Discovering Black

25 Aug

Black has always been one of my favorite colors -or absence of color, whatever that means, I never took a class on color theory. But I had never thought about using black as a background on which to start a painting or mixed media piece. So this happened as a sort of accident, a happy one, of course.

I had painted a portrait of a woman dressed in a soft shade of pink, with a cat on her lap and a huge black mane. But for some reason I never quite liked it, either the cat’s face did not fulfill my expectations, or the face was too long…I don’t know. The thing is that I had kept it waiting for something else to do with it till I just grew tired of looking at it and feeling it was still unfinished. It’s like my paintings have a shelf-life. If I’m not happy with it after the first month or so I just recycle the surface, whatever it is I’m using for the piece. So I took one last look at it one night and thought: gesso, or acrylic? It was a fairly large canvas board and her hair was black, so if I used gesso I’d have to use lots of it and more than one coat. So acrylic it was, black acrylic. I covered the whole canvas in black and it was more than enough with only one coat. Then, what the “f” would I draw -and how- on a black surface. I looked for something white to draw with: my white gel roller was almost empty… white chalk was too wide for what I wanted to do… I was almost at the point of looking for my Pentel “liquid paper”/”whiteout” pen when I found an old white oil pencil. I was finally able to start something new. A portrai, of course, but what would make this one different? I worked carefully on the face and hair, a big fluffy mass of hair, it would be red, really red. When the facial features and hair were done I decided this portrait had to be a departure of sorts from all the others that had come before it. I just started with one little building that looked a bit like the old Spanish structures we have in Old San Juan, in Puerto Rico. A little chapel of sorts. Then came another and another till most of what would have been her cleavage and shoulders was now covered in buildings. Now what… If the “city” is something she’s wearing, or “putting on” herself carrying around and showing off, maybe what she needed was something wilder and more private, more personal, a place where nobody could reach her, an inner world -as opposed to her social or public persona. So I crowned her with a forest, an world where she can go wild and be herself and not have to pretend, a place of trees and foliage and even -yes, why not- a few little birds.

First steps on black for "City Limits"

The discovery of black has been amazing. Now, instead of having to go in with a super fine brush to add darker details, shadows, etc. to make things pop the black is already there to create the effect. It makes the process easier for me and gives more dimension to any color that I put on top of it. I had no idea of any of this. I am a self-taught artist, many things I have found as part of the age-old trial and error process. I can afford to make all the mistakes I have to, I have the excuse of never having had an art teacher or tutor in my life. I sometimes wish I did because sometimes I feel like I could never compete with someone who has studied art formally. I would never stand a chance in an arguement with someone who went to college to study art. I will always be behind when it comes to comparing myself with a formally trained artist. But, really, between you guys and me -now that nobody is listening in on our conversation-  who gives a flying shit! I have had the luxury of learning at my own speed, with no deadlines and only my gut to guide me -no gut jokes here guys, I know I’m overweight.

Giving her neck a "sky".

I admire and respect each and every artist I encounter -formally trained or not- I learn from everyone who is willing to show me a new technique or how they have honed their talents and style. Not every artist is willing to share, and not all who are sharing are doing it for free. I have been really lucky to become an artist at a time when you can turn on a computer and find thousands of instructional videos explaining almost everything. And even better, there are blogs and other places like Ning where I have discovered communities where knowledge is shared among those like me eager to learn something new every day and share what they know. I will always be in debt with Willowing, with Deb Company and my friends at Mixed Media Workshops and to the wild community created by Effy Wild on her Wild Precious Studio, with her “Effisms” and now the weekend “services” at the Church of Art where she livestreams while she arts and chats with us about art and life and everything in between.

Almost done...

There is strength in numbers, and we are lucky to be making art at a time when there are very strong communities out there for the numbers of people like me who have come to art after a long way of doing other stuff and have felt lost.

"City Limits"

We have choices, we don’t need to fear a blank white canvas. We can always start with the black!

