Saturday, March 28, 2009

Road trip with my BFF's

collage by Lani

Heading to Seattle Monday for ArtFest and to have a little road trip with BFF's. We'll see what mischief we can get into. There's sure to be laughter, coffee, and chocolate where ever we go. Watch out world! Yippee!!!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Thinking about Resilience!

Wonder and Awe collage by Lani

Because I'm starting a new course** on Resilience and Art, I've been on the lookout for new ways to think about resilience and new ways to build resilience into art challenges. I came across the Wisdom Commons website. They define resilience in an interesting way that got me thinking.

Here's what they say:

Resilience is the ability to work with adversity in such a way that one comes through it unharmed or even better for the experience. Resilience means facing life’s difficulties with courage and patience – refusing to give up. It is the quality of character that allows a person or group of people rebound from misfortune, hardships and traumas.

They feel it is one of our human character strengths to be resilient. But my thinking is that when we engage our character strengths, we enjoy our lives more, and we thrive and flourish. So I think all the character strengths help us be resilient. See what you think.

The website itself is structured around the character strengths or virtues which are valued across cultures. (This is in line with the views of positive psychologists.) They group them in categories; for example cognitive strengths help us acquire and use information, or emotional strengths help us endure and master difficulties. They feel that interpersonal strengths create healthy community (which of course is true, and a healthy community is resilient). They feel centering strengths help us to resist excess and spiritual strengths provide meaning and transcendence. All of these help us flourish, it seems to me.

Here's their very long, wonderful list. As you scan these words, you may feel something inside tug to express itself. Go with it, get out your art journal, and play with these ideas. Feel yourself flourish, as you do! (See the image above.)

* Acceptance Detachment * Accuracy Precision * Action Engagement * Adaptability Flexibility * Aspiration Dreaming * Assertiveness * Balance * Boldness Daring * Caring Consideration * Caution Prudence Forethought * Cheerfulness * Citizenship Teamwork * Cleanliness Purity * Commitment Dedication * Common Sense * Compassion Empathy Sympathy * Competence Skill * Confidence * Contentment * Cooperation Collaboration * Courage Bravery Valor * Courtesy Politeness * Creating Beauty Aesthetics * Creativity Ingenuity * Curiosity Inquisitiveness * Decisiveness * Determination * Devotion Faithfulness Loyalty Fidelity * Diligence Thoroughness * Discernment * Endurance Stamina * Enthusiasm Passion Zest * Ethics * Excellence * Fairness Impartiality * Faith Hope * Focus * Forbearance Restraint Self-Control * Forgiveness * Friendliness * Generosity * Gentleness * Grace * Gratitude Appreciation Thankfulness * Growth * Harmony * Helpfulness * Honesty Truthfulness Candor * Honor Nobility * Humility Equality Modesty * Humor * Idealism * Independence Freedom * Industry * Initiative Leadership * Insight Understanding * Integrity Earnestness Sincerity * Intention Purposefulness * Joyfulness * Judgment * Justice * Kindness Humanity Nurturing * Knowledge * Love Charity * Mercy * Mindfulness Contemplation Awareness * Moderation Temperance * Objectivity * Openness * Optimism * Orderliness Organization * Patience * Peacemaking * Persistence Perseverance Steadfastness Tenacity * Playfulness * Pragmatism Realism * Rationality Logic *Reliability Dependability * Repentance Remorse Contrition Shame * Resilience * Respect * Responsibility Accountability Duty * Reverence * Sacrifice * Self-Discipline * Serenity Peacefulness * Service * Simplicity * Skepticism Doubt Critical Thinking * Stewardship Thrift * Strength * Tact Discretion * Tolerance * Trust * Trustworthiness * Truth-seeking Veracity * Unity * Universal Ethics Moral Core * Virtue Righteousness * Vision * Wisdom * Wonder Awe

**Stay tuned to this blogspot and read the fine print for reduced prices.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Altered Book Round Robin

I'm starting a new altered book for the Art Therapy and Positive Psychology group. I found an unwanted kid's board book (These are my favorite for altering because I have no guilt about altering yucky "art" and silly "text".) I did some of my photoshop collages, printed them out and glued them down. Our theme is positive psychology, so we are looking at positive human emotion, character strengths, flourishing, gratitude, happiness, joy, inner satisfaction... you get the general idea. The cover has the phrase "we are loved beyond our ability to comprehend". I think at the heart of the study of positive human emotion is this idea that at our core, there's something quite magical and lovely, and I think it that needs attending to. It needs nurturing. So perhaps my altered book is about that, how to nurture that something at the core that is magical and lovely!

