people. I take turns between swimming and running. I love to run but I never know what pain I will be feeling during and after. I am building up my stamina because I'm thinking of trying to run in the Jingle Bell Run in November. I did it in the early 2000's." The Jingle Bell Run is sponsored by the Arthritis Foundation which seeks to raise money for arthritis research, provide public health education, influence public policy and legislation and improve the quality of life for people living with arthritis.

"It is hard to work a regular job with fibro," Julia continues, "so I have started doing Pet/House sitting. Sometimes I just visit the pet in their house, feed them, give meds, and play with them. Some jobs I stay at the house and take care of the pet(s). The longest time I have been gone is three weeks so far. From time to time I do some companion sitting jobs but find it easier for me to do pet sitting. Though I wish I could make a living selling my artwork and cards, the pet sitting service seems to do better at this time."

"I am of an age," Julia admits, "where there are lots of lemons that come my way so I have to find creative ways to make lemonade! LOL! I've always been partial to being in nature or at least sitting in a window and looking out. Journaling, drawing, praying, reading the Bible and other books help me through all my lemonade projects. I also like to surf the Net for beautiful art and writings that bring peace to my heart."

Along with her creative work and pet/house sitting, Julia volunteers with her husband for a non profit no-kill dog rescue called K-9 New Life. "We provide a foster home for dogs that are about to be put down so, along with our own two dogs and two cats (all rescues), we always have an extra dog hanging around. While they live with us the dogs get medical attention, spayed or neutered, and training (well, my husband ruins them--our current medium sized foster dog sits nowhere but in his lap and kisses him as much as he can). Just about every Sunday the Rescue takes the foster dogs to a Pet Smart so people can see and meet our foster 'children' and maybe put in an application for a dog. I like to help the Rescue in every way I can so I have been donating a percentage of every sale I get from my art and greeting cards."

As to what shoes Julia wears? "Okay, now you are gonna be a bit shocked but I am not a shoe person. During the winter months I wear knee high boots unless I am wearing pants. Just think black knee high boots with buckles at the top. The rest of the year, I wear black running shoes and water shoes when I go to the pool to do my mile swim. I am nondescript when it comes to shoes. I will say, though, I adore wearing my boots the most! I definitely am NOT a Sex and the City type girl...and I never liked that show at all!"

You may find out more about Julia's life and artwork on her website, shop, and blog.

Sequoia (the Foster Dog) with Sunglasses

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Thanks to The Creators Palette

Every once in a while, you cross paths with someone...someone you know is kind of heart and spirit. So it has been with Melanie of The Creators Palette. She has featured a few of my lobsters on her blog and always been generous with her warm words of support and encouragement. She actually does not know this, but several times she's touched base with me when I really needed a boost from the universe. These acts were spontaneous and uplifting and I wanted to thank her publicly for being such a special person.

Now, Melanie has nominated me for the Brillante Weblog Award! What a sweet surprise! Thanks, Melanie!

This award is one that continues to be passed on so I too will nominate 7 blogs for this award!

Each nominated blog should:

* Add the logo of the award to your blog
* Add a link to the person who awarded it to you
* Nominate 7 other blogs
* Add links to those blogs on your blog
* Leave a message for your nominees on their blogs

I will update this posting to add nominees over the next few days. Nominees are in no particular order. I love them all!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Lobsters! What Was I Thinking? -- Part 2

As some of you may already know, I worked with a really cool and talented photographer, Liz Grandmaison, at the beginning of the summer. She kindly and compassionately took portraits of a few of my lobsters. If you have not had a chance to check out her website, please do so. You will be glad you did!

I promised, a while back, I would introduce a few of my lobsters to you. So today, I am bringing you one from my "vested" series.

This little lobster came to life as part of the Visual Artists Street Team challenge to make something green.

Green is not necessarily a color associated with lobsters, unless of course you are talking about the tomalley. Some people love the stuff, think it is a delicacy even...not's lobster liver! Blech! What is more, most people only see cooked lobsters on their plate, so naturally, they think "red" not "green." Lobsters do come in a variety of colors--yellow, orange, greenish-brown, grey, blue--(but still, probably not any of the shades I was thinking of for my lobsters). So, the challenge I set for myself was to make "something green" that still looks like a lobster.

