Saturday, December 28, 2013

Year End Review #7 or Life is beautiful

I hope you all had a Happy Holiday and I hope your New Year will be bright and full of promise. It's that time again, time for my art year end review. I just realized this will be my seventh year end review! For seven years now, I have written about art almost every Friday. I am so grateful that I started this practice as it has absolutely transformed my life in almost every way imaginable and has been a trusted constant in this life of twists, turns, fits and starts. I am grateful to you if you have been reading along for all these years or if you just discovered my blog today. Thanks for tuning in. Okay, let's get to it. What happened in 2013...

January 2013 found me with a much needed temporary cubicle job:

"So, here I am trying to be a square peg in a round hole of society at work dreaming "if I could sell just my hourly rate of pay times my hours in art each week routinely and sometimes more so I could quit the job." Thinking, "I just need to get back in the right galleries, get a studio out of my house again, or just leave the region and go wherever so that I can do what I need to do to live my life how it is meant to be lived." I have already made so many choices to make my living affordable and my life as an artist manageable but yet in this economy it wasn't enough and now I have this job. "It's only temporary I say to myself. It won't last forever. Just a little while longer." 

Stewart returned to Arkansas for his 4th visit in January 2013. Excitedly my funded project to return to Scotland also started to take shape:

"I bought my plane tickets to Scotland this week as I will be going there in mid March through mid September to work on a series of new works for the my ghosts of the past exposed project funded through USA Projects. I am very excited about it however, buying plane tickets still makes me incredibly nervous. I don't know if spending large amounts of money or the act of air travel will ever come easy for me, but I am glad to have the first step in the process of my project completed! In other big and exciting news Stewart Bremner arrived in Arkansas this week!"

After a miserable time of constant sickness related to my work environment, I gave my notice to my job and had these thoughts...

"I am an artist. I have dreams and ideas and these things have to be expressed and when they are not it builds up in my heart and soul and creates a very uncomfortable situation. To be an artist is more important than money or success it is a need like breathing and like the beating of my heart. This is serious business and I can't ignore it or pretend it can ever be compartmentalized or made to fit societies rules and regulations."

Once free of my job and with my project and departure date to Scotland fast approaching, I turned to my research in preparation. It was an exciting and obsessive time and continued through out the year. My thoughts at the beginning of the process...

"The people I have learned about have been the persecuted and the persecutors in familial lines wrapping around each other. Ultimately at the beginning of all these stories there is a boat that takes these people from their homes to this new world that they will fight and die for, all so that I can exist years later to travel back to where they started and make art for their ghosts. If this is just the beginning I can't imagine what it will feel like once the actual work starts.This is an American story, this is a Southern story and this is an immigrant's story and one that belongs to most of us."

I also finished up some paintings during this time, enjoyed Stewart's visit, celebrated my 41st birthday and learned the sad news that my dear sister in law Julie's cancer was terminal. It felt like the wrong time to leave my family and I was worried about leaving my sweet old cat Evie behind for so long. However, it was apparent that the project must go on and as I dealt with sadness and nerves, I also tied up loose ends, made arrangements and said goodbye to my friends and family and got ready to be gone for what I thought would be six months. In mid March the adventure began... 

"After a crazy week of sad goodbyes, last minute errands, the last minute subletting of my house and of course last minute packing, I finally arrived in Edinburgh, Scotland on Thursday morning around sunrise after being on three different planes and traveling over 4,000 miles. The trip was smooth, all flights were early, airports easily managed and the weather clear. The last flight was a bit more bumpy in spots than I enjoy but ultimately it was fine.

The taxi from the airport sped along the cobbled streets taking a rather circuitous route due to the ever lasting tram works that Edinburgh has apparently been experiencing for years. As we made our way home, the city felt familiar to me almost as if I hadn't left it at all."

Once in Edinburgh, I enjoyed getting settled in with Stewart at his flat, coming to terms with jet lag and the scope of the project that lay before me. It was an exciting time full of possibilities. Could I pull it all off? Could I do what I intended and how would the project change as I did, as I slipped from just being a tourist to feeling more like I was living in a second home, one full of cultural opportunities, with lovely friends and new acquaintances to meet and so many new things to see and discover. What an exciting time, everything was before me thanks to all the donors to my project. I had been given an outrageous gift of time and exploration, it felt like magic.

"It is amazing at times when I find myself far from Stewart's flat, alone in the bustling city walking to meet a friend or stopping on a bridge to take a photograph or just realizing that I am in fact in Scotland. I never thought this could ever be my life. I mean we are talking about someone who was afraid to drive a couple of miles to the Northwest Arkansas Mall and go shopping alone just a few years ago..."

