Sunday, August 28, 2011

Big Idea Festival - Day Twelve: Play "My Creative Spirit Sings With Joy!"

WOW! I hope everyone weathered the hurricane well and is able to get back to life as "normal". In Lancaster, PA (I live about three blocks from downtown Lancaster city) it was mostly lots of rain and blasting winds. The wind more than anything alarmed me because I have a locust tree that sits smack in the middle of my courtyard which is over 100 years old (same as my house). Lucky for me the home association I belong to paid to have the tree trimmed last summer after a previous rain storm caused some over sized tree limbs to split in half, which nested amongst the remainder limbs just waiting for the next storm to come crashing down. I awoke this morning at 6am and ran to check out any damages to the courtyard and trees. I was happy to discover that only my little white flowering dogwood tree had minor damage (one long tree limb had split in half - easy enough for me to cut off).

Things are still windy but the rain has stopped and I feel safe to get back online (I was worried about power outage, lighting, and anything else that might zap my lap top or mess up  my Internet connection: better safe then sorry). But funny enough without the Internet I was able to really PLAY last night and complete my last entry for the Big Idea Festival: Words to Live by challenge and at the same time start my own personal art challenge... read on and you'll understand.

LAST DAY of Big Idea Festival art challenge.
Day 12: August 27, 2011
Featured Artist: Stacy Julian
Challenge word: PLAY

This is my entry for day twelve (the last day) of the Big Idea Festival scrapbook challenge.

Day 12: Play (digital page created using Photoshop CS3)

My volunteer work at the heART of Friendship Art Gallery has me questioning my art abilities as they translate to "realist fine art". I consider myself an artist (because "I MAKE IT MY OWN" as Michelle Ward would say), yet I don't define myself as a traditional or realist fine art artist. I consider myself more of an Outsider Artist if I had to give myself a label but more then anything I view my work as visionary and I'm okay with that. Or at least I thought so until I met Lynn the full time art teacher at heART. Lynn is a beautiful Christian woman who has easily over 30 years experience in the realist visual fine arts both as an artist and teacher. As a volunteer working along side Lynn to assist the heART artists I have learned to better appreciate what the world of realist fine art (landscapes, portraits, nature studies, and any combination of still life acrylic paintings) have to offer.

I guess I had always had a fear to try this type of realist painting style with the thoughts that I'd be horrible since I don't have any formal training in the field. At this point in my art journey I had favored created abstract art just to create; to play, to be happy without the worries of 'does it look real' or having to learn all the fundamentals; your basic art foundation.

My personal abstract art: ATC collage "PLAY" set of five cards.
For I am the happiest when I am learning and sharing without limitations; breaking rules or not following rules per say. Yet spending time with Lynn and the heART artists at the art gallery has opened up my mind to revisit my thoughts and views on realist fine arts and what I am missing out on by side sweeping this style of art making under the rug? I thought to myself 'am I asking myself to be open to the world of structure, formal process, and many, many rules on how to create art' did I understand what I was inviting into my life? After all creating art is my release from my stressful structured, formal, rule abiding lifestyle. Did I really want to drag that into my art making? So I thought about it for some time, and after about 48hours I answered myself without even over thinking it (which I love to do - analysis this... LOL).

Hurricane Irene was a blessing in disguise for me this is what it lead me to create. Without the Internet as a distraction and nothing good to watch on TV (I have basic cable 12 channels only). I started organizing my art books and came across a how to book "Be An Artist in 10 Steps" by Ian Sidaway. I opened it up saw the hot peppers exercise and thought 'what do I have to lose' so I started the art challenge of creating a realist style painting. It took me several hours from start to finish and I'm not yet finished (I want to add some graphite to the image to add more of a mixed media flavor - I can't deny who I am) smiles.

Acrylic painting "Hot Peppers" the process of underpainting. I'm learning so much about the tools I have.

The results of three hours of working with various layers of acrylic paint mixed with water and gel medium.

God is good... he is opening my mind to receive the courage to be public with my art abilities; first by sharing through this blog site with 30 DAYS OF GET YOUR ART ON. This made me more comfortable to join other art challenges like an ATC card swap with Creative Swaps and then try something new with digital scrapbooking with the Big Picture Classes.

