h...I went to school at California College of Arts & Crafts (CCAC) in the 90's - it still had Craft in the name and we were in a time that still felt more analog than digital. I loved my painting class with Mr. Morsberger, the smell of oil paint and turpentine, the high ceilings, the live models, it was magic. My photography teacher was the first person who shared what was coming, Photoshop would forever change the landscape of photography. But at the time you still had at to be an upperclassman to use a computer in Graphic Design (we were still doing layouts on the Xerox machine!) and Illustration meant characters, not art. I wanted more. I wanted my design to feel like art and my art to also be illustration worthy. There was not a place to feel at home for me...yet.
Now here I am, printing digital paintings out on matte photo paper, cutting and mounting them to wooden canvases, covering them in gel medium, holding them when I'm done, finally free from the iPad. I can't help but wonder, as I make this art, what would my teachers think? Would they call it art? Will people who buy it call it art?
We live in an unprecedented time of access. The gatekeepers are no longer as powerful. We can post and share and sell all without a gallery or a store. And so I wonder if the gatekeeper is in my head? the voices of teachers and a friend with an MFA who saw my art once and said "oh, that looks like what I do to warm up"...ouch. Who is to say that what we make is not art? I have used office supplies to make art. I have painted on canvas and wood and chipboard. I love them all. And right now, I love working with an Apple Pencil on an iPad. It has expanded my universe in the midst of work and kids and life, I can still create. And I love the work I am making. The only hitch was how to 'make it real' and tangible. Well, mounting it on wooden canvases is working pretty damn well and I'm about to upload new pieces to my shop on my own website that I created even though I don't know any code. I'd say this moment in time is a pretty wonderful place to be in the creative world and I am thankful for all of it.
I'm gonna go out on a limb and say it's real art.
The 13th of January
I started this post two years ago, in honor or my mama and how important January is in our family. This year I am feeling such a sense of ritual and circles coming round. I'm not sure yet but the plan is that I will close on my new house on January 12th. If I do close and I have my keys by the 13th of January it will feel so significant. In honor or my mom who fought dragons for me even as she was loosing her inner battles. In honor of my grandmother on my dad's side who made the most of a difficult path. She lost her mama when she was only 10 years old and raised her younger siblings as well as took care of the whole family from what would now be 5th grade onward. The very last thing she did before she died was stick her tongue out at my grandfather, then she went and sat in her favorite spot among all the family photos and peacefully left. I found a rocking chair on the side of the road in Petaluma recently. It needs some repair but I'm bringing it back to life and painting it. It will be on the front porch of the home I will own as a single mama. And in some way, it will say "welcome" to all who visit and to the women who paved this path for me. Who did not get to follow their heart in the ways they may have wanted to. This January 13th, whether I have the keys or not, I will be honoring my ancestors and saying "thank you" for all the magic and mystery of this one precious life.
What I wrote on 1/12/21:
Tomorrow is the 13th of January. The day my mother was born in 1949, the day my dad's mom, my nana, was born. The day that George Ivanovich Gurdjieff was born in 1866. My mom rarely celebrated her birthday because is was "The 13th" in The Work and she would be involved with celebrating Gurdjieff with her chosen community. For me, The Work was St. Elmo, the rambling house in St Francis Woods in the city of San Francisco where we would go on weekends so she could participate and I would stay busy in some way. Later there was an official "children's group" but I was the oddball for years. Drawing in the library, helping in the kitchen or hiding in the coat closet. It was a beautiful old Spanish Style mansion with heavy oak doors, a sweeping staircase, a ballroom and a courtyard paved in terra cotta tile and draped in Bougainvillea. Part of Gurdjieff's philosophy was that work was meditation or a way to awaken consciousness. So St Elmo was filled with adults caring for the land, cooking delicious food and even making pottery. My mom fell in love with the pottery there. I can still smell the damp, clay filled air of the building that looked like a green house, tucked in the forest of evergreens. It was down a long and winding flight of stairs. Filled with barrels of wet clay, bowls of slip and lined with potters wheels. I think it felt like heaven to my mom.