After four weeks in Edinburgh, In mid April I signed a lease on a studio so that I could get started on my project. It was a brilliant moment in time. 

 "My studio has two south facing windows filled with an amazing view of Arthur's Seat. The complex has 200 artists working there and 3 galleries, a lending library and a swap shop. It is my kind of place. We walked home from the space so I could familiarize myself with the walking route, I think I floated home. I smiled the whole time and there were even a few tears. I have been heartbroken ever since I lost my studio space a year and a half ago and have found it terribly hard to work and focus on the bigger picture. Having a studio is like having a home for my dreams and a place to put them into action. I have felt homeless without a studio environment. Knowing now that I have this space to work and dream in is like having a missing puzzle piece found and locked into position and now I am whole again. I am really excited and again so grateful for this opportunity."

Also in April it was confirmed that Stewart Bremner and I would be having a two person show in Greater Manchester, England.  I was so excited to have this additional opportunity to show my newest project based works.

"This week was very exciting in the art front! I am thrilled to report that we just received confirmation from the director and curator of Cross Street Arts that Stewart Bremner and I will be having a two person exhibition in Manchester, England in mid May! This is a huge and wonderful opportunity for us both and we are very grateful for it. I have pretty clear vision of what I want to do, I will just have to see if I can pull it off..."

Besides painting and enjoying my new favorite pub The Tourmalet I was also walking many miles each week and enjoying exploring the city often by bus. I was going to two yoga classes in Edinburgh and really getting such benefit from not only the classes but just the act of getting myself there as evidenced by this passage.

"I like taking the bus to and from one of the yoga classes I am signed up for. I don't listen to music or read a book or anything. I just sit and look out the window, breathe and watch my thoughts go by. I look out at the people walking, I look at the statues and ornate buildings. I look at the castle and the church yard. I look at the people getting on and off the bus. I just sit and observe and usually I feel myself fill with gratitude. I am far from home and I am alone on a bus. I am on my way to or from a yoga class full of strangers at a place I have never been until recently. I don't know the names of the streets as they pass. I am not scared, I am not agitated, I am not concerned. I am just sitting on the bus watching this beautiful world pass and being part of it at the same time. This is my greatest accomplishment."

May was a sad month as my sister in law Julie died the day before I got the keys to my studio at the Arts Complex. It was hard to be away from my brother Ben and my nieces Emily and Elena as well as the rest of my family. I tried to honor Julie's life by saying yes to all opportunities that came my way in Edinburgh. Julie said yes to life more often than not and I wanted to do the same even though it is not always my natural inclination. So while it was a sad time it was also a thrilling time as I moved into my studio and got to the know the hill top view through my windows and begin the work I had come to Scotland to do.

"Things have been a bit fevered as I finish up a ten piece body of work for "Through time and distance"  opening a week from today in Manchester, England at Cross Street ArtsStewart and I are very excited about the exhibition and are pleased that we are able to be present at the reception and that we are giving an art talk the Saturday after the opening. I am looking forward to being on a train again! "

At the same time I had Stewart and I had work in an exhibition in Arkansas.

"Closer to my Arkansas home is an exciting exhibition opening tomorrow night at Boswell-Mourot Fine Art. Stewart and I will also have our works in this group show. If you are in and around Little Rock, Arkansas tomorrow night please make plans to attend."

The exhibition in Greater Manchester was a very memorable moment in 2013.

"The crowd on opening night was phenomenal, with an easy and gentle start to a sudden packed house. The folks in attendance were lovely, making sure to come up and introduce themselves and talk to us about our works. We had the old and young, a collection of artists, hipsters and even some movers and shakers from the Manchester and surrounding art worlds. Everyone seemed interested in the work and in us and we had great and involved conversations. It felt so perfect and I think I smiled all night long. Everyone was so genuine and so appreciative of the work and of us being there in their town. I honestly don't think the opening could have gone any better or been more enjoyable."

After the burst of preparing for the England exhibition, there was a lull, time to reflect on what I had been given.

"This time here is such a gift. I get to try on a city for a while, try on new habits, new friendships, basically a new life. I don't have a phone, a car or a clothes dryer. I have about a drawers worth of clothes and few possessions to call my own and I like this. I have been given permission to live this life for 6 months, make art and tell the world about my experience. It is such a rare treat. Sometimes I am overwhelmed by what a gift this is and so unbelievably happy that this is currently my life. Sometimes, I am just sad to know that it will end in September. This is a one off experience and because of this it is so important for me to stay in the now and enjoy each moment."