My first stop: the thrift store. In the past, I admit, I pooh-poohed thrift stores. All I saw when I stepped through the doors was a dingy bunch of dusty junk. It is still there, the junk, but after a while I started seeing little gems of fabric popping out at me. I read somewhere this is called "getting your eyes on." I think the person was referring to hunting mushrooms, but I am pretty sure it applies to hunting cool fabric as well.

I think it was in a thrift store I started seeing lobsters not as lobsters, but as palettes for...who knows what. Really, I am only as limited as my imagination. lobster? Why not? Quilted lobster? Why not? Vested lobster? A vested lobster! Cool! Let's do it!

I laugh when I make these lobsters. Each stage, each step of the process brings out their personalities just a little more. Sometimes, I have a real idea about what color combinations to use...and sometimes, I just let the fabric guide me (to varying degrees of success, I might add).

I like using bits of "found" fabric. The limited supply forces me to be creative. There are no matching dye lots. There is no purchasing extra material just in case. Once the shirt or skirt or yardage is is gone. And, unless I want to get all pouty about it, I am forced to use what I have creatively and then head back to the thrift store to see what new treasures are waiting there. This limitation expands my imagination and my excitement for making lobsters. I always go shopping with the idea that the "perfect" fabric is out there somewhere. If I had an endless supply of the same type fabric and thought I had to make each lobster exactly alike, I would lose interest very quickly.

I like that the fabric I purchase has had a life before me (for the most part, anyway, some of the stuff I find is brand new). I like making lobsters from pieces and parts. I like supporting my community by making purchases at thrift stores that, in turn, make donations to people less fortunate than I am. And, every once in a while, I like pushing the boundaries with a lobster that is purple...or pink...or gold...or green...

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Thanks to Cricketapollo!

I'm sending a big THANKS! to Cricketapollo, who curated this Etsy treasury. It made the home page on 8/3/08.

Other sellers who shared the honor:

Row 1: I Love Nice People by Will Bryant, Da Da Long Bubble Skirt by Wear It, Fire Engine Red by Timothy Adam Designs;

Row 2: Handwoven Naturally Dyed Silk Shawl by J Schubert Designs, Hugs and Kisses Paper Pillow by Sweet Bunny Home, NotYerAverage Red Ramie Lobster by "Sojourn Quilts;

Row 3: Kate Brilliant Ring by Andes Cruz Designs, Custom Pencil Urchin Pin by Jen Maestre, Colonial 2 by Gush;

Row 4: Modern Melamine Tray by Uncommon Eye, Hidden People by Samy Paden, Hand-painted Gift Bags by Emily The Robin

Monday, September 1, 2008

The Dream (by Tree Artist)

Twisted Purple Tree (by Tree Artist)

Interview with Jordanka (Tree Artist)

I once had the distinct pleasure of "doing art" with a three and five year old. We spread newspapers over the table and then, on top of that, what seemed like a ream of paper, several jars of water, a jumble of brushes and a huge array of watercolors. Painting, I soon learned, was a seriously fun business.

The three year old seemed more absorbed by the process of painting than what he painted (though he gave an elaborate story afterwards about his subject, I got the impression that he was making it up. I sensed the story telling was also part of his "art"). His technique was to grab hold of a big, fat paintbrush with clenched fist and gob paint--as much as possible--onto the bristles. He spent a good deal more time feeling the movement of paint on paper than he did trying to make objects out of paint. His was as much a tactile experience as visual.

The five year old, likewise, was intent on her painting project, but in a different, more studied way (befitting her personality). Subject was definitely important to her. Lines. Color. She worked swiftly with brisk movements of the brush. She took a sort of minimalist approach. Decisive (she'd planned out her painting), yet unfettered, free with her strokes. I couldn't have reproduced the vibrant paintings she made.

Fast forward a few years to "art" projects these children now brought home from school. Gone were the thick, flowing lines. Gone were the energy and freedom of movement. Gone were the unrestrained, surprising colors and creative spirit. Self-consciousness had crept in. Stiff stick figures. Dictated subjects and forced perspectives. Painting wasn't something to be done just for the fun of it. "Art" was now a homework assignment: just another subject in school. It was something to be done within a prescribed time limit and to get a grade. Ugh. I couldn't help but feel sad.

