Frustration, Failure and Faith

Status

I looked back on my last post…almost 3 months ago. I had just entered my Pipes drawing titled “Interconnected” in a show that was located an hour away. A close friend of mine went with me to see the jurors big reveal as to who made it into the show and who received awards.  I was excited, as I walked through the gallery I did not see my peice.  That meant either I received an award or I was not accepted.  The juror explained what she was looking for.  “Did the picture set a mood?”  Or “did it convey a message?”  Not looking good.

This particular juror was a watercolor artists and a realist.  Typically I am a realist but I went a different direction with this one.  As each were revealed it became slowly apparent that not only did I not win an award I did not even make the show.  I put on my mature looser face as we browsed through the show and had some snacks.  Once the amount of time had passed to be polite I retrieved “Interconnect” from the closet of rejected works and headed home, tail tucked.

This rejection followed a previously dismal showing as the “Artist of the Day” at another local festival.  My ego was stomped, bruised, bashed…you get the picture.

I decided to take a break.  Time passed and the break grew.  I just couldn’t get the desire back.  My teaching job soon resumed and my time disappeared.  Lost and overwhelmed I have been battling a defeated cloud ever since.  I know all artists go through these moments.  Why is it so hard to shake.  Where is my faith?  Where is my belief in who I was created to be?

I allowed one persons opinion of one drawing to defeat me.  To completely rob me of my identity as an artist, as a person.  One juror didn’t pick my picture.  Big stinking deal.  Was I created for her?  Nope.  I was created for a purpose and I am pretty sure it wasn’t  for the approval of one person.  I was created to create.  It is who I am. It is who I was meant to be.  To be less and to do less leaves me empty, lacking purpose.

So where is my faith?  It never left me it just got a little pushed back underneath a cloud of doubt.  So, I won’t have enough art to apply for a fellowship this year.  It doesn’t change a thing.  I am still going to create just as I am being re-created everyday.

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Spot Light or Dimmer Switch

As I prepare to be a featured artist at a local festival I have finally spent some time in my studio. My biggest obstacle this week has been heat since it is not air conditioned. Our temperatures have been around 85 and humidity in the 80’s as well. When my husband and I built my studio around 15 years ago as an addition to our house with our garage I thought it wasn’t necessary. I am cold natured anyway so the added expense wasn’t worth it. However, I did heavy research in lighting. It was north facing which is ideal, having subtle sunlight all day. There were lighting systems on the market called full spectrum lighting but they were costly. I have a light on my drafting table that has a switch for yellow, incandescent or blue, florescent. Switching both on gives a close representation of natural light. So we inexpensively mimicked that by putting an equal amount of both systems in the ceiling. The incandescent lights were also installed with a dimmer switch giving me more control.
So, what is the big deal about the color of light? Does it really matter how bright it is or if it is soft or hard light. Lighting greatly effects the appearance of the colors of a painting or any use of color media. Incandescent light will warm up the picture while florescent light cools colors down. If you are a realist like I am the use of just one of these can cause an inaccurate representation or prevent you from getting the desired look you want.

This is the project I am working on under only incandescent light:

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Florescent light:

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Both type of light:

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It hit me that it is the same with how we addressing certain situations. Harsh lighting, color lighting, subtle lighting all effect how we view something. Like when we debate an issue or present our opinion on a sensitive topic. How can we expect another person to be open to hear our opinion if it is not an accurate representation or if it comes across harshly? Strong words can be like a spot light in the eyes. However, if the lighting is too dim the image, or point, can be unclear.
I guess I went through all this not only educate others of the effects of light but also to make a point about discussing tricky topics. There needs to be just the right balance of the different types of light to create visual clarity. Just like we need the right amount of tact when trying to make a point. It doesn’t require you sacrifice your principles or soften your opinion. Your words just need to have a dimmer switch to fit the conversation.

