Sunday, September 28, 2014

Meet Kathleen - An Artist Who Is Drawing Blindfolded

One of Kathleen's Metal Sculptures on Her Front Porch

I traveled to Glen Flora, Texas to meet with this artist, which didn't bother me a bit, since she is my sister, Kathleen Quigley.  I thought she was going to have an agenda for our meeting, and was ready to let her direct me to any subject she wanted to tell me about.  I imagined she would be saying things like "This is what I am currently working on; This is a piece I have recently done and my inspiration was, etc." I was spellbound when I sat down with her on her patio last Thursday and she wanted to tell me her story instead of focusing on anything about her art.

One of the Drawings She Did Blind - A Color Combo Which Surprised Her

Before I tell you more, let me give you the history of what happened to her in June of this year.  She got sick with a lung problem that doctors could not identify. Initial diagnoses were TB, pneumonia, and then the one that landed her at Methodist Hospital: a growth in her lung and the possibility of lung cancer.   Having survived Stage III Breast Cancer, you can imagine how the prospect of another form of cancer would sit with Kathleen, along with the fear she was feeling.  Another symptom was a rash that covered her hands, the back of her neck, and encompassed her chest that no doctor could identify. Normally, Kathleen is a person who has extremely high levels of energy, only to find herself barely able to get out of bed to make herself a bowl of soup.  Doctors gave her no answers.  After 25 blood tests, 2 biopsies, 3 rounds of antibiotics, seeing over 12 specialists (auto-immune experts, dermatologists, internists), she was no closer to a diagnosis.  With more rest then I think she has had since she was a baby, she started to heal slowly.

A Close-Up of Some Lamps That Kathleen Designed and Made

She felt well enough to go on an already planned and paid-for vacation to Maine two months later, knowing she was still exhausted and would need to continue to rest.  While there, her neighbor gave her a book , and in it she found a premise that spoke to her.  This Hawaiian tradition is about taking 100% responsibility for your life, which made her see she was 100% responsible for her health.  It was not the job of others to save her.  It was hers.  She had been heading in a spiritual direction with herself for a long time, but she forgot to include her body on the journey.  She started juicing every day, cut refined sugar out of her diet, and started to listen to what her body needed. She focused on eating foods with high alkaline levels and not counting calories.  When I saw her I barely recognized her. She had lost about 25 pounds, looked vital and was calm - her breathing had even changed.  

Oil Pastel That Kathleen Created While In Bed Sick

One day, she made the flower above using oil pastels while sitting in her bed. Unable to practice her traditional forms of art (sculpture & painting) through her rest period, she invented an exercise for herself to do calling it "100 Days of Drawing."   The challenge was to do drawings with oil pastels while her eyes were closed. She thought it would be interesting to not pick the colors ahead of time, but to also pick them with her eyes closed. She does the sketch for 3-4 minutes, opens her eyes and does not pick new colors or alter the design.  She simply finishes the piece by filling in the drawing.

One of the Drawings Made With Her Eyes Closed

What she has found is there is not one drawing where the color combination does not work or a design that she does not like. Making her realize that her eyes and the eyes of many artists get in the way of their creativity.  They censor the artist.

Another Blind Drawing

"My eyes are a tool, and my mind gets in the way of what I create. When I was 28, I was building furniture that was sold in Galleries. I was building a large screen and painting flowers on the interior, when I did an experiment of painting a flower with my eyes closed. I liked the flower created by my blind eyes better.  My hands knew what to do.  This is probably why I like welding, because your eyes are pretty much closed with the headgear and the fact that it is high heat makes you have to work very fast."

Her Gallery Space - The Overhead Lighting Fixture & The Vases On The Wall Are Her Designs

"I think I needed rest this past summer.  Everything in my life had changed: my job, my marriage, where I lived and what city I lived in.  Instead of resting, I just kept going in order to not sit with myself.  I create now because I enjoy it."

