Friday, October 26, 2012

Thanks Lisa!

Lisa in action at the Mosaic Studio

Lisa Morales brought me to Houston to teach two 2-day Paper Painting Collage Workshops. Lisa is not an art group or guild, she's an individual who wanted me to come to Houston. Lisa started a Facebook fan page for the class and we filled 32 slots almost immediately!

I told Lisa that she should start a career in marketing or perhaps in workshop hosting, but Lisa already has a great job, she's going to school at night working toward her BFA and by day she's a Mom of three and a face painter!

After class tonight I had the benefit of watching Lisa work. She transformed a lovely lady into a very cool Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos) skull for a halloween party she was headed to.

Dia de los Muertos ©2006, St. Hilaire Nelson

I had to bring my computer to class for my Paper Paintings presentation. After class I had to break it out again to get some graphic design work done before heading out for some AWESOME Greek food at Niko Niko's here in Houston. 

While I was laying out magazine articles for a publication in Michigan, Lisa was painting away.

My mad graphic design skills at their best

Lisa's mad face painting skills at their best

If you are in the Houston area and need an amazing face painter for your next corporate function or birthday party, Lisa's work is outstanding and incredibly creative!

A Pinch of Wonderful is Lisa's website, but I'd say it's more like a big handful!

The finished painting!

Learning Something New Yet Familiar

The Nizza Mosaic Studio in Houston, TX

The Houston Paper Paintings Workshop is being held at the Nizza Mosaic Studio & Gallery. Today at the studio I had the pleasure of observing Darby and his crew working on what will eventually be a 10x15 FOOT mosaic tile mural. This project is expected to take 12-14 months. Darby took a few minutes to describe the project to my students, who were all very curious about this Byzantine glass mosaic tile technique.

Smalti tile are typically opaque glass tiles that were originally developed for use in mosaics created during the time of the Byzantine empire. Smalti is made by mixing molten glass with metal oxides for color; the result is a cloudy mixture that is poured into flat slabs that are cooled and broken into individual pieces. The molten mixture can also be topped with gold leaf, followed by a thin glass film to protect it against tarnishing. (courtesy Wikipedia)

The artist rendering, portraying a scene similar to tapestry

Darby explained that in the Smalti process, the tiles are not grouted, but rather fit perfectly and tightly together as they are glued to a sub surface that has the artist sketch projected and enlarged on it. Since this project is so large, it's been divided into smaller panels that will fit together upon installation.

A face created from Smalti tile

What Darby and his crew are creating with tile is very similar to what we are doing with paper across the hall. He spoke to my students of andemento  which is the direction or flow of the tile pieces within the mosaic. This is what I refer to in my work as directional ripping. It was really interesting to learn about the Smalti tile process and see the very similar way that the mosaic artists create volume!

A good example of andemento in the way the tile follows the form of the tree trunk and roots

Another great example of defining the rabbit form with andemento

Darby told us that this is a project that is for a private home, someone who has commissioned the studio to do several pieces for her home already. The client really likes the gold leaf tiles. Being a Gustav Klimt girl, I like the gold too!

Great gold on the saddle

The "nippers" are the only cutting tool

For a 15-foot mural, these are some very small pieces!

Darby overseeing the process

We all very much appreciated being able to view this project in the works at the studio. I thought about how much easier it is to tear paper than nip glass bits. I'd rather be covered in glue than bleeding, that's for sure! 

I really enjoyed learning about the Smalti process and how the andemento or directional ripping are close cousins!

If you are interested in seeing some amazing mosaic work, or possibly commissioning your own 15-foot mural, stop by Nizza Mosaic Studio & Gallery or visit their website for samples of the amazing work they do!

Cherie's Progress

With Love From Cherie

Cherie has wanted to create this video for quite some time. On my most recent visit last week we just bit the bullet and ignored all the reasons we had not to done it in the past... "my hair is a mess" "I'm tired" "I don't like this shirt" "Let's just do it next time"

So here it is! For ALL of the artists and wonderful people who reached out to Cherie when she was in ICU for over six weeks at Lawnwood Regional Medical Center and when she was at the Shepherd Center for Spinal Cord Rehab over Christmas. She totally appreciated all of the hand made art and cards that were sent her way to cheer her up EVERY day. When I visited, the mail would come EVERY day, by the bag full. It was an incredible outpouring of support for my best friend. I should make a thank you video too. Cherie says it best, she was always the level headed one of the two of us, I'd probably just start to cry.