A Weed Or Not A Weed, That Is The Question

Tis the season of sunburns, allergies and poison ivy.  I love the great outdoors and I love hard labor.  I would trade it any day for my couch and TV even with the pain I endure as I over work my muscles and expose myself to the allergen plagues.  Just something about being with nature that makes it all worth it.  However, I recently questioned it when I had a terrible bout of poison ivy.  One week, a shot and a topical prescription, I seem to be improving.  Oh, I often wonder what purpose such a plant can have so I google it.

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Poison ivy and poison oak are major food sources.  They are food sources for more than 60 species of bird on the east coast alone as well as deer.  Cotton tails also enjoy munching on the juicy stems that are poisonous to other animals and people.  Some moths use it to conceal their larvae.  Not to mention it is actually a beautiful plant that is very hardy helping to prevent erosion.

Since I think like everything was created for mankind I still question the existence of this “thorn in my side”.  I mean, other plants serve the same purpose, right?  Why do we need this particular plant.  Well, it isn’t always about the mighty me.  And beside if I had spent time learning as much about its counterpart, the Jewelweed, all could have been avoided.  God has provided a compliment to the poison ivy/oak/sumac.

I failed to remember a popular survival show I watched and failed to think about the “leaflets of three leave it be”.  Nature has provided the cure, jewelweed.  It grows usually in the same location as poison ivy/oak.  It is also nature’s antidote for other of life’s itchy’s.  It is a little harder to identify without its orange trumpet shaped spotted blooms.  But it is well worth learning how to identify it as it’s juice will counteract the effects of poison ivy.  It will also cure or lessen reactions to mosquito bites, bee stings, athletes foot, ringworm, nettle stings and a variety of other skin irritations.

Genesis 9:3 “Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you.  And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything.”  Look around you and choose to learn what God provides.  Not just about the bad because “everything” is a lot good stuff.

Oh, Say Can You See

In all of my deep thoughts lately I have lost focus on my purpose in beginning this whole blogging adventure.  I had not been very successful at spending time in my studio.  So, Sunday I for went the usual veg out evening and decided to put some time in working on the next guitar. I know it was Mother’s Day. I can hear you thinking the vegging out thing more fitting but not me.  Even the most physically demanding tasks in a creative adventure are relaxing to me.
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I glued in most of the inlays on the new bass guitar project.  I just need to touch them up when I sand them later.  They are pearl stars and now replace the boring dots that used to fill the neck.  Still undecided on a name for it but it will come to me.  This one will be patriotic.  It represents “Courageous Freedom” to me because of the country I proudly abide in and served while in the military.  I know this country has it’s flaws because decisions are made by flawed people.  Sure some have agendas that are not so positive but most think they are making the right choices.  I am reminded of Francis Scott Key and the writing of the “Star Spangled Banner” when I thing of this project so I an going for worn flag look.   I was going to paraphrase this article I just read from http://www.smithsonianmag.com but found it too interesting to leave parts out so I did the old copy and paste.  It goes like this:

One rainy September 13, 1814, British warships sent a downpour of shells and rockets onto Fort McHenry in Baltimore Harbor, relentlessly pounding the American fort for 25 hours. The bombardment, known as the Battle of Baltimore, came only weeks after the British had attacked Washington, D.C., burning the Capitol, the Treasury and the President’s house. It was another chapter in the ongoing War of 1812.

A week earlier, Francis Scott Key, a 35-year-old American lawyer, had boarded the flagship of the British fleet on the Chesapeake Bay in hopes of persuading the British to release a friend who had recently been arrested. Key’s tactics were successful, but because he and his companions had gained knowledge of the impending attack on Baltimore, the British did not let them go. They allowed the Americans to return to their own vessel but continued guarding them. Under their scrutiny, Key watched on September 13 as the barrage of Fort McHenry began eight miles away.

“It seemed as though mother earth had opened and was vomiting shot and shell in a sheet of fire and brimstone,” Key wrote later. But when darkness arrived, Key saw only red erupting in the night sky. Given the scale of the attack, he was certain the British would win. The hours passed slowly, but in the clearing smoke of “the dawn’s early light” on September 14, he saw the American flag—not the British Union Jack—flying over the fort, announcing an American victory.