Till next time, the fat lady has now sung!

Blessings, Love and Light!

E.

Up till Now

22 Aug

It’s been more than a month snce the last time I blogged. I know, I promised myself it would not happen again, and it has. Great, this only means I’m humas -at least that’s what I keep telling myself. It’s been more than a month and lots has happened since then. We took our anual vacation to Puerto Rico, this time in the summer instead of the Christmas holidays because there will be too much to do this end of the year and not enough mula to go around.
So we went to the island and had one of the best trips since we came to NY; thanks in part to my Mom-in-law who rented a beach house at a small coastal resort for a week, for the whole family. Least to say we had a blast! See for yourself:

Villas del Mar Hau - Isabela, P.R.

My son at play with his cousins Villas del Mar Hau - Isabela, P.R.

My son had the most fun, playing with his cousins that he only sees once a year. I had the chance to work on a tan -something I hadn’t done in ages… lets say the last time I had a tan line I was a size 10. We enjoyed spending time with those we love the most and I had the joy of hearing my son play in Spanish.
After returning from the island we have regrouped as our usual tiny family unit and I’ve been able to come back to my work table and do some much needed journaling which has shown some improvement and some evolution. Take a looksee:

Inner Warrior I

Inner Warrior II

Inner Warrior III

She’s called my “Inner Warrior”, someone I really need to reconnect with and am in the process of bringing her back. I started with the first image which I made while at my Mom’s in San Juan, then I sat down here at home and worked on her till I was happy. It answered to a challenge from Effy Wild, of Wild Precious Studio, where I have joined the wonderful group of women to keep honing my craft in the journaling department a little more.
This is my report so far, there is a lot that still remains to be said, of art and dreams and bitchy inner critics.
Till next time, this is all the fat lady has sung.
Blessings, Love and Light
E.

One Mom’s Epiphany

13 Jul

I have been having a hard time lately. I have been angry and tearful for no reason.

I have learned over time that -as far as my own case goes- my bouts of depression come when I am under great stress or when for any given reason I start losing sleep. And I’ve had a whole lot of losing sleep lately. My son is not sleeping well and neither am I. 

You see, I have made some changes around the house and my son’s room has been included in those changes. I try to make things special for him as much as possible and decided to catalogue his books and organize them in a simple way for him to be aware of how important it is for him to care for and enjoy his books. I already did the “cataloguing”. But I also changed his bed to another area after doing some heavy-duty cleaning in his room (I had no idea the amount of strange stuff that can get accumulated in a little boy’s bedroom besides hairballs from our two cats). Well, for whatever reasons -it’s also summer and the young guy has no routine whatsoever- he has started to wake up in the middle of the night; once, sometimes twice a night. He comes in our bedroom, wakes me up -startles me, actually, pretty bad- and then I have to escort him back to his own room, tuck him in again, and stay with him till he falls asleep again. Only to have him wake up and start the same thing all over again one or two hours later. So I find myself having the nightly routine of a newborn’s mom with a boy of six.

It has come to a point where I just can’t fall asleep because I just KNOW he’ll be opening our door and startling me awake. This has been going on for almost a whole week. You can count on the fact that we have done everything imaginable to get him to just turn around and find sleep again in his own bed. We have had all the conversations about the dark, and monsters, and how safe he is in his own room. We have explained how happy and lucky he should be that he has his own room with all his toys and his books and a place to sit down and read while we were short for space and stuff when we were his age… well, you get the picture: from soothing and caring to plain old guilt, we have tried everything.

But last night I think I had some sort of epiphany. As I lay in bed fully awake waiting for him to open my door -around 3:30 a.m.- I thought: I will fight this no longer. My son is just five. He turns 6 in August and will star 1st grade in September. This is summer, he’s on vacation and I’m just being an uptight bitch about this. No more fighting, no more coaxing, no more scolding. When I was his age I was just as scared as he was and I just wanted to have my Mom and my Dad close to me during the night. I still feel aweful about the hard time I gave my mom back then. Because I’m a Mom and love mine, I understand how difficult it must have been for her to spend the whole day toiling around the house, cooking and cleaning, washing and ironing clothes, and making all the extras that moms always have to do… and we were five kids at home. I only have one. If I dare to feel tired, I can only imagine how exhausted my poor Mom was back then.

