From Overwhelming to Overflowing

Apparently Valentine’s Day was first observed in Paris on February 14, 1400. The tales of its origin is checkered but no matter it has evolved into an uber-commercialized event meant to express our love. Here are some fun facts:

  • 145 million greeting cards are exchanged each year and that’s just in the US
  • 8 billion candy hearts are manufactured each year
  • Over $1 billion dollars worth of chocolate is bought each year (again that is just in the US)
  • 250 million roses are grown each year just for Valentine’s Day

For me it is not about flowers or dinners or chocolate or gifts but rather it is an opportunity to say to people in my life how much I appreciate them; that they are loved.

It never fails, I get myself wrapped up in finding that “perfect” image and exploring all ways of expression. In addition to that, after the holidays, my studio can be described as messy and completely disorganized. Getting a card ready for Valentine’s Day has been overwhelming.

Here’s what my art table looked like two years ago.

What emerged from that pile was my Valentine fairy.

Last year, things were not much different but I seem to recall landing on my signature card, “Colored with Love,” once I decided to accept it as it is.

Today, my process hasn’t changed. I am a predictable messy artist with perfectionist tendencies who eventually let’s go, trusts the process and relaxes into the creativity.

This year’s process includes:

Finally, I took all the messy parts on my art table and turned the feeling of being overwhelmed in a collage overflowing with Valentine’s remnants.

So my friends, one of these will become my 2023 Valentine Card and the rest may serve for other occasions. No matter which one, the greeting is filled with love and appreciation. I hope that you have a kind and loving Valentine’s Day.

Gnome Sweet Gnome

I have not been particularly attracted to Gnomes but stumbled upon images that inspired me to explore them as a subject for a greeting card. After some research, I have become intrigued by these magical, mythical creatures of good will, mischief and above all nocturnal protectors of gardens. I was smitten by: “nocturnal protectors.”

My lawn has been overrun by Moles and Cricket Moles. I can’t walk out to my garden without sinking into the lawn. I’ve had lawn treatments for the cricket moles and have used mole repellant sonic stakes to no avail. In fact, I can’t even find where I inserted the stakes. Is it possible the Moles have taken off with them? I am at my wits end.

My last resort is to go the mystical route. I am not one for cutesy lawn ornaments but I have my sights set on some fiercely cute Gnomes for my garden. Fingers crossed that by spring, the Moles at least will have moved on.

In the meantime, creating and sharing this little guy has been joyful. Happy Fall.

Hang It Up!

I know! It has been quite a while since I posted anything. I have a litany of excuses. But mostly I just got “hung up.” On what, you might ask? Well, whatever it is, I am moving on and now getting back into my studio, taking it slowly with a bit of doodling.

Maybe it was the fact that I was looking for a dress for my daughter’s wedding and staring at things in my closet that I have been “hanging onto for too long,” or that I was contemplating the creation of another ballgown for my Ballgown series but THIS is what I doodled. This image won’t become a greeting card but it did get me to thinking about “hang ups” and “hanging things up.”

How often have you said that to yourself or to a family member? “Hang It Up!” Why is it so hard to put an article of clothing on a hanger instead of plopping it on the floor?

How often have you thought about “throwing in the towel?” Or “hanging up” what you have done for years to do something else? Or wondering if you are “hung up on old things” that just don’t belong in your closet or are relevant today? Well except for that “Stevie Nicks’ look” which is making a comeback.

How often have you been stuck in a rut?

I tried cleaning, organizing, decluttering, refreshing and none of these activities seemed to get me out of my rut. Clearly what has hanging me up was not tangible.

After some soul searching and asking myself some tough questions, I am slowing getting back my game and spending more time in the studio – doodling and in search the next greeting card.

Hope you have an easier time “hanging things up.”

Just Breathe

How many times has your “breath been taken away?” For how long can you hold your breath? Sometimes I feel like these past 2 years have been breathless and yet, I breathe.

Breath is a miracle. When we don’t think about it, we just breathe. When we do think about it, it can slow down our heart rate, it can lower our blood pressure, it can put us in the present moment and it can calm our anxieties. It brings peace. When it is labored, just the opposite happens and when it stops – well you know how that ends. Let us not take our breath for granted.

I saw this image of a dandelion and decided after drawing it, I’d recreate it as a notecard. I wanted to include a vibrant movement with a swish of watercolor. My experiments just didn’t quite capture what I wanted.

And suddenly, I realized the need for quiet and subtlety as if standing in a field of dandelions on a clear and beautiful warm day, making wishes with each breath.

I tested the image on vellum paper, embellished with metallic watercolor and laid it on top of a notecard.

