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Showing posts from December, 2011

Kuumba (Creativity)

Today, the sixth day of Kwanzaa, is dedicated to the principle of Kuumba (Creativity).  This is one of the most important of the seven principles to my daily practice and life generally.  Some of my earliest memories involve creativity.  I remember when I was about five, making mud cakes and plaintain sandwiches with grass trimmings with my little friend Joan behind our house in East Orange, NJ. I remember the first day of kindergarten being struck by a beautifully creative fall bulletin board of autumn leaves at school. Creativity has been a sustaining factor in my life since I can remember.  Recently, I joined a challenge to create something every day on a blog .  I have already been doing this but it will be very nice to be involved with a community of creative people as I work.  My creativity has typically touched every aspect of my life including hairstyles, cooking (though I plan to leave the vegetable dessert pies alone), exercising (love to belly da

Creative Inspirations

After a recent interview on, that asked me about the origins of my creative expression, I started to think more deeply about the question posed.  What drove me to want to be an artist?  The question is simple yet the answer is more complex than I can articulate.  To start, I grew up in a creative household within a truly inspirational natural environment.  My mother loved art and was quite creative as was my father.  The two had their own craft store called M & R Handcrafts.  They made and sold ceramic plaques and sculptures and other crafts including decoupage and repose. Their most popular lines dealt with astrology—the Aztec calendar and the zodiac.  I spent many hours with them, working in a log cabin, painting these plaques along with my brothers and sister.  There was a fireplace to keep the space warm and a kerosene stove and knotty pine paneling.  We had the pre-requisite stuffed deer head over the fireplace and a mounted trophy big mouth bass in this homey s


Today I’ve lit two red candles, for the blood of our people in honor of the two Nguzo Sabo considered so far.  Today’s red candle is for Kujichagalia or self –determination.  In many aspects of my life I have instilled and considered self-determination, especially during this past year. I visited self-determination during my extensive job search.  As all of you know, this is no kind of economy to be on a job search but eventually with some intense perseverance I did find a few jobs. The first job really stretched me.  It was with an internet up Start-up Company.  My job was to help build a metasearch engine, specifically related to the topic of health.  I was stretched at this job because it did not feed my artistic self.  Working 40 hours per week,  I found myself too tired to draw or write when I was off from work and relatively obsessed with ways to integrate artmaking and writing back in my life when I was at work.  It was comforting that many people working with me were also w


Today is the first day of Kwanzaa.  I like this celebration a lot because it is cultural, family and community orientated.  There are the seven principles to revisit and consider each year, since each year their significance and meaning can deepen or vary.  Today that principle is unity or Umoja.  Our son works for an organization called Umoja, which helps underserved urban youth, so it is a word and concept with which we are quite familiar. Dr. Maulana Karenga, a professor in California and founder of Kwanzaa speaks this year about well-being and right-being of and in this world.  The seven principles, or Nguzo Saba, in Swahili are focused this year around the message to walk gently, act justly and relate rightly in and for the world.  Umoja addresses our desire to maintain a sense of oneness, and togetherness in all of the circles of our lives—in family, friendship, community, the world and the universe.  Dr. Karenga urges us to consider principled and peaceful togetherness, cent

An Artful Christmas

In the week since I have been away from the computer, I have had time to observe the beauty of the changing of the seasons and celebrate Yule.  Next I set out to create an artful Christmas.  By artful, I mean packing the holiday with as many artistic pleasures as possible.  There is so much artifice today in Christmas that I figured art could counteract. Christmas songs from the 30s until today are quickly becoming the exclusive domain of television and radio commercials.  I tried listening to some "Christmas" music on Pandora and had to stop short because it reminded me of a tacky Old Navy commercial. So, what to do to keep the spirits bright?  First of all, I've watched less television and instead started listening to incense.  I've been listening to a pine blend to see where it takes me and what it has to say to my soul.  It seems to want to take me to a mythical and mystical outdoor wonderland, filled with all sorts of whimsical creatures, trees and mystery-fill

By Hand

I remember when I was at Tyler (School of Art), the big discussion in painting was still the effects that photography had on art.   That was a long time ago; the era before computers, long before digital art was even a consideration.   Computers have touched so many intimate aspects of our life, most of all the way we use our hands.   Last night I sat down to write out some Christmas cards.   The card writing was the most handwritten letter work that I have done all year.   I send so many emails each day but only a handful of hand written cards each year.   I remember when I made and sold handmade greeting cards in the 90s, they sold like hotcakes because email hadn’t caught on and people were still writing things by hand.   Now in the 2000s the cards languish in the boxes I put them in, waiting to be held or touched. I don’t mind at all though because whether they sell or not I’ve created them and I can use them to share with my friends.   The people who buy them tend to be of a ce