Next time you see the flag flying try not to think of all of the turmoil surrounding the USA; the riots, the political games, the negative media propaganda.  Instead remind yourself of the freedoms we have been granted.  I once saw a Facebook post that was riddled with obscenities trashing the government and it’s military. It was extremely abusive to veterans.   I chose not to reply but I wanted to say, as a veteran, “You are welcome”.  Our government and military just gave you the right to say those things publicly.  It takes Courage and Freedom to say what needs to be or not to be said. A courageous freedom.

I Believe In Me

Before clicking on the link below I do feel I need to warn you that it is a little “risque”.

One day last week I stumbled upon the “Pretty Woman” movie on TV.  It had been a long time since I had last seen it so I watched while doing a few things around the house.  When the scene above came on it really grabbed my attention.  At first it was the fact they were in bed and it just caught me off guard but it was the dialogue that made me continue to watch.  Two lines stood out in particular.  “People put you down enough you start to believe it” and the line “The bad stuff is easier to believe”.  It stung me.  I literally said out loud, “oh, wow”.

Reflecting back to my childhood I struggle to remember the compliments.  They were there but I really have to think hard to pull them out of my mind.  The negatives, however, stand out clearly.  I was encouraged to go to college but I sometimes got the feeling that it was for bragging rights to friends not because of my merits.  My art work gained me an occasional “that’s nice” but nothing more.  One time I mentioned entering the school’s beauty pageant (I know you just giggled) but my mom told me I didn’t have a chance with “the way I walked”.  I do want to preface this with the fact that my parents were much older when they had me and had already raised two children before I was a teen.  Their life was much harder.  Discipline meant love and bragging only made a child spoiled and soft.    They never stood in the way of my dreams and when I asked if I could spend a month in London during my Freshman year, after a lot of discussion, they borrowed the money and sent me over the ocean.  I understand were they were coming from now but as a teenage girl it was hard to grasp.  Self-motivation was, however, hard to hold on to so I grabbed the one trait I had I knew I could count on then: stubbornness.

I remember a certain elementary teacher telling me I would never amount to anything; in front of the whole class.  She continued to say how I needed to grow up and some day act like a girl.  I was so embarrassed.  I refused to do math homework from then on even though she would pull me in front of the class and paddle me for not having it (I am so old we still did that).  I was laughed at by another school official when I told him of my plans to attend college after high school.  Sure, I didn’t always apply myself but I always believed I could.

The day came when I graduated high school with a wonderful class rank of 29 out of 99 and my SAT scores were barely average.  No scholarship offers there but I was accepted and attended college anyway.  Time to move away from home.  The year was harsh.  The professors heard my mountain accent and saw my horrible writing and I was again labeled. I can recall my art critiques and the papers I wrote.  I was so far behind on the very first day.   I didn’t know what the others in my class already knew.  The professors would openly call my artwork “crap” and my English professor said he could tell where I was from by my poor writing.  I would get people to proof read for me and sometimes they would just tell me “it might be easier to start over”.  Every now and then I would believe them.  When I got tired of feeling so dumb I would stubborn up and dig in again.  It was a cycle.  One that followed me into my career later as a teacher.

It was much later in life that I finally broke the cycle of stupid.  The first thing was I fell in love and married a man that has never put me down or made me feel less than an intelligent and completely capable woman.  The second thing was when I really and completely got what Christ says about me.  It ended those cycles.  “I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”- Psalm 139:14  I don’t think we think about ourselves as part of His works.  “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace He lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.”- Ephesians 1:7,8 Lavish means to bestow in generous and extravagant quantities.

So I say stubborn up and believe in you.  Christ does.  He died on a cross believing in you.

Normal Is As Normal Does

A friend of mine the other day, when expressing his condolences, ask me if everything was back to normal.  I believe he was referring to my schedule, that had been difficult during my Dads illness, but I took it to mean my life in general.  I replied, “no, what is normal?  I have to make a new normal.” There are always changes when loosing someone close to you. Changes that are not a part of normal life for the individual, aka…me.

