My Awkward Little Canvas

At the end of last month, I attended an artist’s salon hosted by my mentor and photography teacher Marty Springer. At these monthly events, a group of photography students and artists come together to review each other’s work and provide feedback and critique.

The ticket for entry is that you bring a printed photograph for review.

I’ve been feeling pretty unartistic lately, so I went to the salon, but I was unable to bring a print (long story involving the horrific lack of possibilities for serious photographers to have their work printed) and endured the mild chiding from my mentor.

We went forward and had a really good session. The people in this group are fantastically talented.

As we wrapped up Marty issued us a challenge. In addition to teaching, mentoring and being a well-paid professional photographer, she also curates a small gallery at a local public library. This is the venue where we have our annual photography show, and the rest of the year the gallery hosts all manner of art pieces including photos, paintings, mixed media, quilts and more.

Marty told us how she had booked an artist for a show to span the month of February, but he had shown up with all of his pieces so poorly and cheaply framed that they fell off the wall moments after she had hung them. The artist didn’t have the desire to fix his errors, so Marty was left without a show.

This was Sunday night and the show was due to open Thursday.

She told us she wanted to go ahead with an exhibit and we were all invited to contribute. Something was going up on February 1. She spoke to us about February and celebrating Valentines, but more than that, Marty wanted to put a show on the walls that was about love and about healing.

In the wake after the very tense election and then the horrible tragedies in Sandy Hook, Colorado and Oregon, she wanted to have a show that wasn’t all lacy Valentines and light, but something that showed love and strength and healing.

She asked us if we were up to the task. Turns out we were.

I had an immediate idea for a mixed media piece that had been simmering in my mind for a while and seemed perfect for this show. I asked if mixed media was ok since most of the pieces would be photography. She told me not only was mixed media welcomed, but encouraged.

That night I came home, pulled out a blank canvas and gesso’d it (to dry overnight) wondering just how in the HELL I was going to get this done in time. At that point I was two weeks into a new job and still adjusting to a pretty long commute. My hours of free time for working on art were pretty severely limited, but I wanted to try.

This meant I had to edit myself A LOT. I guess watching all the seasons of “Project Runway” had put that thought in my head. “Edit yourself,” I kept saying as I wanted to add more, embellish more, get more complicated and advanced in the few hours I had to complete this piece.

If I was going to make it in time, this needed to be simple, quiet and powerful.

On Wednesday night, only two days after I started the piece, I turned in a mixed media canvas with glue and varnish still a bit damp. My mentor gasped and danced a little when she saw it.

It’s a bit hard to see, but the canvas is actually ripped through, then closed up with thread and staples.

I was so very unsure about turning in this piece because it felt a little…intimate…to be sharing with the world. There is a lot of me in that canvas. Also, other than a county fair a couple years back, I hadn’t exhibited any of my art pieces and showing my creations to anyone other than The Good Man makes me a bit shy.

As I handed it over, I could only see all of the many errors I needed to fix. If only there was time. My nerve began to waver, but I relinquished my canvas to my mentor with the belief she’d find the right place for it in her exhibit.

This past weekend The Good Man and I finally got a chance to get over to the gallery to see my little humble canvas. I almost cried. She found a great spot for my piece and it flows into the show really well. It both stands out and blends in.

It is so very gratifying to see my little mended heart hanging proudly on a gallery wall.

Side note: No wonder the cartoon I posted for Valentine’s Day got to me so deeply! This idea of a broken and repaired heart has been on my creative brain for a while now.

Much gratitude to The Good Man, the great State of New Mexico, The Crafty Chica for the inspiration and know-how.

Photo and canvas are both Copyright 2013, Karen Fayeth, and subject to the Creative Commons license in the right column of this page. Photo taken with an iPhone5 and the Camera+ app.

Getting to know you, er, me

Hey, contrary to popular opinion, I haven’t run off screaming into the sunset (a la Daffy Duck). Nope, I only managed to contract a vile form of stomach flu or maybe food poisoning that knocked me down for about five days last week.