The thing is, I can also understand how scary it was for me to find myself alone, in the dark, in my bedroom in the middle of the night. Even if my Mom always left the halway light on. I cannot judge her just as I can’t judge myself for not letting her sleep at night thirty years ago. Which means I will not judge my son either. I spend the day doing as much as I can and have the help of my husband, I can’t complain. I always find time -no matter at what time of day or night- to do my own stuff, that which gives me my individual, personal joy which is art. There is still more than enough time to get my son to his old routine of sleeping the whole night through. This is the summer, after all, and I will not let depression overpower me again just because my son needs to squeeze in bed with us. I know my Mom loved me just as much as I love my son, and still does. But that does not mean I have to be like her. I will follow my heart and let him in, even if it means giving him my place in bed and spending the rest of the night in his.

Last Summer in Austin

New Work

9 Jul

Hi again,

I just wanted to show you my latest work. I had an accident when I was painting the face, my son spilled some water on the table and some of the red in the hair which had almost dried seeped onto the face. I did the best I could, added all kinds of stuff, even some purple trying to cover the red, but it ended up in the finished product anyway. It was aweful, I felt like taking up smoking again -that’s how mad I was. But in the end, art should never be forced. I actually love the way she turned out. The name is “Scarred”. Hope you like it.

"Scarred"

First Video for “ArtForMySanity”

9 Jul

My passion is art in every form. My joy and my therapy is painting/mixed-media. But my business -which I will be sharing with you here- is polymer clay hand-made jewelry, which I love with a passion and has helped me as part of my self-made therapy.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Frida’s Elusive Mistique

6 Jul

Frida in pencil, from a photograph.

I have been toying with the idea of writing a short series of articles about Frida Kahlo and her influence on mixed media artists today. It is an understatement to tell you that it’s difficult. I have sat down more than once to write down my ideas, to send e-mails to as many artists as I can asking them if they might be willing to respond to a couple of questions about their use of Frida’s image, why they use it and how they see this artist, how influential she is in their career.

I have come to understand that it is a personal failure of mine, this inability to put into words the how and why of my interest in this Mexican woman who was once simply known as Diego Rivera’s wife. I am not talking about Frida the Holliwood creation, the symbol of Mexical colorful musical culture, or the mad lover who once said she loved Diego “more than her own skin.” More than the quality or influences of her life’s work, Frida has become an icon recreated by all of us in the image that best suits our idea of her. The same thing has happened with her image. It doesn’t matter the size or the shape we give her, as long as we see the dark unibrow and the hair full of flowers and ribbons, we know it’s Frida. We have each of us created our own Frida, She who always refused to conform has become with time a pliable substance made of pain and vibrant colors, a suffering glory who procalims above all pain “Viva La Vida” – “Long Live Life”.

Frida con mico.

We may each have different reasons why Frida has been so attractive as as woman, an artist and an image. Some people may see her as a “go to” figure that has become so commercial that it’s sure to attract the attention of art buyers. Some feel an attraction to the colorful flowers, the clothes, the lush plants that sometimes adorn the background of her self-portraits. All of those things are attractive to me. But more than her image, her life and the resilience with which she faced pain, adversity and betrayal are my personal reasons to admire her and to have made her a part of my art and my life. I knew Frida was a Mexican artist, married to Diego Rivera the famous muralist, etc., etc., etc. But it wasn’t until I purchased Hayden Herrera’s book that I learned the details we all know now about her painful -physically and emotionally- existance.