The day before my coworkers and I had a workshop on trauma and grief. The expert spoke about how grief is always with you and that you never heal.  Correct or not I can’t view my loss that way.  I believe it is a wound.  Some wounds are worse than others and take varying amounts of time to heal.  These particular wounds nearly always leave scars.  Some are visible constantly some are not.  Some wounds cause us to make large life changes and adaptations because of the injury that caused them.  These scars also make us even more unique.  They are signs of our life battles, our experiences, our journey down a difficult path.  They give us empathy, compassion, and they connect us.

It reminds me of an art piece I started about 6 weeks ago. It is a colored pencil drawing on  black illustration board.  The subject is just a bunch of green pipes.  I just keep adding pipes and adding pipes.  It kind of remind of the Microsoft Windows Screensaver.  When finished the board will be full of them connecting and changing directions constantly over the entire surface.  Reminds me of our day to day lives. How people are constantly added and are daily interacting. Some connect while others just pass through.

Take a good look at others. Look at their scars. They are not flaws or defects in beauty but evidence of a life lived.

I Found A Masterpiece

As I move more toward a career in art I continue to struggle with the same problem over and over.  What to charge people for my work.  You never know if you should charge by the hour or the personal value or even how much you “need” the money.  I have read lots of articles on this subject but still question myself.  If I am too cheap people may not respect me, after all I am an educated professional.  If I am too expensive I may not make a sale not to mention I love to see people happy.  I am just not a good salesperson.

I also hate selling my originals.  Copies are not hard to part with but what is the true value of an original P H Younger art piece.  How can I part with something so important to me?  All the time, effort, thought and love that goes into each one.  I know every line, mark, and space that I slowly and methodically added.  Each one has its on importance, it’s own purpose.  Leaving out even the smallest spot would make the piece unfinished or incomplete.    The steps of creating them in my head long before they become a visually concrete piece of work can be exhilarating.

I have had some nice offers on the Thorned Guitar but I can’t place a value on it right now.  The joy and challenge of it I still feel so clearly.  It is a part of me.  As it’s creator, I am a part of it.  Like a finger print.

It is with these thoughts I see God as an artist.  The creativity that went into carving the World.  The intricacies and attention to detail amaze me.  I am not talking about the science of how things are put together, which is incredible as well, but the parts of Him that are all over me.  “He knows every hair on my head” because He placed them there.  Just as I  place every mark on my creations.  I am the masterpiece He can’t put a price on.  The artwork that is priceless.

Neigh Saying

It seemed like it took weeks to finally get to Saturday.  I was so excited to have a day at home. It was a lazy morning and I enjoyed every minute of it. However, there were things that had to be done, things that were neglected like my yucky house.  I spent the morning trying to knock out the things I hated doing the most first.  I had only scratched the surface with my new guitar project, figuratively and literally.  It sat in my studio all alone.  I even went to look at it once as a reminder that it was waiting for me to finish.  I quickened my pace, even more eager.  Then it happened.  I had to leave my home to take my son to an event.  Noooooo!  The distraction I was afraid of.  I knew once I went out in public my social skills would kick in and my Saturday would evaporate.

We went and yes, it was a wonderful social engagement.  I was surprised by my ability to stay on a good schedule and return home in a timely manner.  This was probably due to my son not being the social butterfly that I am.  I returned home with time still left in my day.  I was focused. I was ready.  It was time.

I set up the guitar and began to sand.  I was shocked at the layers of this particular one.  I had already used a blow torch to burn the clear coating and most of the paint off.  (Side note:  Sometimes adequate ventilation is still not enough, nausea is a good indicator that a mask should be used as well.)  It was after the paint was nearly sanded off that I realized it had a layer of what appeared to be Masonite.  I would not stop until I had bare wood.  No mater how long it took.  One hour later I was there.  Finally.  I took off my mask, and wiped my glasses to take a more careful look at it.  Awesome beginning.  Then I looked around my garage.  What a mess!  I had completely coated everything, including my dog, with dust.  It was so thick it changed the color of my sons bike and my husbands old car.  What had I done.  I had successfully created another Saturday cleaning project.