All to this point have been online art communities but with my volunteer hours (twice a week for 3 hours a day) at the heART of Friendship Art Gallery God has planted a seed within me to move forward on this art journey in my 'real' life. A scary thought to allow your 'real' community to view your creations. It's one thing to be open to allow online strangers to potentially speak badly of your artwork (you can always block them) but to allow people who you know and interact with the opportunity to say things that might hurt your feelings (although most people have good intentions) that was enough to cause me to have a panic attack. But that's just what happened. Not the part about negative online art comments (my online art communities have lifted me up in my stages of insecurity - funny what kind words can do no matter if said by loved ones or strangers, and then there's those strangers who become friends like Rasz and Maggie).

I say God is good because I would of never chosen to put myself "out there" I tend to be a wallflower with a secret superstar spirit within - only revealed to a small pea pod size number of close friends and family. But God spoke to me to become a volunteer this summer at heART and at the Lancaster Farmacy and both have contributed to my spiritual growth, in term my self-esteem. Who would turn down a self-esteem jump start? NOT THIS GIRL!

Well, if I must be honest at first I wanted to turn it down; volunteering at heART my first week and seeing the fine art work being produced at the gallery (for sale) and here I was being asked to assist in the development of said art. I was like "someone made a mistake, this is not a good fit... I can't help in this process, do these people know who I am, what I'm not capable of..." I questioned everything; my art abilities, if I had the right to call myself an artist, was I going to be more of burden then a blessing to this nonprofit and its heART artists. It's scary when the business side to art making comes knocking at your door. I thought I would be a volunteer to JUST help develop art with the heART artist. I was so consumed with the imagery of the joy and fun art making provided me and how much I wanted to share that joy that I completely forgot about the realization that each heART artist strives to create art to sell at the gallery which provides them a personal income. All this became real on my first day of volunteering. Yikes!

I wanted to run but God had other plans for me. For this was not any nonprofit this is a Christian nonprofit who works with adults with intellectual developmental delays (heART artists) and staffed by two fabulous Christian women who embraced all my fears and doubts and invited me to try it again; to stay on as a volunteer. For both ladies (Lynn, full time teacher and Marsha, gallery coordinator) saw something in me that I could not see myself; they say my spirit... the real me.

My spirit was dim after so many months of self neglect not allowing time to create art during my full time employment and the added stress of being laid off for a second summer in a row due to budget cuts in education (I worked for a nonprofit in the public school system of Lancaster County). Which really gets you to ask why life cannot be more smooth and organized, what lessons was God putting forth for me to learn. I knew that staying on as a volunteer at heART was part of my journey that God had created for me. So in usual "Sandra" style instead of volunteering once a week I bumped it up to twice a week. I always feel like if you're going to do something sent by God better put in double the effort so I don't miss anything. Or in other words I needed at least two days to learn, one day was only enough to introduce me to the questions I would have I also needed a second day to reflect and share with Lynn and Marsha so I could better put my skills and studio time to use with the heART artists.

Its now been over five weeks since I first started volunteering at heART and now when I walk in to the gallery it's like visiting old friends. The heART artists always have such great smiles and kind handshakes to greet me with. I feel like Norm in the sitcom "Cheers". I feel so comfortable with the staff and other volunteers we sometimes sit after the heART artists have gone home and discuss openly about our personal views of art (which are all very diverse) we create ourselves and society's view of art (good and bad). This really nourishes my creative spirit and allows me to share my concerns with my art process and what God is calling me to do with my skills.

I know Lynn embraces the newness that my love for collage art has to offer (even though it is completely new to her and not a mainstream art favorite in an art gallery setting) for she along with Marsha have both invited me to help lead in instruction with various collaborative art projects that heART artists will be showcasing in future fundraisers. Here are some images of what has been created thus far. I instructed the Wednesday class to work at a small scale (ATC size 2.5 x 3.5 inches) during the brainstorming process. It was well received by the heART artists who enjoyed turning their past watercolor artwork into new creations. Everyone lite up with delight when I introduced them to the packing tape transfer technique which we used to capture the cityscape image for the ATC on the far right.

ATC collage brainstorming/idea cards completed by Wednesday's Class.