The ultimate insult from my mom was that something was "milk toast" - mostly it was about religion. She had grown up in a protestant church that served grape juice at communion. She wanted grandure and ceremony. Her work with the Gurdjieff foundation led her to the Russian Orthodox Church. And oh was it grand! Not my favorite as a child when we had to stand for the service, that was in Russian and the priests did most of their ceremony behind gilded screens. The magic and the mystery were all there. But my favorite part was the food! The elders would cook piroshki in the downstairs kitchens and the bread for communion was freshly baked and stamped with the emblem of the church. I called it "big bread". We even had real wine from a golden chalice at communion. My middle name is Anastasia so that I could be baptized at age two into the Russian Orthodox Church. And it certainly gilded me with some of the magic and mystery that my mom loved so much.
My parent's met because of the Gurdjieff foundation. I am truly a child of The Work. Of old San Francisco. Of hippies who came to find themselves in the Bay Area.
Like Walking on Jello
I keep feeling wobbly. As I set out on this journey into the unknown. Dreams are unfolding which is such a gift and yet, it is so scary to be in uncharted territory. In fourth grade I turned in a piece of writing and the assistant teacher told me that I had misspelled 'desert'. But she was laughing at the image of walking across the 'dessert'. I feel like I'm walking across the dessert right now. New job that I'm four months into but still feels new as I do each event in this first year. Already moved once and had not even had a chance to fully unpack before I was offered the opportunity to buy a home through the Land Trust of Sonoma County. It's taking some time because it's a new home still under construction.
Sometimes I let myself feel the excitement but mostly I am still in disbelief and overwhelmed by the journey called Escrow. I am alone in this and that makes it extra wiggly jiggly. Sometimes I feel like I'm on solid ground but then the "ground" under me starts to roll around like shock waves through jello.
I suppose I'm building solid ground but the unknown calls to the brave people who know there is more beyond what they know, even if they can't see it. So here is to trusting in the next right thing. Step by step, even when you feel wobbly.
Glimpse of the Future...
Every once in awhile I feel a buzz. Something pulling me forward towards my future. I have lived in survival mode for most of my life. Running. Afraid it will all fall apart. I thought I had it all figured out when I was 17. Left home. Started art school. Dropped out. Moved to LA...always chasing my future. Now here I am at mid life, looking back and looking forward. Where am I headed and how do I get there? I am on a precipice. Perhaps the scariest one of all. I am leaving the relationship I have been in for more than half of my adult life. I have nurtured someone else more than myself. I have given and given, mostly to my children which is a good kind of giving but in a partnership, it needs to go both ways. So as I face myself I have to ask - what's next? How do I truly step into myself? Sometimes I get a glimpse of who I can be.
Even though I didn't finish my degree (yet), I have collected so much knowledge. My favorite client is a small business, usually owned by a woman, who is already established but needs to take the next step. Clarify their image and how they are seen in the world. I help do that. I'm really good at it. And I need to do it for myself too. The other glimpse is standing in Stockholm restaurant, surrounded by stunning patterns and seeing the tea label I did for Erin. Knowing that I am a pattern designer. Feeling it. Knowing it in my bones. I need to nurture that. I need to nurture myself. I need to believe in myself. I can do this. I can step into a future that is abundant and clear and full of joy, ease and pleasure. I can do this.
Keep Showing UP
Wow! I have not done a blog post since April of 2021. That's a big gap. And yet I value this medium so much. The cover of my most recent Uppercase magazine says "Keep Showing Up" and it's just what I needed to hear. In reality, I have been showing up in so many ways and life is full. I finished my 100 day project and kept going. I built a larger portfolio of work and I got better at posting and sharing. Just recently, I had my first client who found me on Instagram and hired me just to do illustration for her website. And my images will be animated! They are flowers that will appear to be be blooming. But the amazing thing is that I am not doing any of the technical part - just the artwork. It's a wonderful feeling. And it happened because I showed up.
This summer, I showed up for my kids. I made it happen. We traveled down the state of California for two weeks, went to Monterey where my daughter did Junior Life Guards and met some of the best friends she's ever had, stayed in San Juan Capistrano at a dear friends house while they traveled. Went to Legoland for my youngest's birthday surprise. Had dinner in Encinitas which is as close to Hawaii as you can get on the mainland . Later in the summer we were back in Monterey and I got a paddle board, a dream I had for years and finally showed up for. It's like walking on water.