After working on the first ten large pieces for the exhibition in England, I turned my attention to creating thirty-nine smaller Etsy pieces and participated in an Art Market with Stewart while also taking time to enjoy the city, walking on trails, going to yoga and refueling before returning my attention to my project.

"It is obvious I am feeling at home here. I have sat on the sidewalk in a back alley and read a magazine. I have sat upstairs on the bus by myself. I have walked home alone with a gentle buzz from an lunchtime beer and walked at the speed of the locals. I don't want to leave. I have created a nice little life here and made some brilliant friends and am getting to know them better all the time. I like who I am here and am getting to know myself better all the time too."

I then turned my attention to my project rewards perks for all the lovely patrons of my project who opted in for such a reward. I enjoyed designing and typing up letters, selecting photos to have printed for them, writing postcards, and painting twenty-four small works. It was a very productive time and yet also tinged with sadness as I learned that my sweet old kitty Evie had died in Arkansas. Soon afterwards there was a trip to the Highlands to mend and stir my soul.

"Monday's visit to the Highlands was amazing and really that word is too quaint to describe it. The mountains told me secrets and let me see the art that will be in my future without even trying. The mountains showed me the work and presented it plainly as something that could be accomplished with ease and I believe them. From a glass windowed bus I listened as they spoke and my camera did it's best to capture a 10th of their magic."

I was falling in love with Scotland more than I thought I could. Whether in the city at a chippy or in the Highlands or out for a day trip to the beach or to a friend's house, it was all so damn gorgeous to me.

"My memory of the day is a swirl of the following: the perfect light, flowing fields, a new garden stocked with sprouting veggies, flowers, big skies, clean air, white laundry on the line blowing in the wind. All of this creating a beautiful picture of rustic bliss in the Scottish Countryside. Wild and free yet with it's own distinct brand of domesticity; I could have stayed there forever..."

Time seemed to speed up somewhere in July and I tried to stay in the now and keep my eye on the prize and complete my project. I was able to participate in a beautifully curated group show at the Art's Complex and showed two of my large pieces.

"I will start with this. I am so proud to be part of an amazing group of accomplished and talented artists from the Art's complex. The Art's Complex Summer Show is one of the most impressive and well put together group shows I have had the privilege to participate in. Congratulations to all the artists and organizers of the show. I am so pleased that two of the works I created in my studio at the Arts Complex are in this beautiful exhibition. The three massive galleries are spacious, light filled and grand. Just a lovely place for showing work. All the work looked great in the space and had plenty of room to breathe. I was impressed with everything I saw there- such a strong, powerful and varied exhibition."

And then it happened, I secured a gorgeous light filled space to have my solo exhibition for my Ghosts of the Past Exposed series of works and I created another ten pieces for a total of twenty works. I had pulled it off, my project was almost complete and thanks to the kindness of so many I was able to accomplish what I had come to Scotland to do.

"In other exciting news, I have confirmed my solo exhibition at the Abbey Mount Centre in Edinburgh. The exhibition of my Ghosts of the past series will open on August 15th from 6-8pm. It is free and open to the public. I hope the good folks of Edinburgh will make plans to attend. The exhibition will also be open on the following three Saturdays in August after the reception from 2-4pm and I will be present to talk and discuss my work. Come say hello!"

I was impossibility busy at this time. All the while I was painting, I was still researching and trying to learn more about my family. I was in touch with distant cousins who were so kind to send me information that they had on the family. I was also able to take another research trip to the Highlands. What a heady time.

"The week started with a very full-tilt painting session on Tuesday and then an overwhelmingly beautiful trip to the Highlands on Wednesday and again today I have been painting in the studio. Racing towards the deadline of my solo exhibition on August 15th at the Abbey Mount Centre in Edinburgh and I am still exhausted from the beautiful highlands and thanking my lucky stars for it all."

Opening night arrived. The culmination of 6 months of hard work and adventure.

"Last night was the opening of my ghosts of the past exposed exhibition at the Abbey Mount Centre in Edinburgh. It was a lovely evening full of smiling faces and delightful stories and conversations. It was an honor to share my work of the last 6 months with my lovely friends and patrons in Edinburgh.The work fits the space well and I feel really good about the show."

After my show was up, I started moving out of my studio and forced myself to declare that I was on holiday for the remaining weeks in Edinburgh. I saw the sites with Stewart, enjoyed the festival and connecting with friends and taking stock of what I had just done. It was a lovely time.

"Thursday, the Haar came to visit. Haar is the Scottish word for fog or sea mist that comes in and blankets the city. It was so beautiful, so we went to Holyrood park and up into the hills shrouded in the mist. It was spectacular, just when I thought I couldn't love this city more, I do. One of the most beautiful walks I have ever taken. Just breathtaking.