Young Frida

I have not had to live a life in pain, having to undergo surgery after futile surgery to brake and reconstruct the spine. I did not have polio at the age of six. But there are some aspects of her life that trully resonate for me. Frida was unable to have children because of the horrible accident she suffered when she was eighteen. One of her biggest desires was to give Diego a child. It was not to be. I have a wonderful healthy son, but for a couple of years I have been trying to have another baby and it just hasn’t happened. Even worse, I finally got pregnant last year and misscarried shy of a first trimester. It was the most harrowing experience I have had to endure. Frida turned to painting since the accident to pass the time she had to spend in bed. Later on when time in bed became part of her life she would install a mirror above the bed so she could look at herself and paint her self-portraits. Art helped me after I lost my baby to channel all my anger and frustration of having had my dream destroyed. Months later I had to have surgery to remove one of my ovaries, reducing in half the chances of getting pregnant again. Since then I’ve had a journal and at least one pencil beside my bed, close enough for me to jot down my ideas and try out new techniques.

Frida Dreams The Pain Away - ATC

The first ATC (artist trading card) I ever made for a swap was my first drawing of Frida. Since I was not very good at doing facial features back then, I left her eyes closed. I followed the requirements of that particular swap and came up with this: It was the first of a dozen Fridas I have made. I love her image and every time I’m trying out a new medium or technique, I always make a Frida. It always makes me happy. If Frida has truly become an icon, I choose to dress her as Goddess. An empowering image full of life-giving strength, who gave of herself every time she painted a self-portrait as a gift for a friend, that struggled to remain permanent, an ever present image reconstructed in the retina of people’s memories. I think that is the experience I create for myself every time I paint. I do not paint self portraits, I paint women whom I have come to understan and accept as parts of me, versions of me. Pieces of a puzzle that make up who I am: woman, daughter, lover, mother, artist. This is my present for Frida on her birthday. An ongoing present that will hopefully grow as I grow with my work.

Self-taught

2 Jul

When the bug got me -the ART bug, I mean- I began to draw faces and practice different shapes for noses and lips and eyes… I got lots of good advice from people who have become great friends and mentors. But that was only later on, after I followed my hubbies advice. I was restless, feeling like I had missed out on so much learning by not having studied art formally at a college or university. My background is in literature, and although it does not seem that way, it does help out in the inspiration department. But it serves me for nothing in terms of giving me guidelines and helping me to develope skills.

With my restlessness my husband got curious and asked me one day why did I seem so unhappy. I had seemed happy enough when I started drawing and painting, “you know we do not have enough money for supplies”, he said, but he promised me he’d buy them for me as soon as the semester started again and he got paid. “That’s not it”, I said. I explained why I was unhappy with myself and then my dear and loving husband told me something that has served me well since then and that I pass on to you guys now:

Universities and professors work for you as guides and givers of deadlines. You can do that yourself, you just need to have the discipline to do it, just as if you were going to school and meeting with professors. Google whatever interests you, be it painting as a subject, a favorite artist, a sculptor, a mixed-media artist. If you have a Facebook page, try connecting with like-minded people who would be willing to share what they know. Not everybody will be a teacher, not all of them will be good teachers, but that is all up to you.

I started looking for information on polymer clay on Youtube. That gave me a first list of videos to look at. When I saw the amount of stuff there was to look at and learn from, it was like an epiphany! I belonged to a polymer clay group in Yahoo Groups, all their discussions were of great help to me. But I had already started to draw and wanted to learn how to apply shadows to the face to make them more realistic. I stumbled upon a video of a woman painting a face, a simple enough girlie face with big eyes that looked very similar to the posters that used to decorate my sister’s teen-aged bedroom in the early seventies. The woman painting the face was Tamara Laporte; Tammy, for short. Most people in the internet world know her as Willowing. She was speaking with a brit accent and spoke softly and candidly to us about how to apply this or that, what water-soluble pastels she was using, well, it was like having a friend tell you a story. It was wonderful! I started looking for more of her videos stumbling into other stuff on the way cause I still had no idea how to navigate my way through Youtube. I then found her channel, and after that I found her place in Ning (something else that was completely alien to me) lololol.