The sign-in is a tag on the left in these two pages (not really a spread) and the little girl here on the right is my first page, "We can alter what we notice." Much of this was dipped in walnut ink (hand made from black walnuts in Ontario) and then baked in a toaster oven.

Here's the last page, inside and outside.

The whole thing is loosely tied so that it can be worked on easily. When it comes home, I'll bind it properly. It's been a very positive experience so far, and we haven't even started! (More to come)

Gretchen Miller is in this round robin so you can see what she's doing on her blog.

More Angels Arrive and Leave

More flurries of mysterious beating wings here in Prospect. The Guardian Angel Swap is going well.

Thank you Pattie Mosca and Joyce Kliman! They are beautiful! You should have yours as soon as the postal workers can get them to you!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

When a door opens... A little art challenge.

This posting is based on one of the happiness challenges from The Artist's Happiness Challenge Course.
Image hosting by Photobucket

Thinking about the NYU students just coming up to graduation, very worried, not sure what the world will offer them. Also thinking about people being laid off, worried about how to pay loans back, how to pay for mortgages and even food. Think about when doors have closed in life and then when doors opened, subsequently. I'm sure we've all experienced that, huge doors closing that we just think is an absolute end to everything. And of course it's not. Of course there are new doors to walk through and new "worlds" to explore, new lives to live. And of course that's the way it is. We have to remember we've gone through these doors into the unknown before.

Try this:
After some thought about this topic, create a collage on "When a door opens". There is some anxiety about the unknown open door, but a lot of hope and strength come to mind when you actually realize that there have always been many doors shutting and many new ones opening in our lives.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Excellent photoshop fun!

Been at it again, playing with old photographs and tintypes in photoshop. New favorite thing is digital frames, bookboards, and butterflies from Christina Renee Designs. I saw the back page of Somerset Studio's Digital Studio, a page of old license plates, and had to visit immediately. (I've been back twice now, even got a license to be your digital consultant with Christina Renee Designs. Got any digital layout needs, just let me know. I'm authorized. Now I'll see if she'll give me some new letters to put behind my name to go with this license.) I also went over to my favorite Texture for Layers group at flickr to see what the new uploads were and found some lovely ones. I liked and used below textures from Les Brumes, OnRavensWings49, and Kodiax2.
If you like photoshop and digital play, do take a look at these links!

Frame and ivy from Christina Renee Designs. (I believe this is my favorite, so far)

Old bookboard and butterflies from Christina Renee Designs. Textures from Les Brumes, OnRavensWings49, and Kodiax2. (I believe this is my favorite, so far)

Old bookboard and butterfly from Christina Renee Designs. (No, I believe this is my favorite, so far)

Old bookboard from Christina Renee Designs. (Nope, it's this one! I believe this is my favorite, so far)

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Economic Anxiety, Puppets, and Resilience

Frame and ivy from Christina Renee Designs.

"Puppets are deeply mysterious creatures, both more and less human than their handlers. They can give you a great slant." -From Mark Stevens of the New York Times

While in New York, working with students from SVA and NYU, I couldn't help but notice that anxiety about the economy was foremost on everyone's mind, or more specifically, jobs and repaying student loans was on everyone's mind. With that thought in the background I asked the students to find stories of resilience from their families, cultures of origin, or even from their favorite childhood fairy tales. We looked at slides and discussed work done with folks who had survived Katrina, all with resilience in mind. Then the students created their own puppets and, energy ran high, with much play, giggling, laughter, and fun. At NYU the students had time to form small groups, soothing environments for their puppets, and narratives that were shared with the rest of the class. During the process many of the following resience strategies came into play:
  • The students used art to create a strong sense of community.
  • They took charge of things, acting as heroines of their own stories.
  • They found and created many "good things" while working together.
  • They could voice wishes and dreams through the puppets.
  • They could believe in themselves and each other.
  • There was definitely time for insight.
  • There was also plenty of time for creativity.
  • There was a lot of humor and laughter.
  • Some of the narrative delt with issues of how to make decisions, what to use as a moral compass.
  • Effort was made to take care of the characters they'd created, creating beautiful, soothing environments for them.