Random Cards of Kindness

Cherie at Shepherd Center

And yes, the title of all these posts has been Cherie's Progress (you can search this in the top left corner of this blog to learn more about her amazing journey) so I must tell you that I was lucky enough to sit in on a therapy session at home with her and she's really doing great!

Cherie supporting her own weight on her elbow

Cherie supporting her own weight sitting up for brief moments

She continues to have an amazingly positive attitude and an incredible spirit. Just incredible. Her sister Sue is still caring for Cherie at home. Sue just recently sold her car and they were able to obtain a wheelchair adapted van. 

Here we are after 37 years of friendship!

Best friends! In our youth on Martha's Vineyard

Her physical therapy has been in the home since the hospital where she was going closed down the spinal cord rehab facility. Cherie now has a website where you can give a tax deductible donation. 

We watched President Obama raise amazing amounts of campaign funds with $5 donations. If you can, please consider donating to someone who's fighting every day to keep positive and make progress, one baby step at a time. Someone who has faith and pushes forward despite amazing odds. Someone who I have admired since I was seven years old. Someone who truly deserves a fighting chance. 

thank you!!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Silver Lining

This just in, you are NOT going to believe this but....

Race results came in today online (I never bothered to look at the race itself) and Yours Truly #461 was third in my age group! And I missed the first place by 16 min, and second place by 5.35! I can tell you that I was changing that tire for AT LEAST 10 minutes. 


Never doubt yourself, always believe. 


Personal Victories - Finding the Glass Half Full

A Glass Half Full with an amazing view of the harbour in Bermuda

Amelia Island Triathlon Weekend
As many of you who follow this blog know, second only to art – and maybe fashion – athleticism is very near and dear to my healthy heart and part of my everyday routine. 

Yesterday was my last race of the season, supposed to be anyway. I had wanted to go out with a bang, end on a high note. After all, that's what we all aim for right? 

You Gotta Start Somewhere
I had registered to compete in the Olympic distance of the Ameliaman Triathlon which took place on beautiful Amelia Island, FL which coincidentally is where I gave my very first Paper Paintings collage workshop EVER! I went on to teach my class there for three years in a row. The first year was pretty amazing because learning how to teach others what you already know can be a little confusing.

When I agreed to teach workshops, it was kind of like when I agreed to compete in my very FIRST triathlon with my sister at 40 years old. I had NO idea what I was getting myself into, but I decided that the best way to be a rounded person in art and in life, was to branch out and try new things. You can't grow if you don't branch out once in a while. 

The Amelia Island workshop, my first class ever

Believe in Yourself
Now that I am a seasoned triathlete, (and workshop instructor) having moved up from Sprint distances to Olympic, my daily routine consists of swim/bike/ run or some combination of two. I love to inspire my workshop students to get up off the couch and get moving! There's nothing that makes you feel better about yourself than being in shape and making some YOU TIME to fit exercise into the routine. I have so many students who dust off their sneakers and register for a 5K walk or run! I love to inspire people to get motivated, in art and in fitness. 

Have you gotten any exercise yet today?

I headed up to Amelia Island on Saturday afternoon. Racked my bike and picked up my race packet. I could hear the waves pounding but didn't think much of it, it's the ocean after all. Before heading to my hotel I walked down to the beach, it's so beautiful I wanted to have a look. Once down there I met a Half Iron Man competitor who told me that he had heard they were going to call off the swim. "Look at it out there!" he said "Do you REALLY want to swim in that?"

The surf was looking pretty rough on Saturday afternoon

Some of the locals told me there had been small craft advisories in the water for a week. Come to find out, there were "life threatening rip currents" and six foot waves. Yikes. 