In the fall, the kids actually went back to school and stayed in school. Even through a new surge, which we got, and all the twists and turns along the way, they are in school. So the days are full. Mostly with my "day job" but I have also found the time to do amazing work with Herb Folk to complete her tea line, to do new packaging for her broth herbs and to start the design for her bath salts. The creative process of working with Erin Wilkins has been one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life. We both show up. Every time. What a gift.
Since last May, I have been showing up for myself, physically. I started doing ParkFit with Jen Stoneman. I had been eating well for over a year, taking huge strides towards health and balance, but I needed strength. Showing up for ParkFit has been the best thing. I learn something new every time. I have collected equipment to work out when I travel or can't get to class. I have consistently worked out 3-5 times a week since May of 2021 and it feels so good. I am strong and lean and more powerful than ever as I enter the second part of my 40's.
And the most vulnerable part of showing up lately has been that I'm stepping out of the relationship I have been in for over 26 years. It has been a long, slow process but it has been consistent and clear that it is over. Doing that work is the hardest thing I have ever done. Out of respect for my family I can't share all the parts right now, but it's been a journey of self discovery, loss and growth. It's not over yet but 2022 will be a year full of shifts and new phases and I will need all of my strength to get through it. I am so grateful for the community that I have around me who show up consistently and in all the best ways. I have often felt alone in this world - only child, alcoholic mom who I lost too young, working and living on my own from a young age - and yet as I have grown and evolved I have learned how important it is to connect with those around me. To have strong roots in community. And the fruits of that labor of love are so sweet.
So I will keep showing up. I will keep drawing, I will keep posting, I will keep lifting weights and running hard, I will keep traveling, I will keep adventuring, I will keep helping, I will keep cooking and collecting. I will keep showing up.
Mother's Day is hard for me. It's hard for a lot of people, especially those of us who have lost our mom. I felt the deep ache today, the need for a hug and reassurance that things will be ok. I'm slaying dragons right now, old beliefs, old ways, making a new path for myself and I could really use a hug from my mom.
And the flip side is that I'm not sure I want to celebrate Mother's Day at all. It has been a long hard year+ of pandemic parenting. I'm tired and flowers and cards are just not going to make up for it. And I don't feel like a very good mom right now. Battles everyday with my teenager and my 1st grader who hates zoom but also doesn't want to go to school for the 3 hours twice a week that is being offered. 59 undone assignments in See Saw, a play I'm supposed to help him practice - I don't think his teacher is thinking very highly of me right now. My 7th grader is about to explode if she has to tolerate her zoom classes one more day. It's all just too much. I want to scream. And I don't want to celebrate being a mom.
I used to say “I”m not a feminist.” And I certainly wasn’t an ANGRY Feminist! Well, middle age, the pandemic, life - it has broken me OPEN. I am ANGRY…at my husband for not seeing how much has been added on my plate, at the government for all the talk and too little action, at the men I work with who say “I’m so glad my wife is home taking care of school for the kids”. All of it. I used to agree to it, to buy into it, to think “if I could just stay home with the kids and have a husband who was a “good man” who worked for our family and provided the life we dream of/deserve/etc." The thing is, I know there are “good men” out there but they seem to be few and far between…meanwhile I know a lot of “good women” who have do what they agreed to, had babies, stayed beautiful, made a lovely home, cook amazing healthy food…the whole 9 yards…all while taking on more and more as things shift especially in the pandemic. Men still act like it’s a choice to show up. To be a dad. To be a provider. To be present. But it’s not a choice for moms. GOD FORBID a mom steps back, does what she needs to do. Then she’s CRAZY, a BAD MOM - nothing worse than that. There is an AMAZING photo of a mom holding her child close with a giant pack/sack on her back that is overflowing with all she has taken on…it is stunning and it is poignant. Because if we dare say “my load is too heavy, please help me carry it.” Then we are selfish, ungrateful, unreasonable, crazy. We are met with cultural gaslighting, family gaslighting…to keep us “in our place”. The pandemic has magnified it ALL and now I see that my only choice is to be an angry feminist. To yell and scream so I don’t forget that I’m not crazy. I am a human being. I deserve to live a balanced life. I don’t have to take it all on and if I do then I’m going to do it alone. I’m not going to agree to the “Emperor’s New Clothes’ version of partnership. I’m just not. I make more money than my husband AND provide more childcare. If I were a man then he would be expected to do more childcare. Instead, I’m expected to “make it work” no matter how much falls away…three kids out of school for over a year, with three different distance learning schedules, soon to be three different hybrid schedules and then three different summer schedules. NO. I am going to make choices that support me supporting them. I am. I am angry and my anger will fuel my fire so I can burn this shit down. Let the old ideas die. Let. It. burn. That might be my first tattoo. So I will always remember that I’m not crazy…the patriarchy is F’ing crazy. Not me. Not us. NO.