Her house itself is an experience to walk through. Looking at the display in her bedroom made to organize her scarves & jewelry with branches she found on the beach and some discarded antlers boggles my mind.  It's an effortless endeavor for her to see found objects and form things.  A combination of the sculptor in her and the courage to follow her gut.

One of my favorite things in her house are these mushrooms.  The one at the top of the photo is a real mushroom, and the one at the bottom is a bronze of one of the mushrooms.  It's this kind of unexpected placement of items and the twist she puts on ordinary objects that makes you leave her home inspired to look at your own space with fresh eyes.  She is fearless, and has been since the moment our father found her sitting on the top of the kitchen counter in the middle of the night with her hand in the cookie jar. She was 15 months old and had crawled out of her crib.

Real Mushroom and Bronzed Mushroom

I asked Kathleen if her art was innate, and she said, "I just don't know if it is innate. It's my essential self." I left her house with a new-found love and appreciation for my sister, who chose to share her struggle to inspire others rather then promoting herself. An astrologer once told her she was an artist and a healer.   I know this about her now - I saw her truth as she spoke.

In The Waiting Place With Your Art? Meet Kim Hooker Ballesteros

Kim's Studio Wall - Where She Takes Vintage Thrift Store Art and Adds Little Bluebirds

When I was an artist's rep, I knew little about how artists thought. After doing it for several years, I saw repeated themes amongst all my clients, no matter what their medium was or their level of success. Here are the ones I heard most often:

  1. I'm tired of doing the same thing over and over (even if it was their best seller).  I want to do something new.
  2. I wish something would happen and I'd know I could make money at this.
Being an artist is a different pursuit than being a salesperson, as an example. Because you are selling something you made - it requires tremendous courage to put a part of yourself out for the world to see, and watch people praise it and reject it.  It's sort of hard to not see them rejecting YOU when they say disparaging things.

A Corner of The Crafty Bluebird Studio Space at Aurora Studios in The Heights

Interviewing Kim reminded me again of these themes.  Not the theme of rejection - she's fine if you don't like her things. More the theme of 'I wish something would happen.'  She is not alone, for I have been there and every single artist I know has too. Maybe, just maybe, you are there now too.  Not only do you have to have courage to be an artist, which she has plenty of, you need to have tremendous staying power.  Finding a network of people to cheer you on at this point is critical. 

Besides sharing her feelings about  being in the waiting place, Kim took an incredible step of courage this year by renting a studio space for her to create, and not necessarily to sell things.  She had the intention of using the space to teach, after all she has her MLA in Art History. She also wanted to rent it to create things for her own personal purposes.  Being a wife and mother of a 10 year old boy, her house was not a place for her to create.  There was always laundry to do or the kitchen to clean. We probably all know that when we leave our creativity on the back burner, everything else gets done, leaving no time for what we need to do for ourselves.

Not only did Kim rent the space, she started teaching again at Leisure Learning: How To Classes on Vintage Button Jewelry, Felt Flower Pins, Cupcake Stands, Terrariums.  An ever-changing seasonal list of classes are planned and you can find them on her website.  Using Leisure Learning as the platform for marketing and connecting with others, she will start using her studio space to offer classes, and for her own artistic pleasure.

Teaching for her is easy because she is "sharing an experience with someone.  When people left my classes in the past, they would feel great about themselves."  She taught at Leisure Learning years ago, a class on Gift Baskets (since she did this for Central Market), and often got thank you notes from her class members. "Teaching someone how to tie a decent bow, and watching them feel like they accomplished something was rewarding."  She wants to broaden her scope of classes, offering ones that also can incorporate her style.

