Visiting Small Towns (a fun day away just down the road)

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We meandered through jewelry and antique stores.  We stopped for a cup of coffee.  We walked through art galleries and stared in awe at the buildings.  We walked hand-in-hand idly down the sidewalks.  We stopped and talked to a grandmother who has lived in Trinidad her whole life and listened as she recalled memories.

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They don’t build like this anymore.  The intricate details of each cornerstone and inset lettering.  The grandness of a small town.

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One can learn a lot from the art and sculptures set throughout a place.  This was a town of coal miners and of ranchers.

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Can you hear the sound of the horses pulling carriages down the Main street?  The eruptions in the saloon?  The sound of a bustling small town on a Saturday night?  Ghosts of people and activity over the past hundred and fifty years swarms by in my imagination and the sense of place captures me.

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I wonder what the street looked like when people lined up at the grand Opera house.  Or what the lights looked like as kids lined up at the movie theater on a Friday night.  The roller rink must have been great fun at the time that I used to roller skate in the 70’s and 80’s.

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There are new cafes to visit and bookstores and side streets, but alas, we started our journey down Main street too late in the day and everyone is closing up shop.

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Just like the small museums I wrote about yesterday, there are probably small towns all around you, other cities, other places a half hour, an hour, maybe an hour and a half away that hold history, and art, and a different life.  There are books to look at and coffee to sip, and elders to engage in conversation with.  There are new parks to soak up the sun in, and places to see.  Perhaps this Saturday you will head out to a new town to explore, enjoy, and get inspired.  These little day trips are good for the spirit- a change of scenery and the exploration of something new.

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Painting 101 (just for the fun of it)

It doesn’t matter if you think you are a good artist or not.  Art is subjective.  What might affect my emotions in a painting may not be the same as what style someone else is attracted to.  I have stood adoring many a painting in museums and in homes and I am in love with southwest oil realism.  Or anything from the sixteenth century.  My friend has a painting in his dining room of blue brush strokes that he no doubt paid hundreds for.  See, none of that matters.  We are painting because it is fun.  Creating and using your right brain helps your brain function better, breaks up the daily schedule, and helps us be like children again.

First grab a canvas, acrylic paints, and a set of brushes.  These things are found easily and inexpensively at Walmart.  Acrylic is easy to clean up.  I adore oil but I do not love the fumes or clean up.  Watercolors are also nice.  I have carried watercolors with me with a small canning jar of water in my purse before for a stint, capturing moments in coffee shops and parks.

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Find a photograph that you love or something out of a magazine.  In your mind, imagine a cross through the photo evenly splitting the photo into four blocks.  Now do the same on your canvas and use that as your scale.  Use pencil.  Here is a great trick that my seventh grade teacher taught me and I will use it forever: if you get stuck, turn the photograph or picture upside down.  That’s right, turn it upside down.  You will start drawing it as you see it not as your mind sees it.  Big difference.  You will be astounded by your accuracy!

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Use an egg carton as a palette.  It’s easy clean up and you can blend twelve to eighteen colors at a time!  Start with the background.  You are building from the back to the front, otherwise it will look confusing to the onlooker.

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Have some fun with it!  There are no rules with art.  These koi fish could have been purple and blue and maybe would have looked even better!  Look for sparkle paint to highlight pieces of your painting; the scales, or a sunset, or fireflies.

My paintings take about two hours.  If I have to create them over months, they will end up in the pile of unfinished knitting and other projects.  Remember that your painting will never look like you imagine.  Art has a mind of its own- even for the great artists of the world- and art looks like it darn well wants.  You cannot manipulate it.  Just go along for the journey and see what creates itself.

Spray with a protective spray for paintings, sign, and hang on the wall!  Be proud of your work.  We are all artists!

Two Days in Santa Fe

I am sitting in a coffee shop on the Plaza enjoying a delicious brew in a corner booth overlooking the frost covered buildings and the vast sky that promises warmer weather today.

