I suppose that one of the things I have to put topmost on my list of “what I will do when I become more ‘popular’”, or even better “what I will do when I can do this full time” is be more prompt with my blog posts. But I am still in the mindset that I am lucky if someone other than my number one fan (that’s you mom! Love you!) reads this.
I had a couple of weeks with no shows but that meant I had even busier weekends preparing and trying to paint and produce more little treasures.
The four-day Ann Arbor Art Festival was exceptional. The weather, so I am told, was a once in a century awesome. It was not too hot, it actually cooled down enough for one to wear a light sweater! I loved it. It was my first weekend since pretty much October where I did not have a cast, a knee scooter or a walking boot. Mind you, this does not mean that it wasn’t painful to walk or stand after a while, but the freedom afforded me was priceless!
Some unforgettable memories were also made. I had two dear friends come to surprise visit me. Matt and his wife Sam stopped by from Canada and seeing them even briefly was delightful.
A completely unexpected visit was from my friend and run child, Ashlie, her husband Adrian, and her brother Mark. I just melted with joy to see them come from hours away to say hello, to hug me and to support me. It’s little moments like these when you realize that friendship is demonstrated in many ways, and it may not be about daily calls and hang outs, but those surprise moments, smiles, hugs when you least expect them and most need them. They made my day!
What also made this show incredible was another completely unexpected event. I won the best emergent artist award. It was so, so, SO nice and so encouraging! I was completely not even thinking or considering this could possibly happen, and it did! This was a huge fair, and there are so many creative, skilled, talented and experienced artists. I still feel like the little shrimp looking up at them with big eyes and saying “when I grow up I want to be just like you!”. Only I am all grown up… and eager for this second half of my life to be a more relaxed and fulfilling life. Comfortable with my creations and constantly learning and honing my “skills”.
As always, I meet a lot of people. So many nice fun people. I met an incredibly talented young man in his teens who stopped by to look at my octopus art and showed me his art. Beautiful stuff! Rich with colors and textures and the expressions of the animals he paints. Please, please check out this young artist on www.instagram.com/bgeorgiaart/ and don’t forget to support him, show him what you like by clicking on the heart (yes, many of you know how Instagram works, some may not). Every “like” counts. For me, as I am sure it is for many, a “like” is the incentive I need to keep creating. I met Zoë and her brother, their mother and her sister. So beautiful all of them and so fun. Meeting people who stop to look and talk and tell me what they like and what they would like to see is always fun. And I listen. I like to get ideas, if someone tells me they like bats, I paint a bat. If someone asks for flamingos, I start looking at flamingos. For me, painting is my combination of fantasy and naturalism. I like to watch documentaries and read up on whatever animal I am focused on. This way I learn (or often remember) not only what makes each creature unique but also exceptional at being what they are.
I leave you with some photos of the show, my little ever-changing booth as I learn how to decorate it- and often have to rearrange things depending on rain and where the puddles are!
My State Street Art Fair booth after a cooling rain.
This is the cutest little girl I have ever seen. She was having a blast jumping on the puddles, so much so her undies were falling. She did not care, she just kept joyfully stomping water!
This weekend was the 50th Annual West Shore Art Fair, last weekend it was the 60th Annual South Haven Art Fair; milestone events, both. As with every fair so far, they have been my first. First year giving the art fair circuit a try and first time at each art fair I participate. As such, it is all new. Perhaps because this was a semi planned out endeavor and I not relying on it to pay my bills, I do not have high expectations of how I will do. I did, however, set out with one expectation, to break even. OK, TWO expectations, because I was also really hoping I would make more than breaking even so I could buy myself a lovely new mega set of Faber Castell Polychromos coloring pencils. No, they are not cheap. Because I am talking about, not only the big 120 coloring pencil set, but the one that comes in its own wooden box. That, or more Daniel Smith watercolors, also not quite cheap. Well, sad to say, initial investment of applications, insurance, booth fees, canopy, displays, and inventory- I am far, FAR from breaking even still. Polychromos and Daniel Smiths will have to wait.
However, none of the above means I am not having a wonderful time and getting to experience moments which are worth more than any sales. I share here the moments I come home with. Last weekend was brutally hot and sales were slow for everyone. But I got to meet and make friends with my booth neighbors and I spent most of both days deep in conversation with the couple- mainly the wife. Funny, smart and just good conversation. During one of those moments of conversation a little girl wandered into my booth and looked all about. "You did all this?" she asked. "Yes." I replied. She looked amazed. "How long have you been painting?" she asked.
"Since I was your age. "I told her. She browsed, I gave her a sticker and she attempted to get mom to come over and buy her something, But mom had other plans. As the little girl ran off to her mom I heard the following: "Mom! Guess what! The lady said she started painting when she was MY age!" She was so excited about this! It made my day.
This weekend there were two moments in particular which I hope never to forget. One was on Saturday when a little girl in a wheelchair who, in the company of her very patient grandmother, thoughtfully selected one of my greeting cards. Once selected, she took out a small drawstring coin purse and counted out the money. I ached to give her the card, or to take back the initial price and give her a symbolic price. But I also felt that there was a sense of pride in her careful purchase. And I didn't want to take this moment from her. So instead I placed her card in a paper bag and included a post card and stickers.