Kim has always inspired me because she has the willingness to try something new, and in this case, she is using a new type of formula; finding the space for herself first and dreaming up ideas to facilitate her mission second.  Her mission is to help others through her gift of teaching so they feel they can be creative too. When you go to her website, and read the testimonials like this one below, you too will see this girl is enthusiastic and not centered around her ego:

"Kim is the most creative person I've ever met! She amazes me with her ability to come up with idea after idea of truly unique and fun projects. She is so gifted and so loves what she does that it is impossible to not catch her enthusiasm. My boys and I looked forward to every one of her events!"
~ Becky Shaw, Georgia

How many artists do you know that are not focused on their art, but instead focused on helping others find the artist within themselves? I love that when I picture Kim in my mind, I see her with a smile - always.  I think her decorating style makes Anthropologie look like amateurs and her insatiable need for travel (she just got back from Thailand and Beijing a day before this interview) shows a spirit that is soaring...just like a little crafty bluebird.  And as Kim says on her website...

"The Crafty Bluebird carries the sky on her back,
glitter on her wings and 
ribbons in her beak."

And Of Course, A Smiling Picture of Kim

Sunday, September 21, 2014

This Artist Teaches the Superpower of Courage

All classes are about courage, which is the one Superpower I am big on.  Being vulnerable enough to be able to imagine what is possible.

Have you ever loved an actress, singer or someone creative so much that you have watched all of their movies, know every song they sing, and read everything written about them?   One day you find yourself in NYC or LA, walk into an elevator and see them, to find in that moment you have no words to say to them? You want to tell them how much you love their work and the influence they have had in your life because you feel like you know them.  Yet, when you see them, all those trite things come out of your mouth "I've seen everything you've ever done. No really. I'm your biggest fan."

This was exactly what I did not want to sound like when meeting Andrea Scher for the first time.  I even negated doing our interview by Skype, for fear of my 'fangirl mentality' taking over what I wanted to accomplish with her.  I have followed her and admired her writing for over 8 years.  While getting ready for our interview, I saw something in her description of herself that seemed wrong.

painter, photographer, coach + mentor

What?  She's been blogging for over 10 years and does not consider herself a writer?  Why?  How?  With most interviews I have a script of questions laid out, but with Andrea, I didn't need to know more about her, for I knew I was her biggest fan already.  I decided to do something fresh; omit the script and ask her to just talk and see where it went.  I found my Superhero Mentor a little unsure at the beginning of our phone chat; after all, she's not on a press junket promoting her latest book, and I'm a stranger to her.  I gave a few guided prompts and then the wisdom and one-of-a-kind storytelling that made me fall in love with her and her writing started to unfold.

Like almost every creative I talk to, their formative years started with artistic endeavors that were the road map to their destiny later in life.  For Andrea, it was two things that she recalled to me.  The first one started at the retail store her parents owned in Carmel, CA, where she spent many hours as a child.  To relieve her boredom, she started making jewelry and went around to the other retailers and asked them if they were interested in purchasing it.  When an uber-cool store that sold expensive Italian jeans bought her jewelry, she was a paid artist at 10 years old.  The second thing that sparked her artistic nature was getting an SLR camera at 12. Obsessively taking pictures, she was staging her friends in mock slumber party photo shoots with "lipgloss, Bon Jovi, and a hairdryer on full blast." Talking about this, she added, "My photographic style is still very similar to how I did those early shoots."  

These two events were the beginning of her life's theme:
"The need to make things and the gift to be fearless."

As she advanced in years, life took over.  She was a cheerleader in her teens (which made me squeal, "No way!"), went to high school and college, where she graduated with a degree in Economics (the cheerleader surprised me more, I got to say).  At 21, she did a Landmark course where 3 days into the workshop, she had the breakthrough that she was an artist.  She started to photograph and paint again, but wasn't sharing her work with others.  Moving to New Orleans, she visited a tarot card reader who told her she was an "artist" and then said, "her real work was as a healer.  She would heal people through her art." After this, she had the same struggles we all do when trying to define our creative lives; the epiphany was followed with the 'How am I going to do that?' Ten plus years later, this is how she defines her art.

"I am a healer and a storyteller and
I do my work with creative practices."