I checked into my hotel and headed over to the Athletes Pasta Dinner and Pre Race Meeting where we were all disappointed to find out that they were calling off the swim

As much as I HATE SHARKS and was dreading the open ocean swim, I likened the swim being cancelled to using scissors to cut my collage papers or adding paint on top! (OMG NEVER) it was kind of like a cheat to have a Triathlon with the swim portion ripped (cut?) out. But..."no Half Iron Man, I don't really want to swim in that!"

So I ate my pasta and went to bed early and figured I'd kick some serious butt in the bike/run, especially without the dreaded transition time of trying to get out of a wetsuit and onto a bike. All my Facebook friends and my family encouraged me and cheered me on and made me feel confident. 

My bike on the rack and ready to go Saturday afternoon

Preparation is Key
I had gone into this race NOT feeling so confident. I told my son earlier in the week that I was feeling kind of like I could have been better prepared, could have worked harder, pushed more. 

Ever feel like this about your art? Often times before a show or a competition I start to doubt my work and think the very same thing, "could I have done more work, better work, been better prepared?"

I think we all suffer from some self doubt now and then, I know that sometimes I look at my own artwork and say "Is it good enough?" The key is to BELIEVE in yourself. Have CONFIDENCE that
you can do it. You know half the battle is in your own head. 

Transition area on Sunday morning

Giving it Your Best Shot
All you can do is your best. Your best artwork, your best attempt at teaching a class, your best effort. You should be able to rest assured knowing that you gave it your all. I did not do a lot of resting or sleeping on Saturday night, but that's a normal pre-race scenario and everyone will tell you so. 

Yours Truly very early in the morning, just before the downpour

Personal Victories
So here comes the best part. I hope you had the attention span to make it to the end of this post. On Sunday morning the rain was POURING DOWN in Amelia Island. The athletes were all huddled under any shelter we could find to protect us from the downpour. I huddled under a very small overhang from the roof of the restroom building on the beach. Standing next to me was a man I had met the day before who drove all the way from Pensacola. "I switched out of the Half Iron Man to the Olympic" he said "I just could not imagine biking 54 miles in this rain." I had to agree with him, but I was not sure I was willing to bike ANY miles in this rain. The start was delayed, delayed, delayed as the rain kept on pouring down. At one point I even though about going home. And anyone who knows me, knows it takes a LOT for me to give up. 

I have been promoting my artwork and pushing to make a living from fine art for several years. I never give up even when the going got rough. (My Dad loves that saying) I pushed harder and stronger when sales were down and galleries were closing. When workshops were cancelled due to poor attendance, I pushed to promote the next one on the schedule. You have to have drive and dedication to be a fine artist. You can't let it get you down when things don't go your way, and you CAN NOT take critique of your art personal in any way. If you don't get juried in to this show, submit again!

Finally the rain let up, but there were puddles everywhere and the course was slick. They told us there were at least five roundabouts (in MASS we call them "rotaries:") and we were advised to get out of our "drops" (aero bars) and hold on to our brakes as we rounded them.

Without the swim, they had to stagger start the bikes in a time trail manner, letting one bike go every five seconds. I shot out of the gate and never looked back, I had my bike up to 20/21MPH in no time and I was flying through the puddles. I was feeling good, pushing hard and was pretty darn proud of the fact that I was able to keep a good average pace without struggling. 

Well about 11.5 miles in it happened, I heard a noise that sounded oh so familiar coming from my back tire. My BACK tire, the worst wheel to have to remove off the bike. A flat tire. A flat tire. That's it, you're done. You can get off and change it and get back on, but your time is shot. Totally. 

There is a LOT of grease on the back wheel of a bike. 

I Did It!
Some folks will DNA (did not finish) with a flat tire in an Olympic race because you can no longer be competitive when you factor in the time it takes you to change a flat. But the idea of not finishing what I started did not ever occur to me. And guess what? I have NEVER successfully changed a flat tire on my own! I have always reverted to the help of my husband or the bike shop. I have tried, and failed. I even spent over an hour with the bike shop guys teaching me how to do it! In the end it was THAT training that helped me to successfully change this tire on the side of the sandy, wet road in Amelia Island. I DID IT!