Then today a teenaged boy wandered in and studiously pored over my paintings. First the octopus art, which made sense to me as the other stuff us more feminine or childish, in my opinion, and I assume most teen aged boys would have nothing to do with it. I greeted him and he said "I'm looking at your art." it was a statement.
Mom hung back but kept an eye on him. Then he came to my frumple fantasy stuff and stopped in front of my experiment with watercolor print on wood with clay and other embellishments (photo below is not good quality but it's more about showing you what he was fascinated with). "I don't understand this. What is this?"
I didn't quite understand what he meant. So I pressed for clarification and he said, always just as serious as he was at first "What is the context of this?" It was this question which started a conversation and I honestly told him what my process and thought are, about how I like to mix a real element and add fantasy, perhaps what I wish the world were like, a place where tiny creatures live in harmony with nature, communing, loving, and communicating with nature and animals. "Master Hare" he said, still with little expression, and he took out his phone and politely asked id he could photograph it. Most artist don't like to have their paintings photographed but to me, in this moment, this felt like an honor. I got the impression this young man had mild autism or something similar- and this image got him talking, connecting, and wanting to take a piece of it home. This was an honor. As it was when a lady came back three times and took nearly a half hour to decide on which of my frog pieces she wanted to buy. She then returned a fourth time to show a friend my stuff.
I never imagined that what has provided me respite from the past challenges, what has been my learning and return to creativity could speak to other people. It is an honor, even if I am not selling as much or making a profit- this beginning is more fulfilling and inspiring than I imagined it would be. They may not know it. If you are reading this, and if you purchase one of my pieces, you are taking a part of me with you. Getting to see the pleasure it gives you is a reward in itself and the best incentive to not stop this adventure. I love that moment when, sitting in my corner and sometimes out of sight, I hear people comment on what they see.
I can't wait to see what the next shows will bring and I can't paint and created fast enough to get all the ideas I have out of my head and on paper and clay and wood and... so many ideas so little time!
As I continue my adventures in trying to become a real "artist", I decided that I wanted to have some good photographs taken of my art. As I learn what makes me tick, what makes me "me" in art I've noticed my style begin to take form. Now I am truly beginning to flow. I have found the medium that makes me feel complete and content. It is still watercolor, but it also gives wings to the little crafter in me.
One day as I was driving home from work I found myself thinking that just framing my illustrations wasn't quite what I wanted. I was afraid (and still am) that my art would get lost among the many much more talented artist at the art shows and fairs I would be attending this summer. I needed something unique to make my stuff pop.
Then it hit me. Nichos. I have always loved nichos. Nichos are a very American- and here I mean it in the true sense of the word- as in: from the Americas, and not just USA. They are a native reinterpretation of the Catholic reliquaries and small altars the Spaniards had in their homes. Converted natives would use tin- new and recycled, to make their altars to their saints, the virgin, the day of the dead, or even a beloved family member and place small treasures inside, flowers, a small candle, or "Milagros" (miracles), tiny charms in the shape of whatever they were praying for, a leg or foot if they felt pain, a set of eyes for either protection from the "evil eye" or the more mundane headache, an ear of corn to ask for better crops and so on. I love how these nichos have become popular art, a little kitschy and prosaic in Mexico, but oh so unique, colorful and full or charm and original beauty to me.
Not having grown up in Mexico, I would get to visit some summers here and there. So for me, it was an odd feeling of being a tourist in the country of my birth. And as a tourist, I loved the market, and all the beautiful and simple decorations the Indians sold there. My favorites were always the nichos and painted tin hearts. This is a nod to my beloved art from Mexico and to the country of my birth. I hope I am doing it justice while giving it an original twist.
Every nicho (they are incredibly hard to find here online- especially unpainted!) is an original. I get the tin shape bare of any paint except a protective coating to prevent rusting. I use watercolor ground on most and a few are painted with water based markers (for the fine detailed ones which look like middle eastern filigree). I then paint them with watercolor paints and decorate them with as much found and recycled embellishments as I can, though I also use findings such as yarns, brass charms, Czech glass beads, freshwater pears, and embroidered ribbons. My favorite items to use are recycled silk saris, bullet casings and recycled glass beads from Ghana. I line them with hand made Japanese and Nepalese papers and then place an original watercolor or a limited print of one of my watercolors. Finally I place small stones, driftwood or beach glass I collect in my walks along Lake Michigan, dried flowers (also collected by me), and even a feather or two donated by Luci, my beloved pigeon. This may not be "fine" art, but a piece of me (and Luci!) is in each and every nicho.
Now last but no least, back to the deacon to photograph my stuff. I love these nichos so much, and they represent such a major part of me, that I really wanted to photograph them well enough to capture this feel. I made a few attempts on my own but then it also hit me. Just like the idea of what to do to make my art unique came like a flash, so did the idea of who could best capture this style. My dear friend Ashlie. She, like me, has embarked on a journey to express what she loves to do, to make it hers and make it unique. Her love is photography. Over the years I have seen her work blossom. From good photographs, captured moments, to images that are rich in the story they tell. Photos so lush I can almost smell the place and feel the textures and live the moment she's capturing.
