Driving down Art Avenue

“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.” One of my art professors used to say this to me all the time and obviously it stuck with me. I am two months into my daily commitment to making art and it’s time to think about where I have been and where I am going.

My intent, as opposed to my resolution, for 2011 was to make art every day. Big Art, Little Art, it doesn’t matter as long as I am doing something towards my goal. I will be honest, some days are better than others. Right now I have an abundance of energy for art making and am spending long hours in the studio.  My aching shoulder can attest to this! There are days though when it is a struggle to muster the necessary energy to do even the Littlest Art.

I celebrate the days when I am going full throttle but want to give some attention to the low energy days. What small thing can I do towards achieving my goal? How can I spend even a few minutes on art making? Breaking the art making down into small manageable tasks seems to make a difference. Maybe I can’t start a whole new batch of work, but I can do one small task towards completing the last one. Cleaning up the studio counts as Little Art, so does adding a new blog post. Walking around an art store, working a little on my Etsy site, taking a few photos-everything counts.

Energy naturally fluctuates and the demands of the day can make it hard to channel it towards art making. I am tired after a long day at work and don’t always feel like putting in a few hours in the studio. So I flip through a book, look at a website, gather ideas, straighten up the studio-anything to keep me on the road I have chosen. I know where I am going and I know which road will take me there.


Working hard or hardly working?

Dominoes in progress

I have been a little distracted lately. The love bug has bitten me hard and I suddenly have a very active social life. It has stirred up some old feelings about not doing enough. When I look at the situation with clear eyes though, I am actually still getting quite a lot done. What is the guilt about not doing enough, especially related to art making?

I am busy with domino making and painting silk scarves, so why do I feel like I am hardly working? I will admit it, I get bored easily. This  is why my life is filled with a wide variety of activities and commitments. I like to keep busy. Rather than tiring me out, having lots to do actually energizes me. Yet, it never feels like I am doing enough. Looking around the studio, I see at least four projects in progress. I am making a batch of sock monkeys for my cousin, working on about 80 dominoes, setting up my Etsy site, and always working in my altered books. When will it feel like enough?

I must come to some peace with the fact that whatever I do is more than enough. This feeling of not doing enough is my own internal construct that has no basis in reality. It is so easy to fall into the guilt trap around art making, perhaps because it is often the first thing to go when life gets too busy. I am not going to let this feeling trip me up. I am working hard.

The work of art

Vocational arts display at the Statehouse

I lead a double life as an artist. I have my “work art” and my “art art.” Let me tell you a bit about the “work art.” As an art therapist in a rehab program, I run a vocational arts program. Now this might seem like a contradiction to some. As an art therapist, my role is to encourage the free expression of thought and emotion via the art materials. As a vocational arts coach, my role is to teach people how to make specific salable items using particular materials. I may very well work with someone in an art therapy group in the morning  and work with that same person in the vocational arts program in the afternoon.

There is no doubt in my mind that the artwork done as part of the vocational arts program is expressive and that creating it is therapeutic. But this is a very different ball of wax from art therapy and I am not going to tackle the topic of the goals of art therapy today. The goals of the vocational arts program differ in some significant ways from the art therapy program. In the vocational art program, clients are taught how to use particular materials and employ craftsmanship and design skills. They are involved in every aspect of the business, from working events to ordering materials. They are paid for all of their efforts. The program aims to develop strong vocational skills to prepare clients for their return to the community. They learn to plan their work time, complete tasks, keep an orderly work space, interact effectively with their co-workers, and engage with the public.

There are two main benefits to this program. One is that people working in the program have fun. Yes, fun. We enjoy our work and enjoy each other. The other is that the clients learn transferable skills. I don’t expect that many of them will set up their own crafting business upon discharge from the hospital. But the skills they learn in this program apply to any type of work situation. The work group has grown close, a rarity in the hospital environment. They support and encourage each other and ooh and ahh over each others’ work. Some clients work alone on their items and some work closely with me to create their pieces. As long as it stays fun, we will keep on with the “work” of art.

Oh Domino!


It’s official. I am obsessed with making domino pins. I just bought a huge box of Mexican Train dominoes and am heading out to pick up some alcohol inks. These dominoes are slightly wider and thinner than regular dominoes. I also saw some curved dominoes for a game called Bendomino and these could well be my next adventure.

I think this qualifies as an addiction. I can’t stop thinking about it and how I will get more of it. I  spend all of my free time doing it. I have never used alcohol inks before but I am already in love with their potential. They practically melt into the surface of the domino and create a wonderful marbled effect.

Despite my earlier hesitation about selling my work, I am going to move forward with opening an Etsy shop.  I have already saturated the local market of friends and co-workers and I have so many pins to sell! Making them is  still fun and making money off of it is pretty fun too, so I am going to pursue online sales.

I love the feeling of being passionate about an art project. It energizes and focuses me. There is no question of what art I will make today-I must hurry home and work on dominoes!  What is your current passion? What does it take for you to become engrossed in an art project? How does it feed your spirit (and possibly your wallet)? I am interested in hearing from others about what you are working on and/or what the obstacles are to becoming fully involved in a project. Warm wishes as you pursue your passion!

Finding the beauty

I am in awe. Looking out my studio window I see a one story tall icicle hanging from my neighbor’s house. She asked me over the weekend to help her knock it down but the only real solution we came up with was to throw something at it. Our aim isn’t that great, so we decided to let it be. Looking past the icicle I see huge piles of dirty snow that extend into the street, narrowing the already slim passageway.

It’s easy to look around the spectacular sight of this icicle and see the mounds of snow and think of what a hassle this next snow storm is going to be. I live in an area that has been hammered by the winter weather and people here are getting weary of it. I know I am.  But I am also keenly aware that I am too bogged down in the practical tasks the snow entails to see the beauty of it. How will I get to work? Do I have enough gas in the car? Don’t forget to take a shovel to work, they always plow us in. Who will shovel the driveway? Where the heck are we even going to put more snow? I need new boots and I hate my coat and I am tired of wearing all these layers. Arrgh. I can’t see the forest for the trees.

But what about this? The sight of that massive icicle. The muffling effect that the snow has on everyday noise. Bird nests now visible in the bare trees.  The bright yellow and blue of my deck chairs just barely poking through the stark white. The wonder of snow piled as tall as a house. Fields laid to rest for the  winter and now covered with a perfect blanket of snow as far as the eye can see. The barely audible sound of snow falling.

I am going to try to see the snow through the eyes of a child, for they can see the wonder in all of this without all the worries of an adult. Yes, it is all a tremendous pain-but it is also spectacularly beautiful and I commit to training my eyes on the beauty.

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