Some time ago I became fascinated with the life story of Beatrix Potter. A story that had for the most part become forgotten amidst the mythos of her popular children’s stories.
At the time I had been writing pretty much non stop. Writing stories for magazines, and small publications. I did a lot of research into her life, and the more I read, the more interesting it became to me. I also had a thing for sheep, heheh. I had always wanted to live in the country and loved these funny, sweet creatures.
I began to write a feature about her, and her life before she became known only for her children’s books. It was sad, and interesting, and sometimes weird. She overcame a very lonely childhood, and was able to study her passion for science at a time when women were considered unintelligent children. She had actually begun her study of science as a child, doing some things that today especially, would be considered bazaar and even grotesque. I wrote my feature in a fictional, and sometimes humorous style.
She eventually married, and as she got older she began raising a certain breed of sheep, called Herdwick sheep, on her farm. She became a well known figure in the town where she lived, and then known as Mrs. Heelis ‘O the Fells. And this is what I named my article.
I had done some sketches in pen and ink for the article, which, though small, are some of my favorite art pieces. I think this is because I really fell in love with her story and these fuzzy, beautiful sheep.
I never got sheep, I guess other things were meant for me. But looking back at this article is a nice memory.
I hope you and yours are well, staying safe and are able to make happy new memories every day.
This is a color pencil portrait I did years ago of a much loved cat that we had. When we adopted him, he was about a year old. Out of all of the cats that we saw, he was the only one that wasn’t reaching toward us, or shrinking away, he was just…watching and was so cute. But also there was just something different about him. When I walked up to him he let me pet him, started to purr and rubbed against my hands. We brought him home to our other pets. He was so interested in them, and calm. Someone had named him Bic, (after the pen?), kind of silly. Being a Tuxedo cat, I get it but… We were going to change it, but eventually decided that it suited him. He was very human like, and even people who said that they didn’t like cats, loved him, and his strong personality. He was smart, and sweet, and welcomed anyone to our home, human or otherwise. Years after he passed, when people would get together, they would still talk about him, everyone loved him.
At the time that I did this portrait, I was very into using color pencil. It can be slow, and tedious, but also somehow satisfying. I used Prismacolor pencils which have a rich, creamy texture. Looking at this, it gives me the feeling that revisiting color pencil would be fun.
I hope you and yours are doing well, and as things “open up” again, remember to continue to be careful as you enjoy getting back to it.
No, not that crossroads. Though the “devil is definitely in the details”. Being at a crossroads with your art, or writing, or whatever creative things you do, is always a nail biting, angst ridden moment. And hopefully that’s all it is, a moment, a short period of time in your life where you may be questioning your creative ventures, your style, inspiration, or if you even want to continue. It can be a confusing and scary time.
OK so zombies may not be the best example, but they are scary and confusing.
In the course of my career as an artist, I’ve had many of these crossroad moments. In particular ones that in hindsight seem to coincide with that seven year evolution we all go through, uh, every seven years. (Proven, look it up). Not that I don’t have other “moments” in between, because I do, and have. But the big ones do fit that pattern. Currently I am going through it again. I should have realized as I have had a hard time concentrating, and finding inspiration, or ambition. At first I blamed it on this last, long year of Covid19 and isolation. You have to feed the beast, and being home all the time is not conducive to that. Hence my thinking that that was the only reason. It is a huge reason, but not the only one.
Recently, one of my adult children mentioned during a conversation about eye glasses, that she was “old” and her “eyes are sensitive now.” What the what?! She’s 35. And when I said that ‘I never really felt old until this year’, she sent a shocked face emoji. Humm. At any rate, that got me pondering, as us old folks will, that perhaps it isn’t just the plague causing my lack of inspiration. And doing some calculations, I saw that yes, I’m starting a new seven year cycle. I’ve embraced and been known as being an artist, nearly my entire life. If I don’t paint, or sketch, then who am I? Just another faceless person in the crowd?
Don’t worry, I haven’t gotten to the point of no return. As a matter of fact, I never really stopped painting or sketching. It just hasn’t been at the same level of intensity. I have been feeling somewhat directionless and all over the place. I’m sure I’m not the only person feeling this way. It has been a tough year for everyone, and many of us must be feeling at loose ends.
