This painting is based on a walk down a two-track road in the winter time. I like how the road curves out of sight up ahead and the drama in the horizon line. This was a very fun painting to do. I love walking in the Manistee National Forest with my dogs every morning. It inspires my work.
She is football-sized. I want to tuck her under my arm and make off with her. My first grand baby.
Maeve Eileen, born the night of the bloody wolf super eclipse moon, queen of the fairies and now living in Kalamazoo with my daughter and her wife. They are over the moon, and baby, so am I.
I’m still decorating for Christmas. I can’t help it. Once I get started I get more ideas and then before I know it I’m making skull chains and skelly snowflakes and my family thinks I have serious issues, you know?
Anyway, if you’re like me and like to make xmas decorations that are just a little different, please enjoy these skel-flake patterns. Merry xmas!
Happening this weekend, July 27-29, 2018! C’mon out and see what kinds of creative minds live in the woods of Mason County!
Click here to find out more!
Can I get a witness?
When I was looking for Christmas lights last week in the storage unit, I accidentally found the bathroom scale. It was wrapped in a towel, at the bottom of a box full of linens. I thought, Oh, Steve will be thrilled because he’s been wondering where it was and threatening to buy a new one ever since we moved.
At first, he was happy.
“Yay! You found the scale! Thank you!”
Fast forward three days. Steve says, “I need you to take the scale back.”
“It’s not good. I was happier before I knew how much I weighed.”
“Why, how much do you weigh?”
“None of your business.”
“Is it more than (insert number here)?”
The discussion then moved on to all the people we know that weigh more than him and after a while he felt better. Crisis averted.
But weight! There’s more!
Frankly, I was of two minds whether to bring it back at all. It’s been nice not knowing how much I weigh for a whole year. Right up until someone told me, which, in this case, happened at the doctor’s office, during my yearly exam. “167,” the nurse said. Later she asked me if I was feeling depressed and I told her, “Hell yes I’m depressed! Did you not see that I now weigh 167 pounds?”
How I used to do it
It was right about then I knew I needed to re-think my weight management tactics. Up until now, I’ve always used two basic methods to keep track of how I’m doing. One is the How Well Do My Jeans Fit (HWDMJF) test and the other is the Pee My Pants (PMP) test.
The HWDMJF test works like this. I buy a single brand and size of jeans, and for me those are Gloria Vanderbilt, size 14. When I can no longer get into them, I know it’s time to cut back on my food intake and up my daily exercise time. Simple.
The PMP test is simple, too. If I accidentally pee my pants while either a. laughing, or b. sneezing, then I know it’s time to drop some poundage.
Except the last two pair of GV jeans that I brought home were really loose on me. So loose, I had to go back and buy a belt to keep the crotch from tripping me while I walk. I know for a fact that I’ve never been larger in my life than I am right now. So this means that some time between the last time I bought blue jeans, probably 2014, and last month, Gloria Vanderbilt made their size 14 jeans bigger. This means that I can no longer rely on Gloria to keep me informed about a weight overage, damn her.
Which leaves only the PMP test, and, of course, the problem with the PMP test is it relies on damp underwear to work.
There’s a new test in town
I know there’s a better way, and likely it will rely heavily on numbers. Facts and figures, along with being told what to do by inanimate objects, like bathroom scales and calorie counting apps, are some of my least favorite things in the world. I’d rather believe in the fantasy that allows for things like bonbons for breakfast and a second beer at dinner and fifteen minute walks with the dogs to keep my weight under control.
But there comes a time in a girl’s life when she has to stop living in a dream world and grow up. For me, that time is discovering that I’m 57 years old and weigh 167 pounds. So I’m hereby putting myself on notice. No more PMP or HWDMJF tests. From now on, it’s the SOTSAFTF (Stand On The Scale And Face The Facts) test or nothing.
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…it’s best to have an insurance policy already in place. Failing that, a positive attitude can take you a long way.
