overcoming my fears of watercolor

 Mandy's Grandma Archuleta served her signature pinto beans in this 2 qt. Hall's Superior Quality Kitchenware bowl with Autumn Leaf motif.

Mandy's Grandma Archuleta served her signature pinto beans in this 2 qt. Hall's Superior Quality Kitchenware bowl with Autumn Leaf motif.

I have steered clear of using watercolor paints for years because they would usually leave me feeling disappointed, frustrated, and inadequate. Too often I'd watch in horror as colors bled into one another leaving muddy messes behind. Every now and then I'd overwork the paints when I should have just left well enough alone. And more often than not I'd watch helplessly as colors traveled to areas on the paper intended for different applications. It seemed like watercolors and I just weren't meant to be.

Fast forward to today where I'm living in the Bay Area surrounded by wickedly-talented artists, some of whom I'm proud to call friends. I am especially blown away by the watercolor artists -- they've given me hope that I can slay the watercolor demons of my past if I just try.

 Mandy's maternal great-great grandmother's solid bird's eye maple rolling pin.

Mandy's maternal great-great grandmother's solid bird's eye maple rolling pin.

So, try I have. I spent the last month documenting some beloved kitchen heirlooms for the #12monthsofpaint Community Art Challenge (the April's theme was "All Things Kitchen!") I welcomed the practice and also saw this as an opportunity to face my fears (I self-imposed a rule that I could only use watercolors). In the end, I discovered a greater appreciation for the medium and I believe I slayed a few of those demons. 

What did I learn? Investing in proper brushes and quality paper makes a world of difference. By simply committing to this practice for the whole month, I spent valuable time practicing brush strokes and varying the amount of water left on the brush to see the different outcomes. I learned that I didn't necessarily have to wet the entire surface with water first, before applying pigment, like I remember seeing on those PBS shows of my youth. I also realized I could wait for layers to dry before adding more colors (again, those TV shows made it look as if everything needed to happen at once). Lastly, the perfectionist in me learned to embrace the lack of control that comes with watercolors. 

 Fire King Jadeite Batter bowl belonged to Mandy's mom's mom, Viola Fossett.

Fire King Jadeite Batter bowl belonged to Mandy's mom's mom, Viola Fossett.

My finished watercolor paintings:  Click here to view my paintings and learn more about the #12monthofpaint Community Art Project, the artists co-hosting the project, and how there's still time left for you to participate. Thank you for stopping by. Cheers!
 

2015: a year of community-based art

While I might not have produced as much studio work in 2015 that I'd hoped to, I'm confident I spent my energy in all the right places. In addition to taking some fabulous art classes and workshops (more on that in a separate post), I participated in some truly amazing community-based art projects, locally and globally, thanks to the power of social media and the Internet. When I look back on it all, the icing on the cake was making new friends and meeting some of my art idols along the way - pinch me!


The Keepsake Project  --  December

What an honor it is to say that my daughter's quilted yellow jacket was included in Lisa Solomon's The Keepsake Project. For her residency program at Irving Street Projects in San Francisco, Lisa invited the public to share items of special or sentimental meaning. She wanted to get to know the stories behind the keepsakes and create a collection of original mixed-media paintings based on photographs she took of the items. She and Kelly Inouye, artist and owner of Irving Street Projects, hosted a reception in early December to showcase Lisa's prolific body of work. 

I invite you to learn more about my keepsake and how Lisa brought it to life through a beautiful mixed-media painting -- just visit my Community Art The Keepsake Project gallery page. Thank you for everything Lisa + Kelly! 

 Pictured L-R: A goofy-looking me standing next to one of my idols, Lisa Solomon, during the closing reception at Irving Street Projects. It was such a treat to meet her adorable family and see first-hand her phenomenal work capturing everyone's keepsakes -- a dream come true!

Pictured L-R: A goofy-looking me standing next to one of my idols, Lisa Solomon, during the closing reception at Irving Street Projects. It was such a treat to meet her adorable family and see first-hand her phenomenal work capturing everyone's keepsakes -- a dream come true!

 Pictured at top: Lisa's photograph of the quilted jacket my youngest daughter Addie wore on the day she became a part of the family in China. Below is the keepsake description along with Lisa's masterful rendition of Addie's coat (paint with embroidery thread).

Pictured at top: Lisa's photograph of the quilted jacket my youngest daughter Addie wore on the day she became a part of the family in China. Below is the keepsake description along with Lisa's masterful rendition of Addie's coat (paint with embroidery thread).


CHROMA Installation  --  July

CHROMA Installation was the brainchild of renowned artists Lisa Solomon and Christine Buckton Tillman that explored color theory through everyday objects. Lisa and Christine invited people to contribute small-ish items for what would become a massive, eye-popping installation at Gallery CA in Baltimore, MD. Below is a snapshot of my contribution, but to get a better sense of the magnitude and brilliance of the project, please visit the following CHROMA links (you'll be happy you did!): tumblr, instagram, Lisa's portfolio, Christine's portfolio, and BmoreArt's "Life in Color" article. Thank you Lisa and Christine!

 My CHROMA installation. As images from the project flooded in on social media, I found myself obsessed with trying to find my items amongst the sea of color -- a 'Where's Waldo' if you will.

My CHROMA installation. As images from the project flooded in on social media, I found myself obsessed with trying to find my items amongst the sea of color -- a 'Where's Waldo' if you will.