To explain and define more about what she does,
I am quoting what her 'Meet Andrea' section says..
I’m Andrea Scher, creator of Superhero Life — where we all learn together to use our voices, share our superpowers and live life in full color. As an artist, photographer, life coach + mentor, I’m redefining what it means to be a SUPERHERO — ‘cause in my world, it’s got nothing to do with capes, spandex or sidekicks and everything to do with tenderness, intuition & baby steps of bravery.

This is how I think she took the healer's proclamation and turned it into her career in four distinct ways: through storytelling on her blog and pod casts, through teaching one of her 8 original e-courses, through her certified coaching sessions, and through live events like "Storybowls" and "Opening the Creative Channel."  She has a specialty service for anyone that is thinking about creating their own e-course or e-book called Super Sonic Sessions.  This is an all day private session with her that you can start at any point in your process of development.  You can discuss things like table of contents, the content arc of the journey you want to take people on, and even the technical options of delivery. When I am ready to launch mine, I have her number.

I have done three of her courses: Mondo Beyondo, Superhero Photo & Treasure Hunt.  Her photography e-courses were some of my most favorite ones, because they didn't focus solely on technical aspects. They taught me theory, styling, new ways of looking at objects and lining up subject matter.  I got so inspired talking with her the other day that I signed up for Mondo Beyondo again because it's time for me to start reaching for new and bigger dreams, not just setting goals. This class teaches you how to "manifest the impossible."

When she teaches any course, she "wants it to be a waking up practice."  In the middle of one of her courses, I started to see the world in c-o-l-o-r and notice the nuisances in my daily life.  I learned how to tell my stories with not just words but to take the picture and then add the words. You don't have to be a photographer to take her photo classes or a writer to attend a Storybowl event.

"If you do not fancy yourself an artist, these classes are here to get you close to the edge of practicing courage by using a creative medium." 

Thank you Andrea for sharing yourself, finding how to heal us with your work, and taking the time to talk with me.  It was an opportunity for me to share another creative's journey to find their purpose.  My favorite blog post of yours was probably this one, and I want to tell you with the biggest fan girl scream, "I love you, man!"  Many hugs to your sweet, kind soul.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

These BLOGS Make My Little Heart Sing

I dance just like Little Lucy when I read the blogs listed below.

There are more blogs I follow than magazines I read, which has been a reversal for me that happened in the Great Purge of 2014. When my husband and I married last year, I moved my things slowly, as I was moving into a 1700 square foot house which was going to now hold 2 kids, the hubs, 3 dogs and a cat (who finally had the good sense to bail on the situation last year).  Therefore I don't buy stuff for our house anymore, and am still in the process of purging things as 2014 has not ended.  These events led to all the magazine giveaways, non-renewals and lots of recycling. Good God, I had to have less paper in my life!  Reading blogs was the perfect way to get the visuals I longed for, and to find something else I did not even know existed from reading magazines: connection.

Here I Give You the 2 Blogs I Have Followed the Longest:

A Photo I took of Pam's Stitching at Silver Bella - Pam Garrison is an artist who photographs her lifestyle and art so well, you would think you are looking at a printed publication. She got me into succulents, does a variety of mediums making her blog fresh and evolving.  Along with art journaling, embroidery (which is not your mama's stitching), painting, Project Life, baking, DIY projects with her kids, her travels, the art courses she teaches, she takes on new adventures all the time. Recently, she started weaving on small looms, and shows people her beginning products (whether good or bad, but let's face it, everything she does is good) and how the work evolves.  I love her willingness to pick up something and let the reader follow along with her as she takes an art class (right now it is Sketchbookery).  I have taken a live class from her, and would recommend it, not just for the class itself, but to see her visual journals and stitching in person.  There needs to be a museum for this work.  Plus, she is a nice soul.

