Anniversary Mountain Get-Away

June 1st marked our third year together as a couple and our first year of cohabitation. After missing our last anniversary due to work we wanted to something special, special and within a reasonable budget. We considered our options and since flash floods eliminated any camping possibilities we decided to go to our favorite place nestled in the heart of the Smoky Mountains: a lovely little house homed by one of the most successful couples we know, Jared’s grandparents. It might seem a bit unconventional but I can think of no better way to celebrate our time together than by being with two people who have made it work for over 64 years of married life.

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Surrounded by rows of flowers and a lovely garden, their home is a lovely respite from our routine and a wonderful chance to spend time with some of our favorite people. I have been treated like nothing less than family since I was first introduced to them – I’m even referred to as their “adopted granddaughter.”

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Our plans settled, we packed up my truck on a Thursday afternoon and headed to the Mountains. When we finally emerged from Atlanta traffic and started entering more rural territory, I could feel myself start to untense and relax. The sun was slowly beginning to settle into evening and it cast a beautiful golden haze on the landscape, illuminating the mist and gilding the trees. Every mile that rolled by seemed to melt away any pressures or anxiety that remained.

We got to spend some quality time with Ma and Pa and rejuvenate ourselves as well. Adjusting to their daily schedule proved quite beneficial; we went to sleep earlier, got up earlier, and had meals earlier too. That alone added hours to our day. Every day we had tasty homemade country meals with farm fresh veggies. Ma even took us to the local produce stand where she gets said veggies, and of course I managed to pick up a new plant to add to my menagerie. Later, we drove into town and toured an art walk in the historic square. We even had time between trips to work in our sketchbooks.

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Something about the atmosphere and probably the lack of responsibilities made it a lot easier to focus on art. Stepping back from our daily lives and adjusting the perspective helped me shake off insecurities about my art. If you make art out in the middle of the mountains and no one is around to judge it, does it matter if its good or not? With this in mind I was able to concentrate on the parts I liked. I’m one of those weirdos that actually enjoys watching paint dry – I love seeing the color-laden drops get sucked down into the fibers of the paper and how the touch of a shadow suddenly adds dimension to a subject. Suddenly, I enjoyed making art again and I didn’t care how it looked. Okay, I cared – but at least not to the detriment of my momentum.

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Interestingly enough, working on art again did something to my state of mind: I felt happy again.

Not to say I was extremely unhappy to begin with (perhaps a touch of ennui) but I started to feel whole again sitting at that table painting a rundown rock shop. It was like I was missing a part of myself and I hadn’t fully realized. This feeling of completeness in turn was also making me a better partner to Jared. Feeling incomplete left a raw edge on me; I would get irritated more easily at insignificant things and I had a hard time letting go of things that bothered me. It’s like your brain is trying to fix what is wrong but can’t find the source of the problem so it vents that energy into really dumb things.

Though we both still have a lot to work on to be as great a couple as, say, Ma and Pa, being true to ourselves and our art is definitely a big step in that direction. This trip was exactly what we needed it to be and I look forward to more years ahead.

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Best laid plans.

Excuse my French, but ding dang darn doodly, this past week has been crazy: we drove home from our trip to the mountains, painted and decorated a room in senior living facility, and I made a painting for my friend’s book cover.

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4.5 days later we have a whole new space

So let me backup a little and explain.

BEIGE

BEIGE

Recently, my mother asked for help with furnishing a space for her adoptive aunt, who was to be moved into an elderly living facility. Recently as in three months ago – there have been some technical difficulties. Things finally started moving and Jared and I got the green light to work on the room, which happened to be the day before the trip we had planned for our anniversary. We had already done so much prep work in the previous months – designing layout, gathering furniture and decor items, picking out paint colors – that we figured the 5 days we had to work in the room should be plenty of time to get it all together before my great Aunt moved in.

so much beige!

Beige nightmare

Spoilers: we were still decorating when she arrived. This worked out though, as she seemed enjoy all the bustle happening around her.

Like most of my carefully detailed and thought-through plans, I may have been a smidge bit over ambitious with this project. I had a master list so what could possibly go wrong?

hustle! hustle! hustle!

The studio *was* clean

Well, while chatting with my friend I remembered promising him a piece of art for a book he would be selling at a convention and, as it turns out, his deadline for getting his book to the printers was quickly approaching, so there went 24 hours. Also, it took the better part of five days to finish painting the room after I had planned on it taking maybe 7-8 hours tops. My project list quickly became less manageable:

  • Paint the room and the bathroom
  • Upgrade a simple Ikea night stand with paint and stain
  • Upgrade Ikea bed frame with wood stain and build a padded headboard
  • Paint couch sourced from goodwill to bring it from an intense floral to a soft neutral
  • Sew some pillows for the couch in matching fabric from the headboard
  • Create a backdrop focal point over the bed
  • Make some decorative art for the room
  • Arrange a gallery wall of art and objects from her home
  • Upcycle a large wall clock with clearer numerals
  • Sew curtain valances and an under sink curtain
  • Install easy lift, light filtering shades for the windows
  • Plants for the windowsills
  • Add lights to closets and kitchenette
  • Put all lamps on a remote power switch
  • Build a simple desk/table
  • Anything else I can think of

The highlighted bits describe the timeline:

Green is a task we handled before we even got into the room,

Blue is a task we worked on in the room before my aunt arrived,

Red is something we did day of or after she got there, and

un-highlighted things we have yet to do.