#STRIKEAWAY Show  -- May + June

I hopped, skipped, and jumped at the chance to transform matchbooks into art for the amazing #STRIKEAWAY Show, curated by artists/authors Courtney Cerruti and Alicia Dornadic. You could say this project was 'right up my alley'-ha!) My "Strikeaway Lanes" and "Floral Brooch" were shown at Paxton Gate Kids in San Francisco, CA 5/22-6/30 alongside nearly 450 other pieces from 225 artists from the globe. Click here to view the making of my pieces. To learn more about the show click here. To see other pieces, check out the show's instagram feed. Thank you Courtney and Alicia! 

 Pictured L-R: Alicia Dornadic, me, and Courtney Cerrutti on the day these uber-talented ladies were accepting submissions in Temescal (Oakland, CA). Lucky me!

Pictured L-R: Alicia Dornadic, me, and Courtney Cerrutti on the day these uber-talented ladies were accepting submissions in Temescal (Oakland, CA). Lucky me!

 My #STRIKEAWAY Show submissions:  "Floral Brooch" was sold at the show and "Strikeaway Lanes" was featured on The Jealous Curator!

My #STRIKEAWAY Show submissions:  "Floral Brooch" was sold at the show and "Strikeaway Lanes" was featured on The Jealous Curator!


Feb 2015 #creativeUNblock

As a longtime fan of Danielle and her blog, The Jealous Curator, I could't pass up the opportunity to participate in one of her #creativeUNblock art challenges (a year-long, monthly series based on interviews with artists in her top-selling book, Creative Block). I chose February's challenge inspired by Portland-based artist Kate Bingaman-Burt and spent the month cataloging my medicine cabinet using a set of retro Nifty cards from a dear aunt with colored pencils and ink. Click here to view all my cards. Thank you Danielle and Kate! 

 Items from my medicine cabinet captured on Nifty cards with colored pencil and ink. 

Items from my medicine cabinet captured on Nifty cards with colored pencil and ink. 


The Sketchbook Project  --  January

I loved it back in 2011 so much so that I joined The Sketchbook Project's 2015 Tour and chose "Pushers" for my challenge. Being a part of a larger movement with artists from around the world is what made this project truly special. Click here to view the sketchbook.

 "989 00"  installment: my "Pushers" sketchbook for the 2015 Tour. (Colored pencil and ink drawing of my dusting brush that's served me well for 17+ years). 

"989 00"  installment: my "Pushers" sketchbook for the 2015 Tour. (Colored pencil and ink drawing of my dusting brush that's served me well for 17+ years). 

 

aftermath and healing

I fought for mom to retain her sanity, her independence, her dignity.
I fought hard and often fought scrappy, but I fought with love. 
I fought at the expense of my family and my own health.
And she still died. 

It's been almost two years since mom passed away and I'm just now feeling comfortable talking about losing her, the lingering heartache, and the roller coaster journey my family and I have been on.

 "made by mom" installment: original sketch on paper with colored pencil (2.13.15) + handmade ceramic cup by Jane Fossett (circa early 1990s)

"made by mom" installment: original sketch on paper with colored pencil (2.13.15) + handmade ceramic cup by Jane Fossett (circa early 1990s)

What I didn't expect was just how hard it would be to step off the caregiver treadmill. My newfound "freedom" left me feeling empty for I was accustomed to dropping everything at a moment's notice. I'd be there when mom needed a patient advocate in the ICU or transportation to a doctor's appointment. I was there when she couldn't drive herself to buy groceries or fill prescriptions. I learned her entire medical history so that she no longer had to answer the litany of intake questions in the emergency room or newly-assigned specialist's office. I'd uphold my promise to be by her side when the firemen were called to her house, often in the middle of the night, when her blood glucose levels tanked. And I ran on vending-machine meals and slept in hospital cots so that I could be there for mom when she'd wake after surgery.

Caregiving is no small undertaking. I was thrust into the situation, as is the case with so many family caregivers, without guidance to navigate the minefield of medical terminology, specialists, patient outcomes, rehab options, home health coordination and insurance interpretation. The list goes on, but we do what we can to help our loved ones. And I couldn't have done it without the unwavering support of my husband, family, friends and neighbors. 

I haven't shared much before now because 1) I am a private person (doesn't come easy but I'm learning - thank you Brene!) and 2) When I do talk I want to be sure I'm honoring mom. Never in her 66 years did she let her illness define her. She was the strongest, wisest, most creative person I've ever known. So please know that I will do my best to keep the conversation focused on my experience as her caregiver.

 

One way I can honor mom is by showcasing her amazing art and handicrafts. I'm starting a new series of paintings/drawings called "made by mom". The first installment is featured above. 

 

In addition to art and therapy, I can attribute my healing to what I've read in "Passages in Caregiving: Turning Chaos into Confidence" by Gail Sheehy. This book has had a profound impact on me. It has given me the language I've needed to talk coherently about what I did day in and day out for five years straight, first for my sister and then my mom. The book also validates the extremes in emotions and fatigue.

Gail's book helps future caregivers avoid the same mistakes she and hundreds of other caregivers interviewed for the book have made. She explains the eight universal stages (or "Turnings" as she calls them) of the caregiver's journey -- giving hope and order to an otherwise tumultuous experience. I only wish I'd discovered the book sooner. 

Perhaps I will talk at greater length about the book or how I navigated certain "Turnings", but for now I urge you to read a brief overview of the book here because you are likely to find yourself caring for a loved one and I'm confident you will appreciate Gail's work.