On March 30th I finished my 100 day project. I'm still drawing every day, often late into the night, posting past 12am so I guess it seems like the next day to those who see my feed. As I have shared, this has been such a gift. Last Friday I went to San Francisco for the first time in over a year and walked down a little street in the Mission that had the most amazing homes, with beautifully painted doors. I took so many photos and I have been drawing the doors all week. It has made me think about the meaning doors hold...the terms we use "Opening a new door" "when a door closes a window opens" and the doors I have walked thru, the doors I have closed, the doors I wish would open. I'm not sure where this project is leading me. I feel like mostly it has been full of learning to be in the moment. To notice things that are inspiring, to take the time to draw them and write about them, to make patterns, to be inspired by abstract collages and to embrace the best of digital media while keeping my analog style. When I think about it, it's a lot. This path is rich with discovery and innovation. I'm in an inbetween time - still more designer than artist as far as making a living, but I know I'm on the path and that feels so good. Thank you for following me, for stepping thru the doors, for imagining what is possible.
Making My Own Way...
Today is day 65 of my 100 day project. This commitment to the 100 day project is the best gift I have given myself in a loooooong time - maybe ever. In my freshman year of college my drawing teacher said “get a notebook that fits in your pocket or bag, keep a pen with you - Draw.Every.Day” that’s IT. Writers say it too - Write.Every.Day. That is the “secret” formula and surprise surprise, it’s true! I have made more work that I am proud of in the last sixty four days than I have made in years. I am SO grateful for my classes with MATS but I knew I could not commit to that style of learning, this deep in the pandemic. I almost signed up for a surface pattern design class that starts this month. But there are still only 24 hours in the day and between work, kids home 24/7 and the creative practice I currently have, I just can't commit to a class right now. I want to keep learning and growing. I want to find more and more sucess in the arts. And sometimes I get caught up in thinking that I have to follow a certain path, listen to other people’s “how to” but I keep coming back to “draw everyday”. And part of the joy of my current daily practice is listening to podcasts while I draw. I’m listening to artists, illustrators and designers talk about making art and I can feel how real it all is. And the little voice in my head that says “you can’t really make money doing this” is not right...I am an artist and I draw everyday. "Art for Your Ear" with Danielle Krysa is so inspiring. She had Ann Carrington on recently. Ann is a an artist in England and she talked about being fresh out of university in the '90's and squatting in giant warehouses in London. It was legal, at the time to find an abandoned building and move in. She and her friends had an artist commune. At one point she decided to create a gallery in part of the space and have her own shows. She got so used to showing in her own way that even when galleries were offering her a show, she didn't sign with them. She shows occasionally with a gallery but she does not have a contract with anyone. She prefers to make her own way. This path has been interesting and hard sometimes but it feels like I'm finding a way to make work and share it with the world no matter what is happening or if I'm getting a "yes" from the usual outlets. We live in an unprecedented time of connection and it is an amazing feeling to update my website, post to Instagram daily and make sure it's all connected. Thank you to all who are following me, all who leave kind words of encouragement - I appreciate it all and I'll keep sharing new work and ideas and together we can make it happen!
The Next 100 Days....