I went to find Ning. There I joined Willowing’s group, and in that group I met many nice people who were sharing their experiences and sharing their experiments. They were all, or at least most of them diving into this marvelous world for the first time. It was in Tamara’s group that I met Deborah Company. She had created her own Ning group some months before and sent me an invite to check it out. I did, and the rest, as they say, is history. I joined the group she had created: Mixed Media Workshops. There I met another bunch of great people who accepted me and basically took care of me -as a friend and fellow artist- giving me all the support end expertise I needed to keep going, developing and learning. Later that same year I was invited to become an Administrator. I accepted and spent more than a year working with Deb and the rest of the gang, helping out in everything I could. I took a “leave of absence” for some time because I could not offer the group the time I wanted to give. But I soon will be back to where it all began. I hope that if you are a beginner you’ll look for yourself in all those sources that are aveilable today. If you want to follow a career in art and are able to do it putting yourself through college, that’s great! But if, for any reason you can’t. Don’t worry. You don’t have to.

Frida con mico.

Edna

Open for Business!!!

2 Jul

I have re-opened my Etsy shop where you can find the first ten (10) of my series pieces. You can find the link by clicking on my profile picture or looking in my Jewelry page. Here is a taste of what you’ll find there.

 

Hope you like them!

Hello world!

1 Jul

Hello World!

What a great way to begin. This is my second attempt at doing the “Blogging” thing. I’ll be writing about what I do in terms of art, my life as a developing artist in mixed-media, being a mom, being in my 40s, what I cook, etc. From time to time you’ll read or see something about the men in my life, my husband and my son, who really make the world go-round.

For those who do not know me I’m 41, a stay-at-home mom of a soon-to-be 6-y/o boy and the wife of a wonderful man who daily burns his eyelids in front of a computer screen working on his PhD dissertation. We have been living in the Bronx for the past year and this is also a process of discovery in a beautiful artful place I hope you will learn to love as much as I do. We spent our first 6 years in New York living in Washington Heights, almost at the tip of Upper Manhattan. I miss the old neighborhood as a place full of great people who learned to love us and who helped us along the first difficult years of our own private diaspora. We still visit as much as we can, since we are not too far and our son goes to school there.

I want to write about what I do because it is such a rewarding process that I feel the need to share it with others who may be in the beginning stages of their own process. That is one of the ways that I came to art and to mixed-media, thanks to other artists Blogs, their websites and in some cases, their Youtube  channels. When I started to paint I had no idea where to begin, I was lost in a sea of wants and want-nots, doubting myself at each turn, but happy to be in the process, and it was thanks to those artist/bloggers that I started to follow along a clearer line. I design and make my own polymer clay jewelry line called Madre Luna. I have an Etsy shop and am a member of a great community of artists on Ning called Mixed Media Workshops, where I found some of my first teachers. I have stumbled upon so many kind artists, most of them women but also many men. They have guided me, inspired me, cheered me on so many times and so well, that I want to be able to do the same now, at a point where I finally feel confident enough to call myself an Artist, when I can recognize my own style in what I paint and/or make. That is the main reason why I am doing this, hoping you’ll accept the invitation to get to know me and my work, be inspired -hopefully- by my story, and see that no matter how broke, how depressed, how insecure you may feel, it is possible. If you cannot afford art supplies pick up a pencil and a piece of paper. You need nothing more.

I started with maybe a bit more than that and right now I wouldn’t trade that start for anything. Above all else, art was a way for me out of the darkness, out of depression and back into myself, to be able to see myself in a new light as a different person, capable of so much more than I ever thought I could.

Black Cat in Repose

This is my first painting!

If you want to know the whole story make yourself a cupa, sit back, and read my “About” page. I think it’ll help you to get to know me better and maybe even come back for more.

For now, that’s all the Fat Lady has sung. Till next time.

Edna