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I read a study that compared the frequencies of people and places and how we thrive best when matched with our own similar frequency level regarding people and lands.  According to the study, if you were to close your eyes and someone placed a stone from a place that you love in one hand and a stone from a place you do not like, you would notice the difference.  This place matches my frequency.  Whether crossing the Santa Fe Plaza or eating red chile in Socorro or driving though farm land or artist towns, this is my place.  One day…

I adore the architecture and the history here.  The traditional adobe with straw sticking through its ancient walls.  The oldest house in the United States is here and was built in 1598.  Down a small street next to San Miguel church (circa 1636) is the house and free museum.  I loved seeing the tortilla press (not too different than mine) and the stone used for grinding corn into meal (a bit different than my Vitamix) and the other items of the era.

There is a distinctive look to New Mexico.  It is all about the details here.  Punched tin, kivas, adobe, bright trim, murals, and vigas create textures, history, and art in the architecture and design here.

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We brought our granddaughter’s stuffed animal with us and have been capturing moments with it to the delight of Maryjane.

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Now I have seen the fake stuffed animal heads mounted on boards.  They are cheeky and kind of funny from a vegetarian perspective.  In fact, I have long had a stuffed moose head we named Moosletoe hanging in our living room.  One is funny; more than that might be over the top.  However, when I saw this rooster head I started giggling so much that the cashier started giggling, than Doug joined in, and the contagious laughter prompted his coming home with me.  He is hilarious.  Perhaps he will inspire my rooster, Bob, to behave himself.

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Amazing how ten days flies when on vacation.  Thanks for coming along with me, we’ll see you back at the farm!

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A Field Trip to the Denver Art Museum

Daniel Libeskind Architect, Studio Libeskind and Davis Partnership

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We have a lovely art museum in Denver.  The architecture is modern meets medieval and the exhibits change regularly.  Floors of ancient and new art serve to inspire and educate.  The museum makes sure that there are things to keep the children busy as well.  Pads of paper and boards with things to look for are set up in stations around the museum to encourage children to be mindful and alert and to express their own innate creativity.

My daughters and I and my two granddaughters were originally headed to the Denver Zoo but due to the mass amount of people (and I shall save you the tirade about what marijuana legalization will do to your state) we had to find other activities.  Maryjane was less than thrilled about trading elephants for fourteenth century art but we made it a game where she was to find every dog and horse in the paintings and sculptures.

It is really something to stand before a painting that was carefully drawn over five hundred years ago.  It is really inspiring to see the spirits of people captured on canvas- ordinary moments in life stopped in time.  The colors, the shadows, the stories…

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Rosina Ferrara, Head of a Capri Girl by John Singer Sargent

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I enjoyed this exhibit the most this time.  Jordan Casteel is a Denver native and I love how she portrays every day moments.

I haven’t painted in a year but I think it is time to gather some canvases.

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My painting- “Native Inside,” acrylic on canvas, 24×36

DenverArtMuseum.org

Ostara, Easter, and the New Beginning

crocus-spring-equinoxToday is a celebration of hope.  The indigenous cultures of old and the modern spiritualists and witches of today will be celebrating.  So will gardeners everywhere.  ‘Tis the Solstice, also known as Ostara.

Seeds in hand, faces to the sun, coffee hot, hose at the ready, we are grateful and joyous that the days will now be growing longer.  Oh, happy day.  More sun.  More Vitamin D.  More outdoor play.  Spring brings with it baby animals and freshly turned soil and new life.

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Ostara celebrates life conquering death.  It had been celebrated long before organized religion did it.  The word “Easter” comes from the word “Ostara.”  Now, Pagans were nothing if they weren’t artists.  Eggs were symbols of new life and fertility and were painted in beautiful colors.  The Ukrainian folk art depicted on eggs is a fine example of art.

Ostara, the Greek goddess of fertility, loved the painted eggs so much that she asked the rabbit to distribute them all over the world.

The Solstice on the agrarian calendar was the date that seeds began to be planted and new life was born.  The death of winter was past and new life has begun.

Our bodies and our lives are a part of nature as much as they ever were, we just kind of hid away behind screens and modern lives and forgot.  You will find that death and new beginnings are prevalent right now.  The Universe may have a bright new beginning for you.  That means death comes first, but know that the sun is shining every day and that life always conquers.  Welcome your new beginning.  Happy Solstice!