Christmas Feelings

Christmas shopping can leave you feeling warm or cold, anxious, boxed-in, eager, small, excited, curious, angry, sullen, empty, broke, infuriated, surprised, inflated, humbled, sorry, bland, informed, torn, confused, apathetic, charmed, depressed or even happy.   Every year it creeps up on you.   I expect to keep things simple and then like something stored up in a dark moist place it mushrooms until it is almost out of control.   I don’t think this has to do with the other people in my life.   I think its complexity builds and churns in my head until I’m left beaten and whirled like some kind of human batch of butter. The surprises are always nice.   I get so many different emails all year and one of them is called Found it.   Loved it!   They are supposed to be surprising finds you can look for on the internet. I decided to look at it for once, since I usually admittedly delete them and found this wonderful site .   It is all about the artful drinking and preparat

Parkway Garden

This diptych is a large oil on paper called, “Parkway Garden.”   It was done during the fall in plein air during several outdoor painting sessions in my front yard.   Then I took the panels into my studio and finished the painting, looking down on the garden.   That was done in my old studio which had a nice bay of windows that overlooked the gardens and street.   It was a square-shaped studio which I don't think is so good for creative flow. Now my studio is very rectangular and more in the middle of the house, upstairs and still has lots of windows that provide beautiful natural light.   It is under construction, which feels weird.   I like the consistency of having my studio relatively unchanged and everything in the same spot.   But that is the way I’ve worked for years and it is good to change things up.   I also think the rectangular shape helps the work flow better and there is much more room to expand my vision. Now, the studio has been completely dismantled so the ceili

When Craft Fairs Go Bad

For about five days, I’ve been sitting on uncomfortable feelings raised by the most recent craft fair I attended , which was last Saturday 12/10/11.   Usually the organizers will want you to become successful at their venue because that way we are happy and more willing to come back to support the fair next year, as well as recommending it to other artisans.   So, usually steps are taken to assure the success of the show, advertising, outreach, emails, and good signage and even how the artisans are placed.   This was a brand new fair in the city of Chicago’s north side at a place called Flourish Studios.   It was held in a spectacular store-like space that must have been 10,000 square foot on each floor.   The huge problems for the artisans is that customers would have to walk through a full store of other artists and artisans work on that first floor, find the stairs, walk up the stairs and then come into one of the two small rooms to see what we were offering for sale.   Who would

Simple Morning Rituals

Thankfully, I am up again and writing before the sun has risen.  This is a part of my morning ritual that I savor.  Writing can flow beautifully in the early hours of waking, especially if you set the mood for it. It is almost perfectly still and very quiet, except for the patter of rain this morning. It seems, if one were to really focus you can hear your heartbeat. I like to have something to drink, first something cold like water and then a nice cup of South American or African coffee or some sort of tea to start things off.  Before I even have my morning drink, I have to light my candles.  I have 5 votives in little glasses burning.  The patchouli one especially gives off a nice, musty, earthy scent, reminding me of Gaia, whereas the other two are sweeter and more vibrant, a part of the ascended master’s realm.  The trio is complimentary to one another and they warm the spirit and soul which also makes creativity flow.  I also stretch before writing, before I even get out of bed.

Mandala Artistic Statement

I started to seriously work the Mandala into my art in late August of 2011.  This painting is one foot square and it explores Wind Energy.  This is my Artistic Statement for this series: My paintings explore natural forms of energy and they employ Islamic patterns and Native American basketry designs which are digitally manipulated and layered starting with a foundation of acrylic skins.   Islamic patterns have many universal themes, while also embodying sacred geometry.   They offer the opportunity to engage with pure abstraction and are open-ended, lending themselves to various interpretations, yielding to the vision of the artist.   Native American basketry designs are powerful circular forms that also utilize patterns that speak to the human condition, life cycles, ceremony and ritual.   Bringing the two diverse iconic cultural expressions together imbues my work with transformative power.   I use the Mandala format because it is healing and soothing to me as an artist on the p

Sun Energy

Typically, I like to rise with the sun.   Today I wasn’t so lucky...ugh, it’s Monday!   Still, I generally work with sun magick and my daily activities revolve around the movements of the sun.   I love doing sun salutations in the morning and then painting in the studio using natural sun light.   In this Mandala called “Sun Energy” I utilized a lot of color theory to try to make a very vibrant painting--I wanted it to vibrate.   I see each of the background Islamic pattern flowers as little suns that give off tremendous healing energy.   I think of the early Egyptians because a large part of their ancient spirituality revolved around sun worship. Today is a day for them—the sun is shining this morning in an eye-piercingly bright manner.   While it is not warming up this cold Illinois weather (it is 29 degrees right now), its majestic presence is very warming to the soul.   I am practicing ways of bringing the sun’s warmth into the home.   I bought some patchouli, something called As