“Marie, I have some bad news.”
A couple weeks ago the framer called to tell me one of my paintings for Art Prize had been accidentally destroyed. A pipe had burst in the ceiling over his shop and mine plus eight other people’s projects had gotten drenched. Tim, the framer, was distraught. I was the last person he’d called that morning and he’d been sick three times already.
I went over to his store and looked at the piece, decided it wasn’t salvageable, took a picture for my records, and reassured him I wasn’t upset. Then I went back to my studio to think about what the next step would be.
Since this piece was slated for Art Prize, it would be one of three things:
- Alert the venue that The Skelly Dance had met with an unfortunate accident and ask whether or not I could substitute another piece in its place (fortunately, I’d just finished Bona Lisa the same week);
- Tell the venue that The Skelly Dance had met with an unfortunate accident and just go with six pieces for Art Prize;
- Re-do it, in which case I needed to order supplies.
You’ll notice that nowhere on this list is the step in which I panic. At the time I thought it was odd that I wasn’t more upset about the loss, but then I thought, “You’ve been through this before.”
Deja flooping vu
It’s true. Last year I lost four original skelly paintings and a slew of prints during the flooding in St. Augustine from Hurricane Matthew. That was pretty ouchy, but at the time, the gallery owner thought she might be able to arrange compensation through her insurance company.
As I should have guessed, flooding, which is what happened to my skellies down south, doesn’t count as compensatable damage. I think the hurricane actually has to leave a signed confession before an insurance company will agree that it will cover any losses due to one coming ashore for a visit.
Back to the drawing board, er, easel
After mulling it over, I went with steps 1 and 3. I alerted the venue and they agreed to take the Bona Lisa in lieu of The Skelly Dance, but then I decided to re-do The Skelly Dance anyway.
I’ve got time, after all. Art Prize isn’t until mid-September. Also, I’m a little leery about substituting art work without clearing it with Art Prize first. I’ve heard of people being disqualified from that show for small infractions. I could try to get a new piece juried in, but it’s way past the deadline now, so I will happily forgo opening up that can of worms altogether and count myself lucky this happened when it did.
Onward and upward
Besides, if there’s one thing I’ve learned since I started making art every day, it’s if you did it once, you can do it again.
Nothing is so precious that it can’t be re-worked, or re-designed, or re-made from scratch. It was painting every day that taught me this lesson and I’m grateful for it. Because of this I can let something like the destruction of a piece roll over me like water off a duck’s back.
But I’ll tell you something—I went out and got an insurance policy for my art last week, because while a positive attitude can take you a long way, cash money makes for a smoother ride.
You might not know this about me, but I’m a rainbow mom. You know, someone whose kids have alphabet soup letters attached to them, specifically LGBTQ?
It’s partly why I made these wings on the front of my gallery. I mean, I started them with the idea that I was going to participate in a fundraiser/publicity event. The local hospital started an endowment to help local cancer patients. To help raise awareness, Ludington decided to go for a Guiness World Record for the most sand angels. A lot of businesses made angel wings for people (or their pets) to pose in front of and to encourage people to donate to the fund. That’s what I was doing, too, when I created these wings.
I put them on my picture window in front of the gallery with the intent of filling them in with blue and aqua and green, like a macaw’s wings. But when I got to the coloring stage, I reached for the little bottle of red instead, and before I knew it I had made rainbow wings.
I have rainbow-ized before. Our first house in Ludington had wrought iron pillars on the front porch and one day I decided to paint them in rainbow colors. At that time I was already a rainbow mom, but I didn’t know it yet. When eventually my daughter told me she liked girls, I hoped like hell it was a phase she was going through. I remember that I advised her to wait and see if things changed. I really wanted it to be something temporary, because I didn’t know what I was going to do if it wasn’t.
I not only wasn’t ready to accept her as gay, I didn’t know how to.