It was the worst stomach ailment I’ve ever experienced in a life that’s crossed paths with plenty of gastroenteritis over the years.

It was bad. Real bad.

And you know, a year and a half into this marriage thing, I’m still learning how to handle things like living in a house with another person and only one bathroom.

Good times. We made it through the crisis with compassion and humor. Lots of humor.

The good news is, I’m back up and around and able to eat solids again.

Over the past week, I noted a few new commenters on the blog and so I have to stop a moment and say “hi!” and a big thanks to new readers.

I’m coming up on a three year anniversary of this crazy blog (March 17), and slowly but surely the number of visitors is increasing.

Which is amazing. I have much gratitude, thank you!

There was a perplexing comment made on a post from last week, and it got me thinking. Since I was doing a lot of lying around whining most of last week, I had some time to think.

In light of some new folks hanging around, a pending three year blogaversary, and my wading back into blogging after a tough week, I decided a “getting to know me” post might be in order.

My longtime readers may find most of this stuff a retread of what they’ve already learned over the years. But for new readers, this might be a good sort of background to kick things off.

Here we go, some fun facts:

As my bio says, I’m a New Mexico girl who is now living in California. I’ve been in California for about thirteen years now, but still, New Mexico is where I lived the longest. For better or worse, that’s shaped my outlook on life.

I was raised in Albuquerque back in the 70’s and 80’s when Albuquerque was growing, but still had a lot of dirt roads running through town.

Being homesick for New Mexico was the genesis of this blog. That is where it started, but I’ve managed to veer off course quite a bit over the past three years. And I like it!

My favorite color is red. Unless it is purple. Then there is my love affair with orange. And cobalt blue. Man, I love cobalt blue. And black. Can’t go wrong with black. I like bold colors. It’s hard to pick just one.

I’m the youngest child of three, which has definitely skewed my worldview, whether for better or for worse is in the eye of the beholder.

My dad was an engineer, which definitely skewed my worldview.

Growing up, I was deeply and positively affected by the prevailing Hispanic and Native American cultures (my ethnicity was the minority on the playground) of New Mexico. I identify more with the cultures in which I was raised then my own genetic lineage. It makes me happy.

I also grew up “a little bit country,” a fact that makes me proud, and sort of perplexes the people I live and work with in the urban Bay Area (I dropped a “this ain’t my first rodeo” on a conference room full of people, including a VP of manufacturing, in my first year working here. It brought the room to a screeching halt. I rather enjoyed that.)

The mid-2000’s were tough years for me. 2005 was a landmark year.

In 2005:

A long-term relationship had ended badly the year before and being alone again after all that time was disorienting.

After a close call in 2004, in February of 2005 (yesterday, to be exact) my father finally passed away after a valiant fight with a terrible lung disease. My relationship with my dad had been complicated…so this was also disorienting.

Four months later, my best friend from high school died of cancer that had started in her ovaries and ended in her brain. She left an adorable young daughter and a grieving husband behind.

In 2005 I was morbidly obese. Not much more to say on that topic.

However, that summer, after a long talk from a doctor after a regular physical in which the words “you will die” came up a lot, I began to eat better, smaller, healthier, and I exercised as much as my aching joints would allow. Funny what watching someone die will do for your motivation.

The weight started coming off fast. I lost over 100lbs in a year.

In November 2005, I met this guy. A really charming fellow. I may have even chased him around a little bit. Thankfully he let me catch him, and we married in 2008.

2005 made me realize that in order to know great joy, I also had to know great sorrow.

The kind of sorrow that rips your guts out, makes you afraid to leave your home, and makes you wonder if you can ever be happy again. Then I learned that surviving it can manage to produce this amazing guy who actually gets your sense of humor and will put up with your sh*t.

Ain’t that a kick?

By the by, I refer to my husband as The Good Man on this blog.

I have a cat. She’s a pain in the ass. She also has one of the best personalities I’ve ever known (human or animal). I try not to be “the cat lady” and blog too much about my pet. Sometimes it can’t be helped.