Strike through portions are things that I decided to pass on / weren’t going to work out.

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ahhhhhhhh.

Despite the chaos, what came together is quite lovely. My Aunt is an incredibly sweet and feisty lady with a unique personal style I have always admired. She spent a large part of her life working in Africa and I am so glad I was able to  incorporate her aesthetic and items into the room. With my mom benefacting the venture (within a reasonable budget), I was able to gather and thrift the rest of the furniture items and work on them to fit my Aunt’s style. Even though I didn’t get everything done that I wanted, the space we created for her was exactly what it needed to be: a breath of fresh air and a cozy place for her and memorable items from her home.

I really enjoyed the process of designing, even with the bits of chaos in between. I am incredibly proud of what was accomplished and my aunt seemed to enjoy her new space as well. I have several diy project tutorials to share now as well, so stay tuned!

Along with leaving no fibers behind, Wooster roller brushes make excellent pillows.

How tired am I? 10. Ten tireds.

Upon Further Inspection

It’s been nearly a month and I have finally started a drawing. I have also cleaned the entire house we rent.

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Dining Room Overview

I know I’ve discussed my tendency to use home maintenance as a distraction from my art problems but in this case it was a necessary priority as our leasing company set up a mandatory house inspection. Per the memo, we were to have the property cleaned up, “like you were inviting people for a barbecue ,” so in less than a week we decorated, cleaned, organized, shoved stuff into boxes, and shoved those boxes into closets. All of this literally just in time for the inspection, which turned out to be maybe 15 minutes of someone walking around taking pictures of the property.

Then we threw a party.

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DJ Bambi

This has been our first year of cohabitation and we’ve never quite felt settled since our move but now, thanks to surprise inspection, we were finally ready to have our first house warming party. It was a low key get together with a mix of our friends from different parts of our life all of whom seemed to have a pretty great time. I loved making tasty dishes and showing off the space we’ve curated for ourselves.

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Our den, with a view of our salon style wall of art.

Decorating and arranging are definitely my favorite forms of self expression and it’s always nice to find a way to exercise that creative energy. I’m not 100% certain how it fits in with my art/career but I feel strongly that it will one day. It’s telling that when I’m faced with less than a week to put our entire home in order my approach is to start by decorating: framing and hanging art that has been sitting around forever and tackling several improvement/furniture building projects. Only after that will I finally get around to shoving the rest of our stuff into boxes and then shoving those boxes into closets. It’s not the most practical method – certainly not the most logical – but everything came together beautifully.

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Mantle detail close up.

I am still figuring out how and what I want to create as an artist. Oddly enough, cleaning house has actually started something for me (and my mental well being) and my studio is one of the rooms that most benefited from the overhaul. I switched up the layout and finally got around to cleaning my palettes and brushes. Now there are fewer hurdles  between me and actually getting started on a piece (not just figurative, but the literal piles of stuff we were trying to sidestep). Being able to spend time in my studio has affected the way I think about making; now I can concentrate on ideas instead of what tasks I must accomplish to get set up. I’m still continuing to tweak bits in the studio but I’m also working on sketches and planning (art) projects. I finally taken the next step and it feels great to be moving forward.

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View from the den into my studio space.

 

Creative Atrophy

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It’s six in the morning and I am sitting in my studio. It’s a mess, and not in the creative fury of thoughts and action kind of way either. It’s wrecked in the dusty, disheveled –I didn’t know where to put these things so I stacked it on my dried out watercolor palette ‘cause it’s not like I’m using it anyway– kinda way. The atrophy of my creativity is painfully apparent.

When I’m working it’s understandable to not have creative energy after 12 hours of physical labor. Weekends between working days can also be a mad race to complete all the washing, cooking, and shopping for the busy week to come.

But I haven’t had a union gig for quite some time (as is the nature of the film industry). I tell myself that work will pick up soon and I should be take advantage of all the down time but somehow days and nights pass and I still manage to avoid just sitting in my studio. I’m always able to fabricate a list of other chores that needed attending; there are meals to prepare, laundry to catch up on, rooms to destroy with the pretense of “organizing”, and of course, plenty of shows to binge.

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It is not about energy I have, or the chores I list that keeps me avoiding my studio. I have put so much pressure on the need to make something “good” that I haven’t actually enjoyed the process of drawing or painting in quite some time.  My future feels like it hinges on my ability to create good work. It becomes overwhelming when each drawing or painting feels like it needs to be the piece that starts the portfolio collection that will jumpstart my career. I want very much to be a successful Artist, able to sustain myself fiscally with what I produce, spending my days making and creating. I find it difficult to just start a piece with all the self-imposed expectations looming overhead. I know I am going to have to set aside my trepidation and embrace works that won’t be up to snuff.  There will be a lot of bad and mediocre pieces while learning to make great ones.

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So these are my first steps toward learning to accept failure as an instructor and allow myself a reasonable pace to discover who I am as an artist. There isn’t really a straightforward life model for growing into what I want to become. As I chart my own path in making creativity a career I’ll share my process and everything else in between that sustains and inspires me, here in the Den of Leaves.