Full page 8.5 x 11 inches collage created by a Thursday Class heART artist (in progress).

This has lead me to where I am now; if a fine art gallery can be open to investing in collage art (mixed media) then I too could invest in learning more about the other side of art which to me is fine art "realist" - investing in reading, practicing, and need I say it, YES creating UGLY art for it will take time until I am happy with the results of my creations.

So this is my new art challenge - to develop my realist fine arts painting style which will in the process enhance the artwork I have always loved to create (mixed media visionary art). I will work my way through the "be an artist in 10 steps" book and blog about it from week to week. The season is changing and public school starts this Monday; in turn I hope to start my full time employment sometime soon. With those ideas in mind I don't want to fall back into old ways of self creative neglect but I also have to be realist that I won't have time to do as much art as I have in the past two months. So what I want to do is allow myself the opportunity to devote more time to studio discoveries one acrylic exercise at a time and and combine those new skills with my mixed media work. I will share the progress and results weekly thus allowing myself more time to get caught up on reading some of my favorite artist blogs and taking time to make comments on them. I hope you return to visit my blog (become a follower to stay updated) and continue to share with me your comments/feedback. I still plan to share any free classes I learn about and/or other artist blog sites and artwork with the Discovery Wednesday feature.  

Funny how God reminds us of lessons learned from our past, that life is to be lived in BALANCE. Like I knew that but sometimes 'living life' makes us forgetful. (smiles)

If you have gotten to this part I thank you for reading and I hope you have a blessed day and may you nurture your creative spirit every moment of the day.



  1. Oh Sandra, I am literally crying as I type this comment. God is SO good...and yes there is a creative plan for us all. There is no mistake that you were laid off for the summer and ended up volunteering at heART! How beautiful that you are open to the gentle whispers asking you those deep questions about your creativity, your art, yourself...and the courage inside to "follow where He may lead you". Big hugs to you my friend!

  2. @~Rasz~
    Sometimes I wonder if I share too much of my own personal story online through my blog... but that's who I am when I am being my real unguarded self. Its like sometimes I forget that my posts are open to the public not just people I consider friends or trust. I am also trying to learn to balance that part of the art of blogging;-) So let's wipe our tears and pickup our pencil, markers, paint brush or crayons and begin to make marks; let's doodle for the joy of it and keep sharing at what ever capacity we feel comfortable to do so. The way I see it I am not alone and you just confirmed this to me.

    I also think WE are not alone (Rasz) in how we experience the words and images shared on personal blogs. I have read many artist blogs who's heart spill over in their storytelling ... along the way I found this video that communicates what I am trying to express better then I could when it comes to how we share our lives and who I am.


  3. God is GOOD my friend. I couldn't agree MORE! Kudos to you for completing another challenge. Great layouts, it was a pleasure to view your pages and be continually inspired

    Thanks Sandra,
    Big Hugs

  4. @Maggie Thanks Maggie, hey have you heard about LIFEBOOK through Willowing & Artist Friends starting in Jan. 2012. Ady will be one of the featured artist instructors. The cost is $100 but it's for a year's project and lots of great instructors I recognized about 5 on the list including Mystele. Keep doing your art its wonderful!

  5. I love your abstract atc's...they are delicious..I feel as you do as well...I was trained to create some "fine art" in school well I have 58 credits...lacking 6 for the math and science ..but being taught to create fine art just allows you to break the rules and do what you want...I have painted still lifes, portraits and landscapes...copied the masters and followed all of the I do what I feel and am drawn to line and color...and I love the abstract too...sometimes I tell people who say.."i wish I could draw like that" or I wish I could paint real life things"....that its so much more interesting to paint whats in your imagination than copying something or drawing accurately..but thats just me..I guess it good to know how to do it too...!

  6. @Robinahhh, Robin, you are a breath of fresh air and I am feeling very validated by your comments. Thank you for taking the time to read (what became a very long post) my thoughts and emotions that needed to be released and I am fortunate to have such a dearing art community that has taken the time to hear me and share back. I am so greatful to have the opportunity to learn more and more about the personalities that hold the tools to the artwork that provides me such joy. Thank you ladies! May we continue to create art in the manner best be fitting our spiritual enjoyment!



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