As with everyone else, I have been impacted in ways I didn’t foresee. Plans, important plans have had to be put on hold, possibly for a few years, possibly to never happen, and this has been difficult. Many toxic things happen on a daily basis in the world. As an artist, in a family of artists, I know that the impact of this toxic world hits us deeply, making creativity that much harder to attain. It’s hard not to be affected. It’s hard not to engage, or see it. But for us creatives, it is vital that we learn to do what we can to help, and not absorb all the toxins, because that causes us to become immobilized. Add to that the seven year metamorphosis, and you can see my dilemma.
As I sit here writing this, it feels a bit cathartic, like getting it out, writing about it helps. Yes, I have been painting and drawing things aimlessly, but maybe that’s good. I’m still working at it, and perhaps after I’ve had some time to just play around with it, something will kick in, and I’ll know which direction on that crossroad to follow.
Thanks for visiting and reading my blog. Stay well. If you are interested in any of my paintings or would like to commission a piece, please DM me, or go to my Etsy site, at etsy.com/shop/omordah I’d love to hear from you!
Creativity, where to even start. Although I am, and have always been an artist, I’ve never really thought of myself as “creative”. I see all of the things that people come up with, the different ways they express their art, and I think, ‘wow, I wish I’d thought of that.’ For many years I considered myself more of an illustrator. Shinning a light on human activities, and foibles, and in particular painting portraits.
Putting a subject in a setting that fit with them in some way, made the portraits more interesting to the viewer, but faces in particular, have always intrigued me. Eyes being the “windows to the soul” and all that. But is it “creative”?
About, well let’s say a long time ago, I started taking commissions for portraits, most often of people’s kids. At that time I was honing my skills in the medium of color pencil, trying to learn how to make them look as real as possible. Humorous fashion choices aside, with each portrait I tried to become more proficient.
I was commissioned to do the above portrait for a friend, way back in the day. It was one of my first color pencil portraits. (A little bit “uncanny valley”, but hey, practice and all that.) It was a bit more difficult given that my friend didn’t have one recent photo of her two daughters together. I had her give me as many photos of them that she had, and basically cobbled it together. I didn’t have people actually “sit” for me, especially kids as I was slow. Although, I often had to do things like this for commissions, most of the time, I was using photos, and this is the opposite of creativity. But maybe, not entirely. “Cobbling things together” took some creativity I suppose.
As I’ve mentioned before, art had to come after, and sometimes between life, raising kids, work, moving, (a lot), pets, etc.. But I worked on my art as often as possible, as well as finding ways to incorporate it into my life. So I guess, that took some creativity, heheh. For example, for a few years, I worked as a visiting artist at schools all around my area. I did this a few days a week, after my “regular” work, often times picking up my youngest daughter a little early from school, to assist me with the after school art classes. I also taught an adult color pencil theory class in the carriage house of the arts center near me, as well as a short class for a convention of teachers at a local hotel. That was fun. (Not sure if the sarcasm translates.)
On one occasion, I joined a group of people at our local arts council, and set up some of my work on the lawn of their site. An older woman approached me to ask if I had any paintings of old barns. Apparently she grew up on a farm locally, that no longer existed. I told her that I didn’t but would be happy to paint one for her. This turned into an extremely large painting incorporating, her family’s farm, the barn, cousins and other family riding high on a hay wagon, her mother in the garden, the “main house” across the road, and “Petunia the Cow”. Again this was done in color pencil. It was quite large for a color pencil portrait. It was 4′ x 3′. I finished it, feeling proud of what I had accomplished, and also gained a total of six other portraits for her family. The photo isn’t very good, as I took it at the framer’s and as it was heavy tried to get a photo while it was lying down, hence the distortion.
I began to do fairly well, and was getting commissions on a regular basis, including doing multiple portraits for some of the same people, as well as doing portraits of people’s pets. Though working with color pencil on large portraits, was difficult and sometimes tedious. I did feel that I was accomplishing something in what I felt was my chosen field. Yet I still had this nagging feeling that I wasn’t working to my potential, or with enough creativity.
Eventually, I transitioned away from color pencil, and returned to my roots of working with oils.