Can you imagine just giving up because you didn't get your art juried in to the show(s) you submitted to? Do you know that I submitted every month for a YEAR and was turned down every time for a YEAR before ever being accepted to the Orlando Museum of Art First Thursday Show? I was, and it was discouraging to say the least. But I never gave up. And in the end, they accepted me over and over and asked me to be a featured artist in the Museum Shop Gallery. 

I got back on the bike, got back up to 20/21 MPH (or faster) and powered through the second half of my 26 mile ride. I felt good about myself for remaining positive and changing that tire. I felt good about the speed I was maintaining regardless of the fact that now my computer was not working either, and I was out of the competition anyway (what ELSE could go wrong, I was afraid to ask). I also started to feel really good about the upcoming 6 mile run. I started feeling very confident and ready to rock-n-roll. 

I dismounted the bike, changed my shoes, put on a visor,  and headed out of transition. As I made the turn into Fort Clinch State Park for the fully shaded and most beautiful run course, I started running, and thinking....

I finished strong passing folks younger than me and even some men on the run!

How Lucky Am I?
I mean really, how lucky am I that I am physically ABLE to do this in the first place? I started thinking about my childhood friend who was paralyzed from the neck down two years ago. Cherie. How she would love to be able to even walk, let alone accomplish what I was doing today, competitive or not.

How awesome was it that I actually changed that tire, for the first time? and it worked! 

How lucky am I to be able to make my living as an artist and a graphic designer, working for myself and doing what I love? 

How incredible is it that I am able to teach classes and travel to new places and meet new artists all over the country? the very BEST part about teaching art workshops is all the wonderful people I get to meet, hands down. I even meet wonderful people at races, huddled under the overhang, concerned at the beach, and comparing pre-race notes with the 27-year old "kid" who's bike was racked next to mine. He was born and raised in Houston, then lived 12 years in England, and now lives on Amelia Island. He has competed in at least seven Olympic races and plans to push on to the Half Iron Man distance next year. "You were FLYING on the bike" he said to me "I couldn't even come close to catching you!" boy did that make me feel good. I mean really. 

461 was a winner, in the end. 

The Moral of the Story
The moral of this very long post today (and give yourself a gold star if you made it to the end) is to recognize personal victories. Even if you don't win Best of Show or place in your age group, there are personal accomplishments along the way that should not be glossed over. 

My son reminded me when I came home on Sunday afternoon that he never lost faith in me. He said he was proud of me for competing and for finishing strong. He reminded me that he knew I was not feeling very confident going into the race, but my positive attitude about my performance was awesome, and really what matters most in the end. My son is 12 and about as tall as I am, this kid is really growing up fast. Thank you Connor, for believing in me. 

I never won anything in the juried shows I was accepted into with the National Collage Society, but having been juried in to three, I am now a Signature Member of this prestigious group, and that's something to be proud of. And lets not forget all the wonderful people and artists we all get to meet in classes and workshops and at opening receptions.

AND all the great shoes you get to wear along the way.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Koi Originals Available

2 Koi / 11x14 / flat birch panel / unframed

3 Koi / 11x14 / flat birch panel / unframed

$425 each piece, unframed. 
FREE shipping
CC payments via PayPal

Thursday, October 4, 2012


Brittany and I with her portrait

Brittany's portrait was a surprise for her dad Mark, who loved it! Her mom Donna asked me to create her portrait from personal ephemera almost a year ago.

Brittany's school papers hanging in my studio after being tinted with fluid acrylic

I hand painted all the materials Donna supplied and hung them to dry in my studio. it was wonderful following Brittany from birth to a senior in high school through her papers, notes, cards, report cards, etc. What a journey. 

24x20 underpainting on wood panel

I started with an underpainting of Brittany based on a photo her mother took. I think my biggest challenge was her perfect smile!

The eyes are always my favorite part

finding just the right colors and tearing in just the right direction for flesh tones is a challenge. The details of her personal materials that make up the piece are quite nice and something her mom enjoyed looking through when she picked up the piece. 

I have another portrait right after this one, so stay tuned if you are interested to see how that one progresses. :)