Reflecting on what Instagram has meant to me in the last 4, almost 5 years. It has truely been a map of my creative path. In 2016 I made a small piece of artwork for a local show and I posted the process. I only posted 6 times that year! In 2017 I posted 3 times! I often start strong and then taper off, not just on Instagram but in my creativity. In 2018 I made a commitment to myself, I started taking online illustration classes. I always thought I’d go back to art school “someday” but kids and work and life kept pushing it farther and farther off. My dear friend, who is 10 years older than me, said “the next ten years are going to go by no matter what, you may as well start now.” It was so good to shift my perspective and just dive in. Committing to classes helped me to draw most days and to share my process. I posted 66 times in 2018 and I got the idea to start the A to Z memory book. In 2019 I kept taking classes and worked on the book and finished it by November just in time to get it to the printer and gift it to my kids in December. Sharing the process of creating the book meant that I posted more than ever - 87 times! Still so small to most but a lot for me. I signed up for “My Year of Art School” with @makeartthatsells in late 2019. I was all in - 2020 was going to be my most committed year. It certainly started off that way, but in late January we were getting the news that a pandemic was sweeping the globe and by the week of March 16th we were sheltering in place. For me, that didn’t mean I had extra time. It meant my day job was busier than ever (communications for the Town is Fairfax) and that my three kids were home 24/7. It was not easy to balance everything and my classes slipped further and further down the list. But somehow I was able to launch a Kickstarter campaign so that I could print and share the book. It was funded and then some and so I committed to creating and printing the companion workbook which just came this week! Through all that I posted 69 times.
I’m weary from the year, but in the last few days I’m feeling the “buzzy feeling” again and I want to make a commitment that I know I can keep. It’s the first time in three years that I have not signed up in advance for MATS classes. I hope to sign up for Bootcamp in March but I need to see what the next few months hold. So here is my commitment. Starting today, with this post, I will post for 100 days. I have never done a 100 day project but I need this structure right now and when I counted forward I realized that if I start now, it will take me to the week of March 16th, exactly one year from when Shelter in Place went into effect. For me, that holds deep significance. I need to find a way, no matter what, to draw and create or just notice and collect, everyday for the next 100 days and see where I am in March. I will have posted more that I have ever posted in an entire year. I still want to maintain what makes Instagram work for me - I only follow creative feeds - it could be food, painting, clothing, photography, but it must fill me with joy. I would love more followers but I am going for quality over quantity. I'm not sure yet how posting everyday will effect my presence on Instagram but I do know that it will make me make something everyday and that is the best gift I can give myself, especially in these upside down times.
I was just updating my website and saw my Instagram feed at the bottom of the page. My last few posts have all been about the emerging chicken coop and our first blue/green egg. As I glanced at it, I saw something bigger than the individual posts. I saw a dream come true. I looked at homes in Petaluma for almost two years before we actually moved. Each one held a vision of a homestead/family compound, filled with gardens, kids and chickens. The goal was to move with my closest friend, Belynda, and share land. It didn't work out that way, at least not yet. But I did find this sweet property in the middle of the city and the first day I saw it I asked if we could have chickens. This desire to homestead, to have animals and land, is deep. My mom did what she could with our land and shared this with me. Her family were early pioneers and so this is deep in our bloodline. My cousin reminded me today that our Grandpa Henry would be so proud. He was an old school Italian, East Coast guy who had chickens and ducks and a mini farm in the backyard of the shared home where my aunt and uncle lived with him and my Nana. It took a pandemic to help me commit to adding more beings to care for, but I have no regrets. And the coop, well that took longer than planned too. But this week it is all coming together, thanks to my amazing friend, Meredith Law. We are Scorpio sisters, creative souls, makers, mamas, resourceful and so much more. She is birthing this dream for me. While I work and help Dax with school. She is making it happen. And this week, right now, I feel like some of the community and dream of a homestead are coming true. There is more to do, I want to own the land someday, I want add another little home, I hope Belynda will live here with us eventually, we need more rooms and more bathrooms, but a chicken coop and six healthy chickens feels like a pretty good start. And I am grateful for that.
Sometimes I wonder if I was born in the right time... I long for a bygone era and yet I dream of a future that holds the best of technology mixed with the “old ways” that are so much gentler on us and the earth.