We moved often which meant that I had to find new clients. It wasn’t easy, especially as at that time social media wasn’t what it is now. I did gain new commissions, again painting multiple portraits for some of the same people. I also tried to stretch my painting chops. The above painting was completely from imagination. That may not seem like much but for me it meant a step toward more spontaneity.
I’ve noticed that there were distinct periods of my art. In between these “periods” occasionally, for whatever reason, I didn’t work on my art for long stretches of time. And after each period of time, I emerged feeling better able to “create” in I what felt was a more proficient and personal way.
At one time I was also a working writer. Nothing fantastic, I never published my fantasy mid grade reader, called Skara Brae. But I did finish it, and I had various articles published in magazines, as well as worked for a newspaper for a summer. (That’s another story).
Creativity, I have found, comes in many many forms. I realized that the book I wrote was creative. But maybe just not creative enough. After five years of nonstop work, I set writing aside for a while, and concentrated on my painting.
Along the way, after one of those break periods, I decided to try something that I had always admired, but felt that I just wouldn’t be able to do. I decided, what the heck, if I’m not happy with it, at least I tried. This was the beginning of my abstract period.
This painting is the first of what I consider abstract, that I did. After my son took me and my granddaughter to New York City for our birthdays, (both in April), I painted this city scene for him.
Looking back I see now that this was creative. I did it entirely in one sitting, from my imagination. I felt really good about this, and he loved it.
I then did this painting of a Romany Cart, and a Vanner horse. It’s done in a more dreamy fantasy style. These paintings made me feel a new freedom with my art, and I was hooked. (Unfortunately, the photos I have of it are somewhat blurry.) There is quite a bit more detail on the cart. Which may make this a blending of styles.
Abstract art could be considered one of the most creative of arts. Having been an artist for so long, I do feel that I have an “eye” for if something is “good” or not. Of course everything is subjective, and what appeals to one person, may not appeal to another. However, I do know what I like. Throwing caution to the wind, I got some acrylics. I figured, I could work in a quicker and more spontaneous way than I was used to, while pushing myself to be as accurate and true to what I envisioned, in a more flowing, and natural way.
I still strive for that elusive “creativity”, and I suppose I always will, but I do feel I’ve gotten closer.
Thank you for reading my blog. If you’re interested in any of my paintings or wish to commission me to do a painting, please DM me, or check out my Esty site. etsy.com/shop/omordah
Bye for now, and stay safe, while waiting for the light at the end of the tunnel.
OK, before I get into this Monday morning rant, I will say that I have nothing against Marilyn M. She is an icon. But there lies the dilemma. I do or at least have come to have a mental fatigue when it comes to art pieces of her image. (This would be a good place to upload a picture I’ve done of her, but I haven’t, and I won’t.)
It seems to be a right of passage for many artists, to create some image of Marilyn. They then post it to whatever social media of their choice, to a rousing chorus of pedantic accolades. I’m not covetous of their work. Without sounding conceited, I have gotten to a point in my own artistic career, where I feel I could do a reasonably good image of the great lady. I choose not to. I get this ugg, rolling my eyes kind of feeling of tedium when yet another artist’s rendering of her pops up. Good grief. I do apologize to any artists who have done so, I’m sure you’re a great artist. And I also choose to be the kind of person that praises and uplifts other artists, so it somewhat pains me to reveal this abhorrence.
So please, for the love of all that is holy, and unholy, stop! Just stop rehashing images of Marilyn M! There are millions of other possible options to use as inspiration for your wonderful art!
When I was very young, my parents, Mae and Tony, owned a small corner grocery store in Albany NY. I remember it well, even though by the time I was almost five, we had moved on from it. It was my earliest home, and even though it was hard times, (beginning of the Civil Rights movement, as well that my parents had to work early in the morning until late at night.) We lived over the store, in a flat, and didn’t have much, but I still look back on it with very fond memories.
I mention this, because, my mom, when she wasn’t running the store, helping customers, restocking etc. would sometimes read a magazine. I remember she loved Marilyn M. Years later she would mention Marilyn fondly. But not the movie star Marilyn, the Norma Jean, Marilyn. She must have felt a kinship to the real Marilyn. The one that was misunderstood, as she too had been in her own life. So I get the fandom, maybe at a deeper level than a lot of people.
Details of a painting I recently completed. You guessed it, not Marilyn.