And that leaves today, which was another winner- after a productive morning of cleaning the flat and organizing receipts and papers, we had a fantastic night. We walked through the fringe madness to get our tickets at the box office for this evening's performance of "Whatever gets you through the night." Then we grabbed a take away curry from the Mosque Kitchen and ate it in the park. Afterwards we headed on over to the venue, The Queen's Hall and found our seats and were treated to a brilliant award winning theatre performance that combined stunning visuals, live music and great acting that made me laugh, cry and feel very much more aliveAfterwards we walked home through the city in the warm night air, stopping for ice cream and ended the night at the Tourmalet, where all is golden and where we were greeted by the smiling faces of our favorite bartendresses yet again."

I tried to stay in the now as I knew my time was winding down and it was hard. I felt fundamentally changed and so grateful for everything.

"I love it here. I love who I am here. I love what I can do and see here. I love how I am understood and supported here. I love how the wind feels on my face here and the colors in the shrubs and the sky. I love the women's voices as they talk on the bus. I love the "Hiya!" from the bartendress when I walk into the Tourmalet to get a drink. I love the stacked and layered buildings, the cobbles and knowing that the sea is near."

I took the most beautiful walk of my life in Scotland and that seems worth noting.

"We took the best 16 mile walk ever. We walked along fields and beaches from Longniddry to North Berwick, Scotland. I took a lot of pictures of this gorgeous day, all inspiration for the work I hope to make in the fall for my Etsy shop. I loved the colors in this walk and the feeling. I am so glad we did this walk as I needed to clear my head- that part didn't exactly work but it was still so beautiful and it was so great to spend such quality time with Stewart in nature. Breathtaking. After my work has been so family based I am flirting with a nature based series and this walk really did provide so much material and inspiration..."

I saw friends, visited all the essential places and celebrated Stewart's 40th birthday. Soon I would be leaving but thanks to Stewart's friend James there was time for one more adventure/research trip. One more Campbell Castle and beautiful place to visit.

"The Campbell castle was amazing, the waterfalls and lush gorges were perfect and the hill tops and views and sitting in the sunshine was all fantastic. I will hold this day in my heart for a long time and again it will serve as inspiration for my work this autumn."

Six months was up...

"I mostly packed, cried and waited. I also shipped my 19 paintings back to the states and afterwards we went to the Tourmalet for a farewell coke and some onion rings where I was just too sad and cried on the bartendress Angie's shoulder and left without saying goodbye because I was too choked up to speak. 

It was very hard to say goodbye to Stewart and to Scotland. I just had to keep moving, one step in front of the other and turn the corner and then just jump into the system of travel and stay in the now."

I arrived in Atlanta, Georgia to spend eight weeks with my brother Ben and visit with my nieces Emily and Elena and the art exhibitions continued.

"I want to let you know about a special group exhibition called Abstact ARt that opens tonight, Friday September 13th from 5-8pm at the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies. I am thrilled to be part of this group of accomplished Arkansas abstract artists. The group includes artists Dustyn Bork, myself, Donnie Copeland, Don Lee, Jill Storthz, and Steven Wise." 

The two months in Atlanta were a good way to ease back into being in the states and it was good to be around my family. I also got to meet my Mom's friends from back in day who were both supporters of my project. I also had the time with Stewart's help to get some archival prints based on my ghost series made for my Etsy shop, have new business cards designed and update my website. I also started a series of small abstract landscapes inspiring by my time in Scotland during this time.There was more family research and my brother Sean came to visit as well.

"I am also thankful for this time in Atlanta. It has been wonderful to have this contemplative visit and to have some of my basic needs also provided for me by my brother Ben. This visit has also allowed me to get to know my nieces and oldest brother even better and in a different way. I am grateful for my family."

I then hitched a ride with an artist back to Arkansas.

"I must start off this post with a huge thank you to my dear friend and fellow artist Craig Colorusso for letting me hitch a ride on the way back home from his southern leg of a Sun Boxes/Cubemusic tour. Artists helping artists is what it is all about and I am thankful to have such a friend."

Once back home in Arkansas, I holed up and tried to figure out what to do and how to survive here again. It was a tricky time if I am honest. I had been away from home for 8 months, I was broke and didn't know where I really fit in. I turned to organizing things, trying to lower all my monthly bills and live even more frugally if that was possible. I also turned to art and created 37 new small works for holiday gift giving in my Etsy shop. I visited with friends and family and settled into my little life here in Fayetteville. Then, I got an early Christmas present. Stewart Bremner was coming for the holidays! We hadn't seen each other in 3 months! I was delighted.