Crazed I am about succulents - Mary Ann Moss.  This is the longest blog I have continued to follow every single week.  The first blog I started to leave comments on, and the first blogger who thanked me and replied.  I have emails saved from this woman, you know for prosperity.  Interesting, never standing still, the documentation of her trips, her breathtaking photography, the journals and books she makes - Ahhh!  I adore her! I have taken almost all of her online art courses, and fell in love with her style from the first one I took. She describes herself as a guerrilla sewer in one e-course, code for 'I'm not a perfectionist, people!' Thus, I finally understood there were people in the world like myself, who don't want to measure and line things up.   Enjoying the process is more fun to me, and I like getting better with repetition. 

Before Mary Ann takes one of her glorious trips, she makes a book for the trip. When she went to Paris, I got so inspired by her posts, I made a book in advance for the day I get to go.  One of the jewelry artists' I was representing at the time, Vandi Hodges, took a trip to Paris and supplied me with all the ephemera for this book.  I even made a little book for Lucy. I sent Mary Ann pictures, and she generously, sent me a whole itinerary of things she did and places to check out when I go there. Don't you love that?

I still don't have the patience to bind my books.  I use rings and ribbons - works for me.

I even marbleized my own paper (on Whole foods grocery sacks).

Now the coolest part of this story is these two artists are now good friends.  Maybe they were friends when I first found them, but they didn't talk about that fact on their blogs.  In the past several years, they have started renting homes in Palm Springs and doing art retreats with each other and Mary Ann's sister. Gosh, I want friends like this!  I often wonder is there enough time left in my life to get all the art I want to do done?  And for whatever reason, these two women seem to embody this principle. They are always experimenting, writing, taking pictures and making art.

If you like creativity, these are my two muses.  Enjoy your day and please share with me who inspires you!  I might get the opportunity to interview them.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Artist Hope Wallace Karney

Art journal page created by Hope Wallace Karney

In my last post with Amy Huff, I described an artistic retreat known as Silver Bella, founded by Teresa McFayden, that is now sadly extinct.  This is also the place where I first came upon the likes of Hope Wallace Karney: graphic designer, web designer, layout designer for publications (an example of which is Heather Bullard's magazine, Souvenir, pictured below), blogger, art journaler, photographer and collage artist.

Example of one of Hope's Souvenir magazine layouts

When I met Hope, I had my first twinge of artistic envy.  Being new to the creative scene, I didn't recognize the green-eyed monster sitting on my shoulder as we sat down for lunch with a group of women. Hope seemed to know e-v-e-r-y-o-n-e at Silver Bella, and ladies would walk by (who were the superstar bloggers in the industry or the top teachers) and she'd clap her hands and say, "There's so and so. She's a client."  Without conceit she said these things, she was merely excited to see her clients and help promote them.  Clients she now considered friends.

Example of one of Hope's Web Designs for Bittersweet Designs

Another Site Hope created for Artist Lori Oles

First on my list of things I want to know about someone when I interview them is what was the first project they did that lit a spark. It could be something that happened in your childhood, and was later forgotten.  For Hope, she used to make collages on poster board when she was young.  Clipping words and pictures and putting them together. Her niece, who is 10 years younger, and more like a sister to her, remembers Hope incorporating her into this activity. Her niece thinks it's funny now that those collages are how Hope makes a living.

One of my favorite Art Journal spreads by Hope

Hope abandoned this craft as she grew up and started her career. But one day, a co-worker asked if she wanted to go to a rubber stamping group at her church.  Since she was new to town and didn't know anyone, she went and found one piece of vintage sheet music.  With no desire to stamp, she played with that sheet of paper the entire time; cutting it, trying to shape it into things, and staring at it.  The next day, she went to an antique store and bought a box of vintage paper for $5.00 and got busy.  Her collaging skills ignited again, and since she already had a blog, she slowly started sharing her collages with her online community.  Next thing, people started to encourage her and there were offers to buy them, but she wasn't really selling them (yet).  She started thinking about things she could make with them and decided to create some postcards and greeting cards.  When one of her postcards was featured in Mary Engelbreit's magazine, Home Companion, there was more demand for her product.  She took the next step and built her own website (because back then there was no Etsy to sell your stuff).  