I was a little afraid to reach out to Ashlie, because business with friends can be tricky and because I didn't know if my request would put her in an awkward position. But to my surprise, she was curious and excited about the challenge.
She came through. The results are most of what you see in my nichos gallery. I am so blown away by her talent and her creativity. She did a beautiful job. I am so pleased, so delighted! I know for sure I want all my nichos to be photographed by her. She makes them so perfect it makes me want to keep them all! But mostly, it makes me hope that they will go to homes where they will be loved. The title photo for my Nicho category has her webpage so that you can check out her magical eye. Enjoy!
Below are some of the shows I will be attending this summer- as I get assigned a booth number, I will update you! I am very excited about this summer, for once, since I am not a fan of the heat. One thing I thought I'd never say: I CAN'T WAIT! :)
May 26-28 Kensington Metropark Art Fair- Milford, MI
June 2 Art, Beer and Wine in Jackson, MI
June 22 Friday Art Market in Daley Plaza, Chicago, IL
June 30-July 1 South Haven Art Fair 2018, South Haven, MI
July 7-8 West Shore Art Fair in Ludington, MI
July 19- 22. Ann Arbor State Street Art Fair, Ann Arbor, MI
August 10 Friday Art Market in Daley Plaza, Chicago, IL
August 11-12 Blueberry Festival Craft Fair, South Haven, MI
September 1-2 All Crafts Fair, South Haven, MI
September 29-30 Highwood Starving Artists Show, Highwood, IL
Picking up that paintbrush and deciding that, not only would I tell this story, but also that I would finally learn to paint with watercolor paints, was the start of this fantastic odyssey. I fell in love with watercolor paints. At least for me, as someone who didn't give this medium a chance until so much later in life, I love the way I am always on the edge of control with the water and the paint. Sometimes it does things I didn't set out to do. But the fun thing about it is that these unexpected things are usually so beautiful and organic that I find a way to adapt the rest of the painting to it. This is how I started doing the animal series with the whimsical and whispy backgrounds. I often end up having so much fun and spending so much more time on the background than the main subject. But not really. Every painting, I am still learning, and hoping I get better and better.
The paintings will usually be my best effort to illustrate an animal in all its beauty, if not its perfection. To enhance some aspect of it which catches my eye: a gesture, the glimmer of an eye, an ear... and then place it in a fantastical world. But perhaps not so much so. After all, animals see things differently than we do. Perhaps that's what a sky would look like to them as the sun sets. Who really knows?
Then I also paint imaginary creatures, but then these will be in or by a natural environment as possible. These creatures were an idea of mine for a future picture book. And attempt to get children interested in exploring their world. I remember being a child, so curious, looking at tiny flowers and tiny holes in a tree trunk and being convinced that it was entirely possible that tiny and adorable little creatures existed. As long as that gets a child to spend time outside, this works for me!
Lastly, every once in a while I indulge my purely adult side and create digital paintings of one of my favorite animals: the octopus.
I am very excited because this is the year I will be brave enough to get out there and participate in Art Fairs. Unbeknownst to me, most art fairs are juried. I used to think it was as easy as signing up somewhere and paying a fee and you're in! But no.
The original intent was to do one show only. I wanted to participate in the Krasl Art Fair because it is local (3 miles from home) and such a fun time. Well, come to find out, the Krasl is very hard to get in to. Even after perusing the art fair forums, I found a lot of confused and disappointed artists who don't understand the secrets of how the Krasl jury selects participants. Needless to say, I didn't make it in.
Because it is in town I was able to attend the jury day. It was very disappointing. I wondered just how silly I had been to think I could possibly take my art to the public. Of course a couple weeks later I got the expected "thanks but no thanks" email.
Things soon turned, as I applied to quite a few shows and have so far been accepted to all of them. It will be a very busy summer!
Here is my schedule so far:
May 26-28 Kensington Metropark Art Fair
June 22nd. Friday Art Market in Daley Plaza, Chicago
June 30- July 1 South Haven Art Fair 2018
July 7- July 8. West Shore Art Fair in Ludington, MI
August 10. Friday Art Market in Daley Plaza, Chicago
I am hoping to hear from about 4 more shows. I will keep you posted!
Also, on Tuesday and Wednesday March 13-14, Luci and I went to the Maud Preston Public Library in St. Joseph for a reading of Luci's book. Luci behaved like an angel and we had a blast with all the kiddos. Luci let himself be petted and he even joined and cooed during the sing along. This was so much fun for everyone that I got invited to return this summer!
As the saying goes: The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Here it is: the blog where I hope to post my doodles, sketches, photos and thoughts on finding my way through and TO my process. From inspiration to final product, be it watercolor painting, digital, ink art or prints. And, of course, the children's books I hope to continue to write and illustrate.