When I let myself dream, what I most want to be when I grow up is a published writer. I write fiction mostly, but non-fiction too. I have six completed but unpublished novels. I self-published a seventh just to see how the process works. Yes, I have a book on Amazon. It’s actually not that hard to do.

This blog makes me sit down and write every weekday, and has improved my writing skills exponentially over the past three years.

I also love to craft. I make mostly Mexican inspired pieces and I’m not bashful in my love and admiration for The Crafty Chica. It was one of her books that kicked me in the butt and gave me a voice for all the artistic ideas that I had rolling around in my head. A link to my Etsy store is on the left side of the page.

I’m also a very, very amateur photographer. I’ve been taking classes and my technique is improving, but there is a long way to go. I tend to believe more in getting a great shot from the camera and less Photoshop, so that means I’ll likely always languish as an amateur. I weary of all the over corrected and over Photoshopped photos in the world, but that’s just me.

I like pie. Sour cherry mostly, though a good tart key lime runs a close second. Blueberry is nice too.

I’m a brunette. My eyes are a greenish-brown.

This photograph scares me more than you know. (NM’s Governor Richardson)

My favorite author is Larry McMurtry. But my favorite book of all time is “Red Sky at Morning” by Richard Bradford. I read it through again two days ago in my stomachache haze. I love that book. It’s very New Mexico.

At the request of The Good Man, I’m now reading “A Moveable Feast” by Hemingway. I love to read but I’m not much on classic authors. The Good Man is working on my literary education. He even got me to read another Steinbeck. After “The Grapes of Wrath” I swore I’d never read another Steinbeck.

In return, he’s read “Bless Me Ultima” by Rudolpho Anaya and he’s currently working on “Red Sky at Morning” (it was a deal, I’d read “Cannery Row” and he had to read “Red Sky at Morning.”)

I’m very fond of my Fat Baby boots. They make me ridiculously happy.

I am blessed to have a very small selection of very, very good friends. I met my best friend back in 1988. We can never part ways. We know too much dirt about each other. We are the Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid of New Mexico, only with a lot more green chile.

I like to eat. A lot. Lately, I also like to cook, so that works out nicely.

I am a rabid San Francisco Giants baseball fan, no matter how many times they break my heart. Which has been a lot over the course of a lifetime…..

I like to sing off key and loudly in the confines of my car. I’m not ashamed. Not even when I forget that I left the windows open.

I believe laughter the antidote to most of what ails the world. Sometimes I laugh inappropriately. But I always say, “excuse me” when I do.

I will always laugh at a fart joke. I don’t know why. It’s juvenile and uncouth. I don’t care. Fart jokes are funny. There may have been a few over the past week as a stomach ailment provides a lot of…er…fodder.

I have jury duty this week. I wonder if I’ll get called into service? Sometimes, I secretly wish that I get to be on a jury. I’m wildly fascinated by the justice system.

Did I mention I like pie?

Ok, well, there’s obviously a lot more to know, but that’s probably more than enough for now. Stick around for a while, if you want. I’m sure I’ll blurt out more embarrassing facts about myself soon.

If you’ve managed to read all the way through this, well, I thank you.

If you have been reading the blog for a while, good to see you again.

If you are new to my brand of writing, welcome. I look forward to getting to know you.

And now, back to acting like Daffy Duck…

Oh Bliss!

Crafty Chica products returning to Michaels Stores!

Love, love, love all of The Crafty Chica products. When her fabulous items were in stores last year, I made my husband pull off the road to the store in Gilroy (hello, Gilroy? Sooo far away) so I could see if they had the charms, as all three of the stores closer to me were out.

Did I mention…this was on our *honeymoon*? Yup.

That’s what The Crafty Chica product line means to me!! (check out my Etsy store, as I use Crafty Chica glitters in much of my work!)

Click the link above for details on which stores will carry the products!

Tomorrow The Crafty Chica unveils the new products on her blog.

I can’t wait. : happy jig :

Life lessons from my craft table

I spent much of Sunday afternoon working on various art and crafting projects. (Check out my Etsy store if you haven’t already!)