I had 4 sample cards that I decided to use and send to friends who happened to be on my mind. It seems that the card, the note and the instruction was perfectly timed.

One friend described the card as a reminder that we sow seeds with the breath of our wishes, our words, our actions. It just takes time for those seeds to take hold. We need only to be patient and continue to breathe and trust what happens next.

To finish off the card, I wrote a poem that barely shows up under the dandelion – it is a sentiment I think many of us experience and know that breathing is essential to erase the racing mind and the pacing heart.

may you breathe in the blessings that surround you.

Bowl Not Included

With-Cherries-on-Top Mother’s Day

Did you know that Mother’s Day originated in Philadelphia? On May 12, 1907, Anna Jarvis held a memorial service to celebrate her late mother who was an organizer of women’s groups to promote friendship and health. Within five years virtually every state was observing the day, and in 1914 U.S. President Woodrow Wilson made it a national holiday.

It was originally customary to wear a white carnation as a tribute to one’s mother. That developed into wearing a red or pink carnation to represent a living mother or a white carnation for a mother who was deceased.

You might ask, Why not create a card with carnations? What does a Cherry have to do with Mother’s Day? No reason. It just happened I was practicing this watercolor and liked how it turned out. In case you need further rationalization: what’s not to love about cherries? If you are a women reading this… come on…. Cherry?! Seriously.?…. That thought aside, cherries are indeed symbolic of fertility and feminism. So cheers to Moms and all those who have or are serving as Moms.

Personally, I have learned that Cherries on top of chocolate ice cream is divine. While I am not necessarily a fan of chocolate ice cream, when my sister-in-law introduced us to this combination, we fell in love.

“Cherries on Top” makes everything taste better.

Unfortunately the card does not include a bowl full of ice cream but nonetheless is full of love and best wishes.

Happy Mother’s Day

Cheery Cherry Card

Spring Rights Winter’s Wrongs

How long was winter for you? It’s not so much that the weather was bad or cold; it was just dark.

And then one day, one of my house plants reminded me that Spring was on its way and regardless of my neglect, there is hope in new growth.

Heading into my studio to play around with spring time colors and images for an Easter greeting, I was interrupted by (more like “called to fundraise for”) the events in the Ukraine. I donated a box of cards for a local fundraiser and felt I could do more.

Two cards emerged: one, an updated version of my popular Sunflower with a blue sky and a new quote to represent the Ukraine’s national flower and national crop. The other, an abstract representation of the Ukrainian national flag with a symbol of Faith, Hope, Love in gold watercolor.

The response from family and friends was amazing. Nearly $1,500 was raised and donated to UNICEF. I am so grateful for all who supported this cause.

With the fundraiser coming to a close, I turned my attention again to Spring. It is doubtful my cards will be received in time for Easter or Passover. Nonetheless, my family will receive greetings soon and friends and patrons will receive a card while it is still Spring (certainly before Winter.)

Creating this image was Zen-like, soothing and refreshing and then topping with acrylic dots, dried miniature flowers or ribbons was an added surprise.

In these troubled times, let us look at Spring as a sign that change can be beautiful and filled with hope.

What Color is Happiness?

Can you define happiness?

As I started the new year, I decided to participate in an artistic challenge, #happyyouin22. I followed word prompts for the month of January that were listed and posted on Instagram.

At the same time that I as creating, I was taking a course on positive psychology. (I am a positive psychology nerd having been introduced to the work of Dr. Martin Seligman a while back. His theory, research, actual work and results have given us a model to be happy, to become happy, to achieve happiness. (See end of message for an explanation of this model if you are interested.)

So what does this all have to do with watercoloring?

With only the intention to create without thinking during this Instagram challenge, I found my happy place. It doesn’t matter that any of these pieces are museum worthy or ready to become part of the notecard family. What matters is that I was engaged in an activity that I love for a purpose that I love for people whom I love.

I hope you find your #happyyouin22.

Seligman’s Positive Psychology Model: PERMA

  • P – Positive Emotions. Positive emotions include hope, interest, joy, love, compassion, pride, amusement, and gratitude. Increasing positive emotions helps individuals build physical, intellectual, psychological, and social resources that lead to resilience and overall wellbeing. Doing something you enjoy increases positive emotions.
  • E – Engagement. Happiness is a byproduct of engagement: when you are “in the zone,” “in flow,” By participating in activities that you really love and that use your strengths, well that leads to feeling happy.
  • R – Relationships. Relationships refer to feeling supported, loved, and valued by others.
  • M – Meaning. An intrinsic human quality is the search for meaning and the need to have a sense of value and worth.
  • A – Accomplishment. A sense of accomplishment is a result of working toward and reaching goals, mastering an endeavor, and having self-motivation to finish what you set out to do.