Growing up, I experienced only negative attitudes about homosexuality. A couple of my older brothers used to brag about “beating up queers” in Saugatuck and my parents didn’t censure them for it. I had a vague idea that this was not right, but I never did anything about it. It didn’t touch me, personally. I’m sure there were gay kids around me in high school, but I didn’t know anyone who was gay because I never asked. I pushed it off to one side and tried not to think about it.
So I had no training on how to be a parent to gay kids. What was I supposed to do? When my children came out to me, my first thought was, “What will my family think?” Because that really worried me. I was afraid my family would disapprove and that they would blame me for the way my kids turned out.
Fortunately, I married a man whose family had always been accepting of LGBTQ people. Steve was so matter of fact about it all, that it helped me be that way, too. And I did a lot of reading. I talked to people. I wrote about it.
Bottom line is, I love my kids, all of them, no matter their gender or sexuality. They’re my kids. They’re the people I’m the most passionate about, the ones I’d defend with my life. I want them to be happy, more than I want my parents’ or siblings’ approvals.
I’m still figuring it out, of course. And these wings are part of my process. They’re for all the rainbow children and rainbow parents here in Ludington and everywhere else, too. Of course, the wings are part of the fundraiser, but mostly they’re for my tribe, my rainbow people. Fly, you guys! And be free!
In the mornings, I take the broom and dustpan and I sweep the kitchen floor. Then I lay out my yoga mat and select the Yoga Studio app on my iPad. I turn the volume down to about 4 so that it doesn’t wake Steve sleeping in the bedroom. For the next half hour I concentrate on my body and my breathing and try not to think about anything else. Of course my brain is always churning but after three years I feel like I’m making progress.
When I go to the studio, I have other rituals. To prep for a pastel painting, first I see what’s available in my pile of mat board odds and ends. Then I think about what size I want and trim the mat board to fit. I attach it to a foam core board with artist tape and put it on the easel. Next I get out my clear gesso and a large brush and slather it on. I like to play with the brush strokes, depending on my mood. Most times they’re organic and curvy, sometimes they’re straight and uniform. While the mat board dries I print out a reference photo and make a notan or two, then a color study on a small piece of paper. By then my mat board is dry and ready to be painted and I’m eager to begin.
If I’m doing a watercolor postcard, the ritual is much quicker. First I pick a reference photo from the gallery on my phone, load my travel brush with water, open my mini-watercolor paint set, line up a piece of paper and begin!
I find that rituals are important because they put my mind in the right place. They help me get ready for the day, for my work, for creating. If I don’t do my rituals I feel lost, adrift and rudderless. Rituals point me in the direction that I want to go.
This spring I’ve started a new ritual, walking around in the woods near where we live. We put the dogs in the truck, pack the long leashes, a few treats, water, the plat book and maps, and then we drive around the Manistee National Forest. We might be looking for camping spots or maybe places where we might find mushrooms. We find a place to park and let the dogs out and then we wander. Sometimes we walk along the Pere Marquette River, sometimes we discover a little lake or pond and find traces of beaver or muskrat. Sometimes we just walk along the sandy roads, following the dogs following their noses.
The forest changes every day. The light is different, with the leaves and ferns reflecting the sun or the clouds, depending. I need to be out under the trees, tramping across the leaf litter, feeling the sun or the wind on my face. It recharges me spiritually and emotionally and it inspires my paintings. It’s being out in the woods, smelling flowers and dirt, hearing the wind in the leaves, seeing the creatures that are out there, feeling the texture of bark and grasses, that really helps me understand what I’m painting. I can’t get that experience by just driving by or watching it on television or seeing a picture of it on someone’s Facebook feed.
It’s really wonderful to be back in Michigan after so many years away. When we left I had been walking in the forest every day but I wasn’t yet a pastel artist. Now that we’re back here again I’m taking up my old ritual of being in the forest and combining it with my new ritual of daily painting. I am looking forward to what’s going to happen with this new combination. I expect it’s going to be awesome.