Monday, January 28, 2013

Self-Compassion; It's Not Just for Breakfast Anymore

One thing that I have learned as a human being (and by that I mean artist/crafter, blogger, small group leader, wife, mother, friend, marketing manager, daughter, and every other little or big thing that I am or ever was) my soul is never still. It seems that I bounce from confidence to self-contempt - from absolute surety to absolute doubt - about a thousand times a day. It is a tenuous, albeit bouncy, place to exist.

As a task-oriented person, especially outside of the studio, I judge myself based on the outcome of actions. In other words, I am what I do. So, when things don't turn out as expected or if I have made a mistake, I am unkind to myself. The words and the shame that I pour on myself is nothing that I would ever say to another human being.

I do the same thing as an artist. I will work on a project and finding that my hands cannot make what I see in my head, I will indulge in several moments (okay hours) of self-recrimination. Even when I am proud of something I have done, there is always a little voice of doubt or criticism. For many years in my life, I have given myself over to this way of thinking, somehow equating the self-criticism as an atonement for mistakes or imperfection. I thought avoiding the internal lashing would make me perform better.

Turns out that's a crock...a crock I tell you!

Not only does my faith tell me that (and by the way grace can be lost in the foreground of self-recrimination), but now it turns out that science is reinforcing it. In the latter part of 2011, psychologists from the University of California, Berkeley found that self-compassion may be more healthy than trying to elevate self-esteem. It seems that "findings suggest that, somewhat paradoxically, taking an accepting approach to personal failure may make people more motivated to improve themselves." This idea is so staggering and counter-intuitive that a blogger for the Harvard Business Journal wrote that self-compassion actually makes people better workers and leaders than trying to trying to manage self esteem.

So what does this have to do with a blog primarily about mixed media, art and crafting? Simple. The critic in our heads is not really an effective tool if it tries to buck us up or beats us up. Self-compassion is actually a better gauge. It is the voice of honesty. It has a critical, editing eye. It motivates us to learn and grow.

So tell that mean voice to shut up. Don't listen when it tells you that your art is a waste of time or worthless. Instead listen to the voice that gently points out our mistakes and spurs us on to improve the next time. (And when you figure how to do that more often than not, be sure to let me know).

Monday, January 21, 2013

Here's to Adventures, No Matter How Small

Today was one of those cold, winter days where the sky is blue and the sunlight is perfect, the moments tick by without the sun seeming to move. Wispy clouds, leafless white birch tress, music and a friend in the seat beside me. The landscape is brown and straight out of an Andrew Wyeth painting, but it is home. There is beauty in familiar things, even if no one else, (especially my friend from Oregon) can see it. We were coming back from a small adventure.

Our retreat was at the Lake of the Ozarks which is a three hour drive from Kansas City. To get there, we had to go through a little town called Versailles. Of course this is Missouri so we pronounce it as Ver-sales (no hoitytoity French pronunciation for us, thank you). As we drove through the town square, I saw this painted on a wall and thought that I had somehow wandered into a Northern Exposure episode.

Not Northern Exposure but definitely interesting...
This part of Missouri is Amish/Mennonite country. It is not unusual to see a horse-drawn buggy next to cars and very large farm trucks.

We also took a detour through this tiny town to The Rustic Homestead off of Missouri Highway 52. It's a great little shop that features primitive art, quilts, and hand-carved furniture. And of course, tons of home decor items. Below are some photos of some items I love!

And now on to the next adventure, however small it may be...

Monday, January 14, 2013

My Love Affair with Alcohol

As a mixed media artist, I do like to try new things. It's always useful to add items to my repetroire. It takes a little courage and high tolerance for frustration when trying something new. There is always something useful, even in failure, to learn. In fact, failure is valuable teacher. I have tried and dismissed some techniques because I couldn't make them work for me. (I have some really sad projects hidden in a closet; maybe sometime I will show them to you).

But, there are some techniques that I seem to go back to. Things that I love and that really share my point of view as a player of paint. One of my old standbys is creating a distressed look from removing paint with rubbing alcohol. The process is simple, but can be smelly and messy.(Always do this technique in a well ventilated area).

What you will need:

91% isoprophyl alcohol (found just about anywhere) in a spray bottle
Lots of paper towels
Acrylic paint (two different colors)
Canvas surface
Brushes to apply paint


  • Apply the base color of the acrylic paint (I like to do two coats). Let it dry completely.
  • Apply a second color of acrylic paint on top of the first. Let it dry until it is tacky.
  • Spray the alcohol on the top coat of paint.
  • Wait about two minutes.
  • Using a paper towel and start dabbing off the paint. I also, sometimes, take a paper towel sheet and press it over the entire canvas with my hands. I wait for about 30 seconds and then pull the whole thing up.
  • Repeat the alcohol process until you have removed the top layer of paint from the surface in the places you want.

A couple of things to remember. First of all, don't over work any one spot or you risk removing the base coat too. (I have done this and it's really pretty, however it's always better when you mean to do it). But, most importantly, you can't mess this up. If you don't like it, just let the whole thing dry. Then paint over it and try again or enjoy the new texture under the paint.

Give it a try and feel free to share your work or comments here. Hopefully you'll fall in love with this technique.

Examples of different uses of alcohol distressing

Monday, January 7, 2013

Moving Tips Inspired by Top Chef

In the last three years, I have moved three times. Before 2013 is over, I will move at least one more time. So, I have learned a few tricks along the way. This one is inspired by watching Top Chef. I was watching the chefs pack up food for a challenge the next day and thought, why can’t I do this with my artwork?

Not only will you save valuable packing room by not putting towels or other fabric items into boxes, but they can work for you to protect your other times. The plastic wrap will not only protect your beautiful wall art, but by binding them together, you can move them as one item which will make moving them a bit easier. 
What you will need:
  • Fabric items that you are going to pack anyway (sheets, window treatments, towels, etc.)
  • One or two similarly sized artwork
  • Plastic wrap (one roll does a lot of art)
What you'll need to do:

Step 1: Take one of the pieces of artwork and put a folded pillowcase (see photo) on top of it
Step 2: Do the same thing with the other wall hanging.
Step 3: Now, put them together and make a “wall art sandwich.”
Step 4: Take the roll of plastic wrap out of the box and begin to wrap it around the sandwich. The first time around, do this loosely. On the subsequent times around, you can pull the plastic wrap a little tighter. 

 Make sure that you leave some overlap so that you can close the ends like a Christmas present.
And that’s it. Simple, cheap and satisfies everyone’s inner Martha Stewart.
My little helper