A Novel Breathes Life and the Wisdom of the Elders

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My friends, you must read Big Magic by Liz Gilbert.  I keep referring to it.  I loved how it stated that genius lands on people, not people become geniuses.  An idea has its own entity, its own life and “lands” on willing recipients.  Sometimes a recipient isn’t ready for it and it goes to another person.  That is the reason we see books, movies, songs that we were going to write.  With this in mind, I asked for an idea to land on me.  I wrote snippets in California.  I asked every day for an idea.  And one landed on me last week.

I then sat in front of my computer, a first time novelist, trying to construct a “proper” novel setting.  Where do I insert dialogue?  How many adjectives should I use?  How do I set the pace?  I have been reading novels this month trying to see the map of it all.

When I do my work in herbalism, I just kind of zone out, so to speak, and do the work.  My hands move deftly to the right plants and combinations, and I can “see” easily.  If I were to overthink it, I wouldn’t get much done.  I went into that same zone and just started writing.  It was as if I were meeting the characters myself as they hopped from fingertips to screen.  “Oh, well, hello, nice to meet you!”  “Are you coming back at the end of the book?  How nice.”  The prose and which person I used to speak changes and surprises me.  I am not writing this book, it seems, I am just privy to how it is creating itself, much like my paintings, much like my recipes, much like my work as an herbalist, I am merely the middleman…woman.

The book starts in the nineteen thirties.  As I was visiting my grandparents yesterday I asked a few basic questions, like did they drink tea or coffee more?  Did many folks have cars?  I told them I was trying to research the Cherokee land disputes that took place in the 30’s due to land rushes and oil companies.  Turns out Grandpa remembers all about it.  Grandma and Grandpa took turns illustrating in real life the dust bowl, the depression, the locusts, the farming, history unveiling itself.  Many, many things we never learned in public schools.  I was fascinated, humbled, grateful.

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These beautiful old dolls are among my grandmother’s.  As if my day couldn’t get any better, they were gifted to me.

Sometimes I fall into an irreconcilable sadness, wondering if we will ever get our own place, our own homestead, the city life here…I try to make the most of it.  I visit other’s farms, I try to save money (try being the key word), I cry.  It all seems so impossible.  But I can, at this moment, write….

Native Cultural Arts and Finding One’s Art

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Over the weekend we were a part of the Native American Art and Culture celebration downtown.  We diligently promoted it but it was a smaller turnout then we’d have all liked.  However, the folks that were there were great, great people and we all had a lot of fun. The art was beautiful and I was proud to have a few pieces alongside nationally known artists.

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The Aztec dancers took my breath away.  Their astounding headdresses and clothing were mesmerizing.  When they blew into sea shells creating a sound that stirred my soul, I moved to the edge of my seat.  The drumming was intense and quick and my heart beat fell in line with these ancient dances.  Danny, one of the dancers, expressed his appreciation for arts.  For arts allow us to keep traditions alive.  I have always been a huge proponent of the arts for they teach, they bring hope, they bring people together, they let us express our innermost knowledge, joys, feelings, angst, and creation.

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The children dancing stole my heart.  Their small feet were like hummingbirds as they skipped and danced the dances their grandparents danced.  The Medicine Heart dancers are a troupe of young dancers.  This non-profit program teaches youth with any indigenous/Native ancestors the dances of their people so that they won’t be lost.  Miss Maryjane Rose will be joining these sweet dancers.

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My friend, Rodney, brought out his karaoke system and it was like no karaoke show we have done before!  Songs, drumming, children singing, poetry, and voices of expression filled the room.  An amazing flute player played his beautiful songs for us.  I am hoping Bear might come play at the shop!

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We had our glowing medicines out to show people what I do.  We connected with people and enjoyed our family and friends there.

I encourage you to paint, draw, write, dance, sing, and support arts by attending festivals, celebrations, and encouraging everyone to find their art, for there they will find their true self.

Keys to our Shop

We got the keys to our new store yesterday afternoon.

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A new apartment in the country, a new shop in town, family and friends close by.