Promise of the Full Moon

I'm more of a sun person than a moon but I must admit I was very enriched by this month's full moon. Called many different things from Whirlpool Moon to Long Nights Moon, this full moon was particularly spectacular. I observed it carefully Friday night, driving to a Christmas party, and was mesmerized by its glowing and powerful presence. She called to me, “look this way,” “hear my messages,” “see me,” “feel my transformative power.” According to “Witches' Datebook 2011,” this Whirlpool Moon is a good time for communications, especially dispersing information and wisdom. It is a time for tidying this year's affairs and summarizing the happenings of 2011 especially if you are a part of a spiritual group but if you are solitary there are also many ways of to do the same thing. This year I have been searching out groups that are not online. Don't get my wrong, I love my online groups and am a member of about 53 Yahoo groups, numerous groups on, Paga

Reflections on Persephone's Landscape

A little over a year ago, when I attended last year's Illinois Art Education Association's annual conference, I purchased a sketchbook. The idea was to pass the sketchbook around to people in other states and countries to see what the sketchbook could become through collaboration. I fully intended to participate in the project but I did it a bit differently. I had not been too active in my studio in 2010 and thought the sketchbook would give me just the right kick in the butt to get working, without the pressure of producing something big. I decided to fill the sketchbook from cover to cover and to even create art on the covers. This image, "Persephone's Landscape" is a collage from the inside back cover of the little black sketchbook which measures about 5" x 8 1/2". I'd say I've worked in this particular sketchbook for at least six months straight and I've made about 40 images. I've worked some and reworked others while a few were cut

Size Does Matter

For a while, particularly while in graduate school at the University of California, San Diego, everything about my paintings seemed to have been larger than life. The works, you could walk with them, following their path down the wall to come to understand the piece. I used ladders and step stools and chairs to reach the top of the canvases to apply paint or often worked with the canvas flat on the ground. Tubes of paint where out, instead I used cans of various sizes, mostly pints and quarts. My brushes and palette were enormous and even my drawings took several sheets of 30 x 40 paper to be realized in the form of a diptych or triptych or I used rolls of paper. When I have had some health issues that were quite serious, of one type or another, my work diminished in size dramatically. As of late I’ve come to the belief that it is a good thing for the paintings to take up less and less physical space. Maybe reducing the size of my work is a personal way of lessening my footprint.

The Meeting of Writing and Art: Altered Books

Writing brings immense pleasure. It has been an important part of my life since high school when I got seriously involved with poetry. Writing a book is both challenging and pleasurable. It is a daily practice and it requires a great deal of energy and discipline. Typically, I try to write early in the morning, for at least a couple of hours, particularly when I am working on a book project or article. Seeing the finished product, all of your words, folded into the beautiful form of a book that is a precious gift. I love vintage books, first editions, antique hardcovers and finding signed copies of old books. As much as I enjoy creating a written book I also love to deconstruct them, in order to make altered book art. I first started working in that medium about 20 years ago; while teaching at the Art Institute, working with an old volume of faded-denim-blue Shakespeare books that I bought from the farmer’s market in New Jersey called Cow Town. The interior art in the altered boo

Where the Hell Did that Come From?

Ever wonder what is the true source of your creativity? Do you ever suspect that there are some spiritual underpinnings to your work that have little to do with you? Sometimes I feel as though I am channeling my ancestors when I create. My understanding of this over the years has deepened. Their voices still want to be heard so they come through in both my writing and my art. With ancestral inspiration there are moments of perfect clarity and flow; the art making takes little effort; it is almost automatic in the sense that clairvoyants use the word. I have also witnessed how my body, mind and spirit work as a conduit for spirits of various types to express in a visual format. These entities are most likely water spirits, but might also be fire spirits or earth spirits; conversely at times I am nudged in one direction or another by various Orisha, gods and goddesses. You can often see glimpses of them in the finished work. “In the Pink”, this collage featured today, is one of those p