I love her use of this vintage women and how her skirt has a fold-out to more hidden wording

She'd print out her cards on a quality printer at her work, with her own premium paper, before the office opened, and pack all her orders before the work day commenced.  She was working full-time as a tech project manager for medical data (yes, really). One day, an artist who had a high-traffic blog, called her to ask if she would design her website for her.  Hope said what a lot of self-taught creatives think, "But I don't design websites for other people."  This girl was persistent and kept asking.  Finally, Hope said, "Well, okay, I'll try it, and we'll see how it goes."

Examples of some of Hope's Postcards and Greeting Cards

Her educational background was technical, not design-oriented. Yet, after the design of this one blog, more artists started calling her to build their websites and their blogs. With her current job, she found herself sobbing on her way to work in the morning, and finally got the courage to quit and look for a design job.  When she applied for 3 different design jobs, and it came down to her and one other designer for the position, she had an awakening.  Rather than lamenting that she could not get hired, she realized if I can get to be a finalist with 3 different jobs, having no formal education, I can do this myself.

I remember leaving Silver Bella and going to the blogs of artists I connected with at the retreat and I swear every one that I liked was designed by Hope.  When I wanted a new look for this blog, I hired her, then hired her again to do my business website, and my business cards.  We never met in person to do this (she lives in Maryland), but did it all by phone.  She asked me to make a Pinterest board of images I loved and describe what I loved about them and answer a few questions, and then created this.  

Example of my business website that Hope designed

This is a talent I cannot begin to comprehend.  When I asked her how do you do this, she said:
I love getting to know people.  I treat every client's site as a personal challenge to put the person in the web presence.

Hope has an app she created, numerous online journaling and hand-lettering classes that you can buy and take, and teaches at art retreats nationwide.  I've taken several of her online classes, and I covet her hand-lettering so much that I asked her to use it when she designed my Little Lucy and Scooter blog.

Picture of Hope's App - Nostaglic Musings

When I asked her where she gets the confidence from to try new things, this was my favorite part of interviewing her.

Confidence comes because I have the Internet as my shield. It's easy to change who you are behind the computer.  I find myself comfortable sharing myself online and that helps me explore new things.  I taught various types and levels of computer classes at a previous job. That might be a reason I started the online journaling courses. When live teaching opportunities have come my way, I take them because I like getting out of the house.  But I never actively look for them.

What are her creative rituals? 
Doesn't have any.  "I can journal anywhere - in the doctor's office, the airport, it doesn't matter. When an idea strikes, I'm writing."

Favorite TV shows or movies visually? 
Anything set, in the 1800's; "Game of Thrones" for the sets and scenery; "Doctor Who," "Outlander" (which was also chosen by Amy Huff in my last interview - people watch this!); the Sherlock movies with Robert Downey, Jr.; and "Penelope" for the time frame and visual scenes. [NOTE:  I ask this question more for my own selfish benefit, dear reader, as watching something visually is a way for me to turn my monkey brain from 'writing mode' to something normal.  It helps me recharge.]

Your studio is messy or organized?
"It's either completely messy or completely organized.  It gets too messy, and before I will let myself create, I'll clean it too perfection, and then mess it all up again when I get going."

Tell me about your furry friends.  
She has 2 hounds: Tuala, her 12 year old beagle who is timid, and Milly, her 3 year old dachshund that rules the world.

Funniest thing she said to me?  
Well, it was hard to pick one.  "My dog, Tuala, loves to lick old paper, which she taught to our other dog, Milly.  I sometimes worry they're going to die from it like in that episode of "Seinfeld," where George's finance dies from licking the gum on the envelopes for their wedding invitations.  I could see my beloved vintage Dennison labels being the culprit."

If that doesn't sum up the essence of why Hope is the-kind-of-girl I'd love to meet weekly for coffee, I'm not sure what would.  I love the stories of self-taught artists and hope you get inspiration from it today.

And this is Hope.