Emily, Maryjane, and their friend, Becca put together shelving.

Emily, Maryjane, and their friend, Becca put together shelving.

Happy Autumn!  Time for pumpkins and Halloween costumes.  And new shops to open.  New beginnings and lots of good memories!

The Medicine Gatherer and The White Wolf

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I will be participating in an art show October 2nd-4th and wanted to get a few more paintings done.  One never knows what the artwork will look like at the end.  It is a creation of its own and I always look forward to seeing what comes to life on the canvas.

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I started by using the frame of my beautiful friend, Tabby, who was recently married.

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And from there the medicine gatherer came to life.

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If this painting doesn’t sell at the art show it will be hanging in my new shop.  A name was chosen.  Doug thought The Farmgirl Store but I imagined that folks would come in expecting alpaca yarn and zucchini.  I had thought of The White Wolf but then didn’t think too much about it until the next day.  I was recording memories and ceremonies for a very good friend of mine who said, “What do you think about calling it The White Wolf?”

The Importance of Hobbies (doing more of what we love)

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What did you love to do as a kid?   Or a young adult?  I used to love to do many things drawing.  I do a good job of trying to keep up with my hobbies and passions but a few things start to creep in.  My closet is already filled with paintings!  Art supplies and frames cost money.  What will I do with all of them?  I sell about two paintings a year.  Now what do I do with the rest?  And then there is the ever, well, I am not quite as good as other artists…I try to quiet down these rogue thoughts that try to keep me from doing hobbies I love.

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I have moved to an enchanting place.  It is the most beautiful and most magical place I have ever lived.  I have seen bald eagles, two different types of owls, hawks, rabbits, foxes, coyotes, antelopes, horses running across miles and miles of open pasture, and sunsets and sunrises that have left me in awe.  Without the neighbors and buildings so close, like in town, I have been able to greet the dawn as soon as she makes her way over the ridge of prairie grasses and it fills with me a sense of peace as I admire her colors and paintings.  I want to capture them as well.

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I purchased some pastels and paper from the store and woke up before dawn each morning and painted a different scene from each window.  There are more dawns to capture, and sunsets too, as soon as the weather warms.  I placed them in frames that were on sale and will take them to a local coffee shop.

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If you are an artist, a previous artist, or a budding artist, you can call around coffee shops and ask to hang your art work.  Many of them will let you sign up for a month at a time.  They get rotating art from local artists and you get exposure and perhaps sell a piece or two.

Another piece I will display this month.

Another piece I will display this month.

I am also going to look into Etsy.  And art galleries.  And displaying art at our shows (though I do not like doing outdoor markets with art.  Too nerve racking!  One gust of wind and….eek!)  The point is, if we love to do something, even if it doesn’t bring us an income, then we should find ways to incorporate it into our lives and if it is only because things are piling up in the back room that we stop, then we should share our hobbies with the world.

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I gave art as Christmas presents this year and sold one.  This month at the coffee shop I will bring my new pieces and a few of the old.

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The landscape out here is different than any other I have lived in, even though I am a Colorado native, it’s like I have never seen my own state before.  Out here feels like one western painting after another.  Like every piece of fine art portraying western scenes was painted out here.  I also bought an inexpensive set of oil paints.  I used to paint with oils and I would like to try it again.  Why not?  When it gets warmer I will be out on the roadside attempting to capture a snippet of what God’s painting looks like.

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How to price art?  Let’s talk about that.  Few can afford fine art these days.  Don’t price your art according to the huge dealers downtown.  One would be hard-pressed to get $700 in a small town or even a big town these days.  Price it reasonably.  Then you’ll have more room to make more art and a little change in your pocket.  I am going to sell my pastels for $20.  After the 20% the coffee shop takes and the cost of frame I will make $11.  But I loved creating it.  It made me get up and view the dawn, to greet the day, and it was a pleasure pursuing what I love.

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What would you like to do this year?  Grab a sketchbook?  Start quilting?  Start a blog?  Learn to make cheese?  Take a dance class?  Finish a project from a long time ago?  Go to a knitting club?  Let’s spend this year doing as many things as possible that we love!