100 Days of Delight Photography: Week 1

Phew! This week marks the first in my 100 day project, where I am taking photos of people each day and asking them the question “What does delight mean to you?” (To find out more, check out this blog post.)

Each week, I’ll post a photo and quote from each person featured from the previous week. (For more photos and interview quotes, check out my Instagram feed.)

Here’s week 1:

Day 1: Hijab and Tayyaba

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H: It means making silly jokes, spending time with my best friend, looking back at old memories and laughing at it.

T: My classes are really hard and anytime I’m having a bad day and feeling stressed out, and I’ll just text her…and she’ll just say one thing and it’ll brighten my day…I’ll get so happy.

Day 2: Nate

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“Delight is basically, to me, when you’re rewarded by something that you yourself are either a part of or completely involved in—something that you know you created and a rewarding feeling you’ve given yourself.”

Day 3: Andrew

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Me: “What was the last thing you did that delighted you?”

Andrew: “I finished a really great book.”

Me: “What was the book?”

Andrew: “It was on the Cuban Missile Crisis [laughs] but it was written really well but it showed that sometimes things are not as cut and dry as we think they are.”

Day 4: Beth

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“I think delight, to me, is being with loved ones. I think of just hysterically laughing with my nieces and nephews and enjoying the people that you love.”

Day 5: JonJon1

“Spending time with people that I love…and Blejwas shirts.”

Day 6: Kyle (aka my delightful husband)

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Me: “What makes you happy, baby?”

Kyle: “Adventure…and shiny, pointy objects.”

What Could You Do with 100 Days?

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Photo courtesy of Elle Luna

Last year, I discovered this wonderful cohort of international artists who took part in this thing called The 100 Day Project.

The idea is simple: Artist Elle Luna picks a 100-day block of time and you pick the activity. Do that same activity for 100 days straight.

Simple idea, but amazing results! Those who I followed during the project were mostly artists, but I’ve heard that others went on 100 dates or wrote down their dreams for 100 days. The possibilities are  totally far flung!

Last year, I wanted to create 100 pieces of abstract art. I got quite a bit done, but never finished. Despite my lack of follow-through last year, I want to try again this year.

So what’s my project for 2016? I will be merging my love of photography and my word for the year (delight) to create #100daysofdelightphotography. For 100 days (starting on Tuesday, 4/19), I’ll be posting photos I take of people (both those I know and those I’ll randomly ask) along with their answer to the question “What does delight mean to you?” (Yes, I’m well aware that I’m taking a cue from Humans of New York.)

Want to follow along? Follow me on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook. I’ll also be posting photos and responses on the blog, but I haven’t decided if I’ll create a blog post each day or a weekly digest yet. I guess I should figure that out soon….

I can’t wait to kick off this project, and I hope you’ll follow along! More than that, though, I hope you’ll participate!

If you could focus on one project for 100 days, what would it be? Share in the comments!

100 Day Sneak Peek

A sneak peek at the project!

How to Keep Occupied on a Snowy Day

(Would you like to listen rather than read? Check out my podcast episode on this same topic here.)

This snow is peaceful. Blizzards...not so much. Image courtesy of murrysvillechurch.com

This snow is peaceful. Blizzards…not so much.
Image courtesy of murrysvillechurch.com

I wanted to keep this week’s post timely. Since storm Jonas is upon the US East coast, here are a few ideas on how to keep occupied while you’re snowed in, not just for this 2016 weekend, but also for other snow days as well.

I’ve broken the suggestions down into four categories: Netflix, Books, Art, and Being a Kid.

  1. Netflix: Here are my suggestions on fun shows to watch while sipping your warm beverage of choice.
    • If you’re in for thrills and psychological intrigue, watch Dexter & Criminal Minds.
    • The 100 provides a great sci-fi plot line and a diverse (and large!) cast of characters.
    • Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries. Solving mysteries set in the 1920s. ‘Nuff said.
    • How Stuff Works gives a behind-the-scenes looks at, well, how stuff works. One of my favorite episodes was seeing how contacts were made.

The next few activity categories can be done with or without power.

      2. Books: Are you a bookworm? Curl up with one of these while watching the snow fall outside your window!

    • The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey is a whimsical yet mature tale that asks: Can a snow girl come to life?
    • The Walking Dead comics by Robert Kirkman have fantastic artwork and have (in my opinion) a grittier storyline than the show.
    • The Sketchnote Handbook by Mike Rohde is a fun, quick read that will give you tools to spice up your yawn-inducing meeting notes.
    • The Olympians comic series by George O’Connor. Greek gods in comic form. Do you need more convincing? (If so, I don’t think we can be friends…. :-P)

      3. Art: Use the time off to get your hands dirty!

    • Fingerpaint.
    • Paint with coffee or tea.
    • Draw with whatever you have. Draw your meal, the scene outside your window, or your pets. Make the mundane frame worthy!
    • Play the squiggle game. This is pretty simple: Take out a piece of paper and draw a squiggle on it (any shape, size, etc). Have the next person add to it. You can go back and forth (or pass from person to person if there is a group of 3 or more) until the squiggle looks like something recognizable, like a person, a starfish, or a dragon.

      4. Be a kid!

    • Build a fort. Get pillows and blankets, then defend your territory!
    • Make shadow puppets.
    • Make hot chocolate with tons of marshmallows for a lovely sugar coma.
    • Tell (ghost) stories.
    • Play in the snow!

What are some activities you like to do when you’re snowed in? Share in the comments!