I was so focused, so narrowed in my purpose I didn’t see all that was going on around me. Once I got started it was like I had on blinders.  Just like the horses I used to watch on Little House On The Prairie.  I looked up why some horses wore blinders.  I never really gave it a lot of thought before but, evidently horses are considered animals of prey.  That is why their eyes are on the sides of their heads.  So they can see nearly all the way around their body.  Their only blinds spots are right in front of their nose and behind their tail.  Without blinders, young, shy horses can become frightened by the wagon they are pulling and they are used on race horses so that they only focus forward, the finish line.  However, a horse with blinders must be led.  It will not go or turn on its own where it cannot already see.  Some people feel that the use of blinders is cruel and inhumane.  I will not debate this since I lack any substantial knowledge on the subject.  In Russia, they do not use them at all.  Horses there learn not to be shy and become more focused over time.

Why did I just give you a short history lesson about horse blinders?  Well, since you asked.  I had my blinders on Saturday.  All day they kept me working toward my goal.  Not too bad a plan but when I got to that goal they limited me.  They caused me to create another task that will take away more of my precious time.

Do we become dependent on things such as blinders?  Maybe people or excuses?  Becoming shy and limited by a harness.  Sure, being focused during the day will help you get to your goal but be careful.  When you have blinders on, you will not go where you cannot see.  You will not see where you do not go.  And you will easily be led to places you shouldn’t be.

Courageous Freedom

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As I journey through this year of self discovery as an artist one of the things I would like to do is to continue with my guitar re-creating.  It would make a great series of pieces. I have chosen the title Courageous Freedom for the series.  I will reveal to you the next guitar will be a bass guitar but the rest is a secret until it is finished.  Hopefully, it will not take the 5 years it took me to build the Thorny Guitar I revealed a couple of weeks ago.  I chose this series title because it is a combination of two of my favorite words.

I posses the greatest respect for those 2 words separately but when you put them together, volumes are written.  I have touched on bravery numerous times in my blogs but it is just that important to me.  Courage is required to take risk, to step out on the mission field, to march into a new career, to get rid of those comfort zones, to make decisions about things you have invested countless hours and money into, to marry, to start a family.  I think you get the picture.  Each day we make same courageous decisions.  Where there is risk there is the opportunity for courage.

It takes courage to create freedom.  Yes, freedom can be created.  I learned that from my time in the military.  We are not born courageous.  We learn it from acts of bravery, from managing fear and from Christ’s empowerment.  When my army reserve unit was activated and sent to Saudi Arabia during Desert Storm I learned really quickly what courage looked like.  I was surrounded by it everyday.  I was pretty scared at times but you move forward.  At night in my tent I would just say God protect me.  After rolling my socks over my boots to keep the scorpions and spiders out I would go to sleep.  I do not remember staying awake or worrying about anything.  I had been gifted with the courage of Christ.

It also takes courage to accept freedom.  Too many people are afraid to move into a life of freedom.  It is much safer and easier to stay in the same restrictive rituals that bind our faith.  I have broken down walls in my own life recently that I had built up for protection because I had been hurt many years ago.  I lacked the courage to allow myself to feel what was outside those stone walls.  They were cold and dark and left me incapable of truly feeling all that Christ had to offer.  Love was a very difficult concept when I was cowering behind that impenetrable barrier.  Those walls shackled me.  I felt little and lived a numbing life.  It took courage to break the walls down and step out into the light.  The love and emotions that hit me at first felt like stepping out into bright light from a dark cave.  I could only describe it as an emotional hangover the next day.  It took along time to manage all that and how to handle all this new freedom.  But I haven’t regretted a second of it.  The passion, love and courage I now have are wonderful friends.

“We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.” —Plato