"I could paint realistic portraits by age 10, but it took me a life time to learn how to paint like a child."--Picasso

I took this quote from the website of Jordanka, Tree Artist. I read that Paul Klee, a Swiss painter who taught at the Bauhaus school of art and architecture, felt similarly and I wondered how many artists, known and relatively unknown, struggle to get back something into their artwork that life, maturity, and formal schooling often knocks out of us.

Jordanka is a Naive artist I met through Etsy and whose work I've admired from afar. Those TREES she paints! You can't help but get drawn in! In 38 years of working her craft, Jordanka has won numerous awards and participated in solo and group exhibitions in both United States and Canadian galleries. She has also been featured in countless articles in local newspapers, including Chatelaine Magazine, and appeared on four local television shows. Since "getting the child back" into my own work is something I think about a great deal, I was delighted when Jordanka agreed to share some of her insights.

"I was born and raised in Bulgaria," Jordanka tells me, "and interested in art ever since I was a little girl. I used to visit the only Gallery in my hometown, Burgas, and wished I could paint like those great artists. I came to Canada in 1970. Along with raising a family, (a son with Cerebral Palsy and a daughter), I taught myself to paint. First I copied every picture from the "How-to" paint books and later from National Geographic and other magazines. I tried all kinds of mediums: Pastels, Oils, Colored Pencils and Acrylics. I painted flowers, animals, and mostly portraits in a truly realist manner."

Jordanka worked this way for about twelve years. "As I learned more I discovered the whimsical art of Henri Rousseau, a Naive French artist who painted famous Jungle scenes. Later I discovered Grandma Moses. She painted her everyday life experiences in the country in a very simple way. This made me want to paint scenes of my childhood memories of Bulgaria, but I did not start until about 19 years later. I guess I wasn't ready before that. I just had to follow my inner gut feelings."

World Wide Arts Resources defines Naive Art as follows: "...the work done by an artist who was not trained in an academy or other traditional manner of art education. It is characterized by an unusual approach to the formal qualities of painting and awkward drawing skills, resulting in an almost childish image. Other qualities of naive art include pattern, unrefined color and simplicity. Notable naive artists include Henri Rousseau, Camille Bombois, and Alfred Wallis. Naive artists are sometimes referred to as primitive artists."

While Naive artists may lack formal, academic training, they are often well read and practiced and capable of using sophisticated (if intuitive) techniques to obtain simplistic, childlike results. "My primitive, naive style," Jordanka says, "evolved over the next 19 years."

"I think this style of art was in me all along. I wanted to tell stories of my life in Bulgaria in a simple, childlike way. That's why it's called Primitive, Naive art. No one can teach you how to do it: untrained and unrestrained. I am a person who does not like to follow any specific rules, especially when it comes to painting. I learned to trust my gut feeling and go with it. I have not become rich from my art, but I am rich, because I am happy when I paint."

"I worked on the Bulgaria series until 2005," Jordanka continues. "A I painted my childhood memories, I refined my style more and more. I had so much fun that I included scenes of my life in Canada, as this Country has become my second home. UNICEF and Leukemia Research Fund of British Columbia, Canada created Christmas cards from 8 of my naive scenes of children playing in the snow with all the proceeds going to the Charities."

"Now I work in acrylics on canvas, watercolor paper or mat board and paint TREES. I don't put much detail in my TREE paintings. I want to show each tree has a character and soul all its own. If you observe trees in the spring--before they start getting leaves--you can see how different each tree is by the way their branches twist and turn. Of course, I take liberties in design and mood and make each tree a star. People tell me my TREES have human qualities. When I look outside my window or go for a walk and see all those beautiful trees I want to paint. Painting, creating, helps me keep my sanity, and it makes me happy."

Along with trees, Jordanka finds solace and inspiration in music and dance. "When I go in my studio, I put soft rock music on and sing along or whistle while I paint. Sometimes I stop and dance. It energizes me and puts me in a great mood for creating my art."

As to what shoes Jordanka wears? "Dancing shoes. I love to dance."

You may find out more about Jordanka and her work in her shop, and at Yessy, Zazzle, and Cafe Press.

Some of Jordanka's paintings are available on pendants, created by Anna Leah Designs and Cross Stitch Designs.

Jordanka is a member of the following groups:

Interior Design Team
Visual Artists Street Team
Worldwide Women Artists

What Shoes Jordanka Wears