History is an angel….

being blown backwards into the future. This line from Laurie Anderson’s The Dream Before haunted me as I considered a year-end reflection and a new-year preparation. When we make resolutions, there is some implication that we want to do better, do more, do different and lose sight of what has gone well, what we have done well.

I want to begin 2022 appreciating my artistic journey and set an intention to stay open to the creative process that seems to be unfolding and to do so without judgment, without fear and importantly with glee, passion and excitement.

2021 began absent the adrenaline and the madness that usually leads up to the holidays and the accompanying family and community events (remember this was 2020). I thus entered into 2021 a little sluggish. It wasn’t until late January that I felt a whack on the side of my head: “Hey Valentine’s Day is coming up, what are you going to do about it?” And so I woke up and started painting and creating.

2021 Review

Sometimes, my art work emerged from a messy pile of watercolor debris. I surprised myself at what came of it all.

The Valentine Fairy emerged from the debris

Getting Ready for the Holidays

The Green Goddess – I started creating artwork for this holiday season’s greeting cards in July. Inspired by a fashion image, I knew I wanted to create something special for friends and patrons. The Green Goddess emerged and has a home with my Ballgown series. Each goddess was created by hand. I only recently divested my studio of the green glitter (but still finding stray pieces throughout the house) and now, I am happy to share that glitter with those who received this card.

The Green Goddess Challenge: Dear Santa, Define Naughty

The Poinsettia – This watercolor started out as a practice and learning exercise. I soon realized it had potential to serve as my personal holiday greeting card.

Christmas Card Poinsettia

I concluded the image would be better appreciated framed by gold foil. (Hand-assembly required.) So 5O individual cards later and 25 more to go, I decided I needed another image that would be easier to reproduce.

Pookie Bear – I had been playing around with Teddy Bears for just the fun to if. One day, this little guy showed up on my watercolor paper. Such an endearing look on his face that I couldn’t resist sharing him. May your holidays be stuffed with lasting memories and lots of love. My husband has even framed the original for his office.

So there you have it….the results of 2021.

Getting ready for the new year, I read the rest of the Laurie Anderson song. The lyrics may not seem to apply but here is how I see it

  • History is a pile of debris
    • My studio was often a messy pile
  • And the angel wants to go back and fix things
    • The artist wants to go back and do things over again
  • To repair the things that have been broken
    • To redo the discarded pieces of art
  • But there is a storm blowing from Paradise
    • But 2022 awaits; there is no stopping it
  • And the storm keeps blowing the Angel
    • And there is a churning in the Artist to
  • Backwards
    • Forge
  • Into the future
    • Ahead
  • And this storm, this storm
    • For this churning
  • Is called
    • Is called
  • Progress
    • Progress

Happy New Year

A Pause

I’ve been away, enjoying the proximity to my son and daughter and celebrating milestone events with them. This has been a time to recalibrate, to reflect, to refresh. Though I have put away my brush and paints, I’ve been collecting visual memories to recreate in watercolor.

As I prepared food and activities for Thanksgiving, I also prepared with quiet meditation-Grateful for all the tangible and especially intangibles that are my life.

We were blessed by the natural beauty of our surroundings. Sunrises, sunsets, crisp air, fall leaves and family.

I couldn’t resist trying my hand at sketching a Magnolia Tree seed pod that may become a winter greeting card.

A time of peace and comfort that yielded a memorable and joyful time with our expanding family. Happy Thanksgiving

Reflecting the Light

It has been delightful to watch the dragonflies dancing in my garden, their iridescent wings reflecting the sunlight. When a friend suggested I watercolor dragonflies, I started the adventure as I always do, seeking inspiration, finding different styles and techniques, and understanding the subject. Along the way, I discovered things about the dragonfly that I did not know.

Did you know that the dragonfly can move at an amazing 45 miles an hour (seriously, the next time you are driving at 45 miles an hour, image a dragonfly flying right next to you.) It can hover like a helicopter, fly backwards like a hummingbird, fly straight up, down and on either side and do all this while flapping its wings a mere 30 times a minute while mosquitoes and houseflies need to flap their wings 600 and 1000 times a minute respectively.

The dragonfly’s agile flight and its ability to move in all six directions exude a sense of power and poise.

The dragonfly can see in all 360 degrees around it, given almost 80% of the insect’s brain power is dedicated to its sight. It skims along the water and sees below the surface.

Did you know that in some cultures dragonflies symbolize prosperity and good luck? In others, they are a symbol of loved ones having a positive transformation into the spirit life. (Just like the Yellow Butterfly.)

In the end, it is the iridescence of their wings that captured my attention. Happy Birthday Elise. Thank you for the recommendation.