Norma Jean had wanted more for herself, and sadly fell prey to the enticing life of a star, and the sometimes horrible people surrounding her. At heart she seemed like a really good person.
We all know her story, and can find out information about her, probably by the boatload. But in the end, I like to think that she would have wanted to be remembered for more than just her looks. The constant reiterations of her image, to me don’t do her or the artist justice. End Rant.
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I’ve never been one to be overly nostalgic about anything. It’s always been my nature to push through, onward and upward. At least since I was twelve and my father died. We had been very close. After spending a year of non stop crying and grieving, my personality changed somewhat, except in as far as art goes. I was always an artist, and always will be. It’s not really something that I chose, so much as it being an intrinsic part of who I am. It has saved me in many ways on countless occasions. Compelling me to push through the good and the bad. That’s why it’s weird for me to be getting nostalgic. I have a sneaky suspicion that the plague may have something to do with it. I find myself listening more often to music that I connected to in my youth. Which is, unusual to say the least.
It started with me looking for upbeat music to listen to in the morning because I was feeling a little blue, which is also something that I tend to push down into the depths. Unlike a lot of people who feel the need to bond with others over their angst, problems, or if they stubbed their toe, that’s just not something I ever liked doing. ( Except for with my ex, because that’s a given, and even then not nearly as often as most people.) And I can say this with some acumen, simply from observation in life and social media. In any case this reticence on my part, is mostly because to rehash things that have happened, or how I’m feeling, just seems to make it worse for me. So there you go. Yet, now here I am, listening to music that meant something to me when I was young and wading through the struggles of being a kid, growing up, having kids, raising kids, etc..
I put Pandora on, starting with the upbeat… I chose early Beatles, and it’s algorithm or whatever, starts scrolling through a universe of songs I haven’t heard or thought about in decades from groups I loved and felt I belonged to at different ages of my life. And other than scents, music is one of those rare things that can instantly transport you to that second, that hour, that day, that decade that you lived, grew, regressed, loved and hated, in.
From Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, to Led Zeppelin, to Sgt. Pepper, Pink Floyd, Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Foundations, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, and a host of other memories. Some better than others. And this was just the ones that came up from that first group I picked that Pandora was scraping my heartstrings with.
In reality, it doesn’t make me feel sad. Picture one of those movies where the wise older person is reminiscing, narrating about times past, with love. This is not to say that my past was rosy. It was actually very difficult. But I am also not one to look for sympathy when things happen. Other than when I was very young and had lost both my parents. But even with that, I eventually came to realize that that was not how I wanted to see myself, or for others to see me; a Dickens-esk orphan. I had to be strong and make a lot of tough decisions. The only difference from many other people, is that I was doing it at a much younger age. For example. I didn’t have much family left, and those I did, well, I just couldn’t imagine having to live with them. At fifteen I became an emancipated minor, and got a little apartment. How this played out, is a story for another time, heheh. Don’t want to overwhelm you all. If it were to be made into a TV show, it could either be portrayed as a drama, with love, loss, and intrigue, or a dramedy, with the aforementioned, and a comedy of errors, and maybe some slapstick thrown in. (Not much though as slapstick is basically the lowest form of humor, other than puns. Except of course through the genius of Chaplin. Chaplin, who despite some really bad personal choices, was the epitome of slapstick.)
I continue to grow with my painting. I do, (rarely) have nostalgia for my earlier paintings and scribblings, but always with a very critical eye. Ask any artist, and for the most part they don’t like their past works. That’s because art is one of those things where by it’s very nature, is ever changing. Most of us artists feel that we have improved over time. I can only speak for myself when I say that I prefer people to see my most recent work. Maybe it’s a bit of an ego thing, where we want people to see what we are capable of now, as opposed to then, Like, “oh god, my work now is so much better! Heheheh. Musicians too, are artists, and if they are dedicated and good, they evolve, as well. I think for them sometimes, it’s harder because so many fans will love a certain piece of music so much that any changes are abhorrent to them. They have my sympathies.
Nostalgia, a wistfulness for the past, can be a funny thing. It can become a rabbit hole that folks fall down, and find hard to climb out of. Or it can be something that we look at with wonder of how we survived it all, and pride that we did. We can take a look back for a little while, and then move forward.
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