So while I applied Mod Podge to glass ornaments and shook out glitter and painted and spilled and generally had a heck of a time, I got to pondering.

I’m a ponderer, donchaknow?

“Iiiii’m the kind of gal who likes to think around, oh I’m the ponderer, oh I’m the pondereeeer!”

Sorry. Ahem, random bit of silliness.

Anyhow, while waiting for glue to dry, I thought about the lessons for a better life that I have learned during the art of crafting.

Here’s a few I quickly jotted down:

  • Angry crafting is not good crafting
  • Oh yeah. I’ve sat down at the table, madder than hell about something, and stabbed paint on things, smashed glue into corners and hastily applied decorations.

    End result? Unpretty.

    To me, creating requires a certain letting go in the mind. Almost a meditation. Not to get all Buddhist or anything, but you have to be in the moment with the paint or glue or papier-mâché or whatever medium you are elbows deep into.

  • Sad crafting can sometimes rock.
  • So very stereotypical to say that you have to be sad and depressed to really create. In fact, I pretty much hate that this concept has become so ubiquitous.

    But, I do have to admit, sometimes, when I’m really down, and tired of feeling down, exhausted from the sad, I turn off my brain and let the paintbrush take over (or the keyboard if I’m writing) and I find that in that non-thinking space, I make some of the best stuff.

    Then again, I can be crazy-ass happy like a chimpanzee and make cool stuff too.

    It all comes back to where your mind is at. Not to put too fine a point on it.

  • Tipsy crafting is a no.
  • Yeah. Worse than angry crafting. You *think* you are doing a great job, but then you wake up the next day and see big gaps you missed, stuff is crooked, left the glue pot open, etc.

    Not that drunk crafting isn’t fun, it just isn’t advisable.

    There’s letting go the mind and there is letting go of your faculties. Know when to put the glue gun down!

    This was a hard lesson learned after sharing a small pitcher of margaritas with The Good Man over homemade enchiladas. Yum!

    Should have chosen singing out loud or playing the guitar instead. Will still come out crappy, but no lasting effects to remind!

  • A rhinestone or other well placed embellishment can cover a multitude of sins.
  • When I was learning to drive, my mom always said, “If you miss your turn, just turn around and try again.” And you know what? She’s always been right. Flat right. Don’t panic. Don’t freak out. Don’t give up on the whole thing.

    Just, be calm, and fix it.

    Look, they say what makes a book great isn’t the initial writing, it is the editing. I think what makes art great isn’t that you make something perfectly the first time, but it’s about all those “happy accidents.” Those goofs you didn’t expect but show you something more profound or deeper or more meaningful than you first imagined.

    Then sometimes there are just those “oops, my freaking thumb got in the way and now I have a huge ass smudge.” That’s when you slap a big rhinestone or a button, a milagro or SOMETHING fun over it and smile, because then only YOU know there is a mistake under there.

    Everyone else thinks you meant it that way.

    Crafting has made me give up on trying to be pefect and learn to welcome those “hey what the!?!? Oh, heeeeeey…..” moments.

  • And finally, as much as you may love your pets, and believe me, I LOVE my pet a lot, don’t craft with your pets nearby.
  • Let’s just say this…I was covering a wooden item in glitter. Glue went on, glitter covered the item in a big pile.

    I got up to wash off my glue brush. As I stood, the Feline was fast asleep nearby (on the table actually).

    I walked from the room, turned to check, yep, still asleep.

    Returned in about two minutes. I find my Feline with glitter ALL over her face and the glitter spread *everywhere*.

    Seems she’d taken a sniff, inhaled a bit o’ the Crafty Chica Nova Blue, and sneezed.


    Also, I got weary of constantly picking cat hair out of my paint and glue and did I mention she likes to sleep on my paint rag?

    Feline doesn’t get to sleep on the craft table anymore.

    So, just exile your pets from your art space. Believe me, this will save many headaches.

    Unless pet hair is your medium, then knock yourself out!

All right, enough pondering. Time to get back into my Zen space, pick up my purple acrylic paint, and get back to crafting.

(not my craft table, but might as well be!)