Stewart arrived and we decorated the house and had a lovely time. Not only is Stewart a brilliant graphic designer and artist but he can make a mean paper snowflake!

So that has been my 2013. I created one hundred and twenty-five new pieces of art, a line of archival prints, I kept 2 blogs for the majority of year (one being project based for subscribers), had new business cards created, website redesigned (Thanks Stewart for your brilliance with the prints, cards and site). Thanks to my successfully funded project and my supporters and patrons I had a studio in Scotland for 4 months while I lived there for 6. I was in 2 solo exhibitions in the UK and was in 5 group exhibitions in 2013 as well. I also walked over 500 miles in Scotland and practiced hours of yoga. I enjoyed Atlanta and my family and learned a hell of a lot about myself in 2013. Thanks to everyone who has supported me this year. I couldn't have done this without you. 

This year sounds like it was amazing but it wasn't always easy and at the end of 2013 death visited again and this time took my dear friend Craig Earl Nelson, a brilliant photographer and a treasured and unique soul. Craig your art will live on and your kind heart and wonderful laugh and voice will not be forgotten. I am so grateful we crossed paths.

In closing from a previous post...

"Everything is a journey and process. Life is mysterious and very messy. The years that have been filled with bravery and adventure can be the same years that are filled with poverty and loss. Creativity can flourish while social circles dwindle and during the worst depression the biggest recovery can also occur. Just when one thinks everything is falling apart something miraculous might also happen. This artist's life is a roller coaster, a feast and famine, at once celebrated by patrons and peers or left lost and alone. And I wouldn't trade it for anything."

With love and gratitude, 


Friday, December 20, 2013

Sparkle, sparkle

It's beginning to look a lot like the holidays are here...
Busy, busy!!! The lovely Stewart Bremner arrived last Friday night and we have been enjoying each other's company and going out and about exploring the town some. I have also been shipping out last minute orders and meeting with patrons shopping for last minute gifts as well.

The Christmas tree is up and there are snowflakes hung in the window and we are settling in for a lovely holiday. I hope you are too.

There is still time to get your order in at my Etsy shop for the holidays or if you are local to Northwest Arkansas you can always make arrangements to come by my studio to look at my available small works for those on your list. Also if you know someone enjoys my work but you aren't sure which piece to choose, my shop also takes Etsy gift cards so you can't make a mistake!

More soon! Wishing you and yours a very merry season.



Friday, December 13, 2013

Lucky Friday the 13th

Stewart Bremner arrives today and I can't wait to see his face! This has been a long 3 months! While waiting for him to arrive I have just been busy painting and working on some projects and tidying up my house. There are always a lot of projects that suddenly need finishing before the end of the new year. This year has just flown by, probably since 8 months of it were spent away. I am amazed that this year Stewart and will have been able to have spent 8 months and 3 weeks together this calendar year. Being artists of a certain income and lifestyle that seems nothing short of a miracle and of course my funded project was a huge part of my ability to pull this all off. I will be forever grateful for the gifts and support I have been given this year.

Thanks for stopping by! Now, I better get this house cleaned up, stop making art for a minute and get ready to go pick up Stewart from the airport! Yay!

While I do that, please visit my Etsy shop and buy some art.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Say it with art...

orders ready to ship


Thanks for joining me again. I can't believe it is already the first Friday of December! I have been very busy making new works and keeping up with my Etsy shop, facebook, twitter and email promotions and getting new orders filled and out the door. The sales have been so lovely and much needed. Thanks to those of you who have purchased something of mine recently. It has been such a boost to me mentally as well as financially. I love hearing from people during and after the transaction as well. Making art is a lonely job but sharing it with you all makes it just wonderful.

Besides making new pieces, selling them and just getting things organized around the house and getting back to my "normal" life in Fayetteville, I am very excited that Stewart Bremner will be coming to visit me soon for three weeks! He arrives next Friday! We have been a part for 3 months so this will be quite wonderful. You never know we might make some art, have a little meet and greet reception at the house or just hide away. It will be our first Christmas in the same place together. It is all very exciting. I wasn't really expecting that he would be able to visit so soon, so I really am thrilled.

The ground is all white and covered with snow and everything is feeling very wintery. I am so glad I got all those orders posted when I did. Rest assured there is still plenty of time to get your holiday orders in so that I can get them shipped in time for you. Please don't delay and give the gift that not only helps me survive and continue on this path but also shows your very special one exactly how special they are. This year, say it with art.

Until next time, play some holiday songs, make some potato soup, drink too much tea and smile, knowing you are alive.



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