Black Friday vs. Hearth, Home and the Studio

I use to like to buy things a lot when I was younger and I guess I still do but now it's mostly art or paper craft supplies. I didn't do any shopping on Black Friday or Cyber Monday. I don't think I've ever gone shopping on Black Friday, if memory serves correctly. I find that Black Friday is a better time for hearth, home and reflection on what I am thankful for. The thought of facing big crowds after Thanksgiving almost makes me physically sick. For years people have been suggesting that I get an online store on etsy. Finally, yesterday I opened one for my card line which is called Love Bird Designs. I figure, I've made about 175 cards since September and at that rate soon my studio will look like I'm a hoarder so I might as well get rid of some of these cards. I've been making Love Bird Designs since the late 80s but usually only to be given away for Christmas or Yule. I have found some new toys I like to use in the cardmaking over the past year. I adde

Pinecone Angel

Yesterday was a very good sale at the Oak Park Conservatory, in fact, it was the best one I have had this season. Oak Park Conservatory its a beautiful and spiritually cleansing space, filled with all types of plants. I love the tropical room and it is filled with birds, including my favorite, the African Grey. The conservatory has always been a big part of my life, since moving to Oak Park, and it has influenced both my writing and art. At the sale I sold art cards that are on this blog: "Throw Snowballs" "Dark Angel Noel" and "Angel Nouveau." I always feel ambivalent about selling my art. On the one hand it is flattering and it makes art making sustainable economically. On the other, I will really miss those pieces, holding them, looking at them, having them in my studio. I wonder how other artists and crafts people feel about selling their work? Do you ever feel ambivalent? One neat thing about selling at fairs is that it is an intimate transaction

A Pagan Retreat in Appalachia

It wasn't long ago that the furthest south I'd been was Maryland. Then about 11 years ago I met Jannette who lives in the Knoxville area of Tennessee. Jannette is a warm and sunny person who worked very hard with me as the editor for "Sticks, Stones, Roots and Bones" and more recently on "The Big Book of Soul." Yesterday, I was looking in an old sketch book with Nepalese handmade paper in it, when I discovered this lovely landscape of the sacred grounds at Cerren Ered in Cosby TN. Cerren Ered , a pagan community in Appalachia, is home to many pagan festivals, it holds a camp ground, magickally charged trees and natural formations, a bubbling brook that seems to want to speak to you, and for a touch of whimsy, the infamous castle. I went there at not such a good time in my life. What I found was a natural environment that has a strong spiritual energy, almost every where you walk and I made the nicest friends ever. I spent as much time as I could sky

Winter Pointsettia

I've been vibing off plants for quite a long time, really since I was a little girl living in the woods. Plants have such vibrant energy and can be spiritually as well as physically sustaining. Magickal herbalism engages the healing energy of plants and its ability to transform and enlighten. Way before I became involved in magickal herbalism I keyed into plants, transferring their subtle language into my paintings and drawings. This came into full bloom when I was at Tyler School of Art. Now, my house is brimming with such images, dones in sumi-e ink on handmade paper in the kitchen, oil on canvas in the living room and pastels in the dining room. Something about the pastel painting really melds well with depicting plant energy. "Winter Poinsettia" is a painting I did a few years back. I've never gotten poinsettias to live for longer than the holidays so I wanted to capture the power and stateliness of its bearing while I was living. This image is oil on board and

Angel Nouveau

Hmmm. Don't know what I actually think about angels, whether they exist or not. I like to think they do. I can imagine that they are not all cutesy and sweet like often depicted, rather, they are kind of dark and perhaps conflicted because of the duality in which they exist. Wings are curious things. We companion two winged creatures in our home, an African Grey named Zazu and a screeching Nanday Conure named Chache, that is very beautiful to look at. Some times they like to hang, upside down and just flutter their wings. Can't tell what that means; if they are itchy or need airing out or they are expressing some emotion or what. Maybe it's just fun. Perhaps our angels are ourselves from another dimension in space and time (in the multiverse) who are a little ahead of us with a better perspective on what is going on and what will happen. One of my bird friends is an excellent flyer. He is the little guy--the conure. The Grey seems like he is too fat too fly. He

Throw Snowballs

Yesterday I continued making art cards for the faire on Sunday. I enjoy this Shirley Templeesque little girl with her great shoes that remind me of some I might have worn and her gigantic snowball. Even in my art classes I've had the elementary children this week working with snow flakes and snowmen so I guess I have snow on my mind. I look forward to Yule, Christmas and Kwanzaa. Yule is such a great reflection time and it is very noncommercial. It is a time to pull in and get into your dreams and clear up interior clutter. I like the crossover between Yule and Christmas with the emphasis on evergreens and the notion of birth, only in my belief system it is the birth of Oak King and his triumph over the darkness brought on my Holly King. Kwanzaa is a time of family togetherness and community engagement, while delving into the meaning of the core Swahili concepts. I love gifting, making things and cooking during this season. I made vegetarian chili and pumpkin bread last night.