After stepping back and observing, it became clear that the creative process is extremely therapeutic and necessary, especially when times are difficult and anxieties are running high. To answer some specific questions having to do with economic anxiety, we can't know what the future holds, of course, but what ever it does hold, resilience will be key to thriving.

For job hunting, Martha Haeseler, friend and fellow art therapist, recommends checking the VA for openings in their recreation therapy programs. The VA jobs can be found on She found postings of jobs in NY, San Francisco, and Oregon.

I checked student loans and the Peace Corps and here's what I found for 2008:

Volunteers may defer repayment on student loans under several federal programs, i.e., Stafford (formerly known as guaranteed student loans), Perkins, direct, and consolidation loans. Volunteers with Perkins loans are eligible for a 15 percent cancellation of their outstanding balance for each year of Peace Corps service. Because the rules that authorize deferment are complicated and subject to change, it is best to talk to your lender directly about how this benefit applies to your situation.

More on this topic can be found on wisebread all about "living large on a small budget".

Friday, March 13, 2009

Links and Inspiration

Collage made from images from Gretchen's blog and flickr account.

Do you know Gretchen Miller? artist, art therapist, and president of the Buckeye Art Therapy Association? Gretchen has a wonderful blog full of art and ideas about creativity that should keep you busy for hours and inspired for a long, long time to come. Do take a look and consider what you would put your a mini altered board book to remind you to release, detach, and relax? Thank you Gretchen!

Huyen MacMichael over at 14 Secrets gave us this link to Lea Redmond's website which Huyen's husband found. She's got loads of interesting Free Projects and a free book which is wonderful. (Ant Book is all about nature, human artifacts, culture, and in it she cites authors like Annie Dillard, David Abram, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau.) There's also a store on her website full of quirky, interesting things like a matchbox puppet theater and the world's smallest letters delivered by the world's smallest postal service. Intrigued?

Here's a quote from Lea's Ant Book:
I invite you tonotice the material world that you inhabit and the secrets that itholds. I invite you to let your senses loose, and to trust them. I invite you to not assume that what appears to be is, and to keep an eye out for “mistakes” you may have been making all along. I invite you to read between the lines – not just the lines of text, but the lines of this material world. I invite you to keep a loose grip on your language, and to sometimes just STOP!… and listen. I invite you to not be scared of that which seems strange, and to maybe even become it. I invite you to let go and to entertain possibilities that seem absurd. And then I invite you to take these possibilities seriously, to let yourself actually implement – with the behavior of your body – something that you know inside. I invite you to play and believe in magic, and to make a habit of breaking habits. I invite you to stop in the middle of the sidewalk, lie down, and look up. And to walk on all fours like a bug. Why? Because we never know what we are missing and there is simply no good reason to settle for scarcity when richness is right under our nose. To all these things, you are invited. RSVP if you will, if you dare, if you wonder what could be.

And finally the inspiration to explore William Kentridge's work came from childhood BFF Kiki MacInnes. I don't know why I waited so long since I know William's Uncle Leon who lives up the road from me, and we have discussed WK's work. Well better late than never!) His work is brooding, humorous, filled with history, and very beautiful! Just search YouTube for William Kentridge and you will be lost in charcoal and mystery for days. Thank you Kiki!
Martha, Lani, Kiki, Lucia, and Lois

Thursday, March 12, 2009

More Angels Arrive and Leave

More flurries of mysterious beating wings here in Prospect. The Guardian Angel Swap is going well. More will go out next week.
Thank you Lore, Catherine, and Carol! They are beautiful!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

NYC Subway Art

While in NYC I re-acquainted myself with Subway Art, checking in on Edith Kramer's mural at Spring Street on the 8th Ave. line (the uptown side) and most especially Tom Otterness's work on 14th and 8th! How adorable. (Although like all of us, he has a darker side, a wee bit of shadow. But I think his subway art is fun) If I'd had the time, I'd have made a treasure hunt to see how many of his works I could find.

Home Sweet Home

It was so good to come home to so many happy dances including our own! And to walk on the barrens with Prospero, Bruzzi, and Farley!

Prospero the Cute.

Prospero and his buddy Farley with Edward in the background.

Bruzzi is still keeping up the rear.

Then into town for Tarek's Cafe squid salad and a fresh squeezed fruit juice! Yum!!! And pretty as well. Food for the eyes.