Friday, December 26, 2014

Happy Boxing (and Beading) Day!

Vintage Czech crystal beads, freshwater pearls, 
silver rosettes.
Season's Greetings, everyone--and Happy Boxing Day, aka as the day after Christmas, a holiday I grew to love while I was living in New Zealand and the UK. If anyone is confused about the term "boxing" let me assure you it has nothing to do with Queen's Rules and fisticuffs, but rather it's a traditional day to give a "box" of gifts or cash to the people who help us throughout the year, the people who make our lives that little bit easier. Think Downton's Abbey or Upstairs, Downstairs. Although we technically don't celebrate the day here in the US, it's still a great way to say "thank you" to co-workers, charities, or the service industries we rely upon.

For me, it's also a day off, one I'm using to play with my Christmas presents which this year were all about: beading! Tools, supplies, free rein at the bead store . . . I'm having more fun than a kid with a new coloring book. My interest in beads and bling began three years ago with the beading class I took from Continuing Ed. Before that I couldn't have told you the difference between an awl and a crimper, but now I've even got my own pair of diagonal wire cutters and I'm not afraid to use 'em. Watch out, craft shows.

Starting the minute I got my hands on my chain nose pliers, I got down to business. Shown here (above and below) are my first efforts of the day, necklaces I made in between serious holiday cake-eating and movie-watching. (My kind of hobby, I can tell you.)

Recycled: glass beads with gold accents.
More reasons I love beading:

  • Instant gratification. What a change from writing or drawing, LOL!
  • Good excuse for an artist's date: bead stores, hobby stores, thrift stores (yes, thrift stores--some of the best places on the planet to find vintage and unusual beads, pendants, and clasps).
  • New jewelry! For me, my friends--even for sale!
  • It's something I can do while watching TV or listening to the radio. I get antsy just sitting around.
  • It's a good way to experiment with color palettes and combinations for visual art work.
  • Working with my hands seems to help me think of character, plot, setting . . . all the necessaries for writing.
  • I could even add a few chosen pieces to my main character's wardrobe. How fun is that?
  • Designing the strands and placing the beads in various combinations on the bead board is ultra-calming and stress-reducing. It's so peaceful.
  • It's a great jump-starter for lagging imagination. Just like working with found poetry or pottery, each piece can be based on a randomly chosen theme or title.
  • It's a quick fill-in for the days when my energy levels are low yet I still want to do something fun and creative.
  • The possibilities are endless: so many beads. SO MANY BEADS! 
  • And when I get bored with a piece, I can cut the cord and start all over--recycling it into new designs and patterns. 

I think this is going to be a very restful and meditative hobby for the New Year, something I'm going to need with all my plans to start submitting manuscripts next month. Until then, though, I think it's time for another piece of cake. 

Tip of the Day: Is there some creative pursuit you've put on hold for a while, waiting for the "perfect" time to start? How about starting right now by making a list of dreams and intentions? Choose one item on the list--just one--and gather whatever supplies, books, or information you need to make your dream a reality. (Hint: is an excellent place to find free classes and demonstrations on just about any subject you have in mind.). Plan to start working on your new project on January 1, 2015 and make it a daily or weekly habit. Good luck, enjoy the season, and remember to think outside of the box!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Remembering Artist Gary R Sanchez

Morning Coffee; Oil Pastel and Watercolor Crayon on Gessoed Paper

I'm feeling sad today. Two nights ago I learned that one of my continuing ed. art teachers, Gary Sanchez, passed away suddenly on Thanksgiving from a heart attack. It's hard to believe--I was just about to choose which of his classes I was going to take next year. He was only 53. Kind, generous, and a remarkably gifted teacher; he will be sorely missed by so many.

I took both watercolor and oil pastel classes from Gary. Watercolor was not a new medium to me, but oil pastel certainly was. In fact, I wasn't even sure I would like it very much--I only took the class because I knew he was a good teacher and I thought I should expand my horizons. What I didn't expect is that I would enjoy oil pastel so much it would become one of my main drawing/painting mediums. 

The above painting was one of my first homework assignments in that same class. Looking at it now I'm reminded of the fun our class had together, and Gary was funny, constantly keeping us entertained. I realize now that was a great way to keep us relaxed and light: we would sketch while Gary chatted, worked on his own pictures, and somehow managed to walk around the room giving us individual pep talks all at the same time. I can still hear him using the terms "hot dog"and "hamburger" in place of "portrait" and "landscape" to describe which way we should turn our paper (the same way he described it for the children's classes he taught, which of course was the perfect way for me to learn), or reminding us that Van Gogh ate his paints--a demonstration of how passionate we should be about our materials! (Or hungry.) Gary's website is still up and I encourage you to visit while it's there:

Some of the reasons Gary helped me to love oil pastels include:
  • There are no limits: I can use my fingers to paint. I'm also a ceramic artist, and being able to use my hands and fingers as tools on the paper fits me to a T.
  • Oil pastel color is rich. The colors blend like butter.
  • You can use a wide variety of interesting backgrounds, from sand paper to canvas, so it never gets dull.
  • It's a fast medium with quick results--and I'm a very impatient artist.
  • Oil pastels are a good choice for creating sell-able, frame-able work. And who doesn't want to go professional one day?
  • You don't need a lot of excess "stuff" to work with oil pastel--especially if you paint with your fingers! But seriously, they are a minimalist's dream: a selection of colors, something to draw upon, a few paper towels.
  • And you don't need to break the bank to get started. Even a cheap set is good--much better than you'd think. Great for the budget-minded.
  • It's a a very expressive medium--you can draw straight from the heart, right away--no experience needed. Really.
  • It's also a very forgiving medium--if you don't like the results you can pretty much just scrape it away and start over. Better yet, you can look for "happy accidents" and work with those in new and creative ways. It all turns out fine.
  • Oil pastels can be used in so many different ways: on their own, in collage or mixed media, applied thick and strong, or thinned with either water or solvent for a "watercolor" look. The possibilities are endless.
Going over this list makes me want to get out my paper and Sennelier pastels (the terribly expensive ones!) and draw something special. I often think the very best way we can honor our teachers and mentors, past and present, is to never give up on our dreams, no matter what. I'm so glad I got to be one of Gary's students, and I'm so glad I let him know when I could how much I appreciated his art and teaching. May his legacy live on.

Tip of the Day: My art journals are full of Gary's advice and tips, but one of my favorites is from the first watercolor class I took from him. We were each given a picture of a sunflower to paint. When we were finished (and praised--Gary always made sure we got tons of positive feedback before he offered any other type of critique) he said, "Okay, now that you've painted one sunflower, don't stop. Never paint just one. Paint a hundred. Paint a thousand sunflowers. Become an expert!" It's good advice for any type of creative pursuit: e.g., don't just write one poem or screenplay, write a hundred, write a thousand! Become an expert--and never give up. See you next time.