Why I’m Ditching New Year’s Resolutions

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Image courtesy six8seven5.com

I know, I know…”Not another resolutions post!” That’s what you’re probably thinking. I’m hoping this one has more of a twist, though, because (spoiler alert!), I’m ditching resolutions in 2016. More on that in a bit.

First a wrap up of 2015:

1. Cook a healthy meal once a week: Didn’t do too great here. 2015 was the year of takeout for the hubs and I. I think it had to do with busy schedules, but really, that’s just an excuse. Hopefully this year’s schedules won’t fill up as fast (i.e., I’ll say “no” more often), and I’ll stay more on top of having healthier food options in the house.

2. Meditate once per day: I got SUPER lax with this because I started counting super short prayers as fitting the bill. Really, they don’t. I needed to be more intentional. Something to keep in mind for this year.

3. Work on art once per week: This one I actually did! I tried a bunch of different techniques and tools, particularly digital methods. I’m really happy with my art progress and want to continue this year.

4. Read 60 books: 48. Not quite, but so close!

5. Keep a steady writing practice: Nope. This one just didn’t happen. Visual art really took over, which isn’t a bad thing. This is just one example of how my priorities changed during the year.

So, that last note (“priorities change”) is exactly why I’m ditching New Year’s resolutions in favor of something else: a yearly word.

Resolutions are fine, and if they work for you, that’s fantastic! They just don’t work for me. Over the years, I’ve found myself working toward goals that start out really important and then fall by the wayside because after a few months, circumstances change and I just don’t have the energy to focus on goals that I don’t want to prioritize.

And then there’s the issue of guilt. I used to think, “Well, I set this priority for myself and I should see it through, right?” Usually, I’d say yes, but it’s so hard to predict what will happen in a year, (or even the next couple of months!). I didn’t want to be beholden to goals that would just weigh me down when I could actually make progress on things that mattered to me.

So how does a yearly word come in? The thing about single words or phrases is that they are versatile. They can be interpreted in many ways and take different shapes. Yearly words can grow with you.

Take my 2015 word for example: gather. This can be a verb or a noun. There can be a gathering of people. Or you can gather resources. It was such a nourishing word for me. I certainly gathered a lot in 2015! I gathered art techniques, I got together with friends and family often—and these are just a sampling of the ways I acted on my word!

I was so reluctant to let “gather” go in the new year, but I think my new word will be just as awesome. “What is it?” you ask. DELIGHT!

In 2016, I want to focus on delights, or people and moments that make me smile. I want to fill others with delight through my art. I’m sure come the end of the year, I will have tons of other ways I’ll interpret this word.

But do you see what I mean? Words are so versatile. At least to me, they aren’t weighty and clunky. I’m so excited to dive into delight this year!

If you’d like to hear a bit more about why I’m ditching resolutions (and ideas for how you can choose your own word!), check out my podcast’s (Roaring Out—yep, same as the blog) episode 11.

How about you? Do you stick with resolutions, do you choose a yearly word, or do you have a different yearly ritual?

Stand by for Breakthrough…

My breakthrough piece!

My breakthrough piece!

My formal schooling is in English literature and poetry, as many of you know. However, I’ve lately been dabbling in the visual arts, which I’ve done most of my life, but for the past few months, I’ve been very intentional about it, drawing nearly every day and sharing my work on Instagram.

The other day, I had a breakthrough—I let the work guide me.

Allow me to explain: because of my training in writing, specifically creative writing and poetry, I have a bunch of tools in my writer’s toolbox so to speak. What I mean by this is that when I’m stuck, I have methods of pushing through. Put simply, I know how to “play” with language. If a prompt isn’t speaking to me, I move to another. If I’m experiencing writer’s block, I repeat what I just wrote until a new thought comes. I’m fairly comfortable with my writing sounding terrible in the first draft because I know I have the skill set to fix it up. I’m not intimidated by the “shitty first draft,” as Anne Lamott so eloquently puts it.

But when it comes to visual art, I’m terrified by that shitty first draft. After all, when you make a mark with paint, you can’t just cut it out and paste it somewhere else (like the trash) as you can easily do with writing. What happens when a mark I make isn’t what I want? What happens when I don’t know where to start? How can I “play” as freely as I do with language?

Over the past few months, I’ve been working diligently to add some tools to my artist’s toolbox and have done so fairly successfully by studying the work of artists like Lisa Congdon and Shantell Martin on platforms like Skillshare and Creativebug. (For a more comprehensive discussion of how I’ve come to accept my art as well as information on the tools I use, listen to the fifth episode of my podcast here).

As mentioned earlier, I recently had a breakthrough. Like with writing, I think I finally learned to “go with the flow” of my art and let the process guide me instead of me making the art piece strictly what I wanted.

I was inspired the other day to try my hand at a profile because of artists I follow on Instagram. It started out as a person, but as you can see from the finished product above, it turned into a lizard girl.

See? Totally needs texture!

See? Totally needs texture!

When I started adding color, I first added a darker flesh tone on the forehead, which I liked. However, the more of that particular color I added to the face, the more I didn’t like it. So, I scrolled through my digital color palette and found a color I liked–green. Without hesitation, I slathered that on. But when I stepped back, I realized I wanted more texture, so I added some scallop scales and, voila, my lizard girl was born!

This is really the first time where I trusted the artistic process and wasn’t afraid to stray from my original concept. Normally, I have an idea in my head and force it, even when the piece is clearly calling for a different approach or simply isn’t working. When I was adding green to the girl, it was fairly easy to silence the critic in my head that was saying “Hey, people don’t have green skin!” The part of me that said, “Yeah, but let’s just see what happens!” was way louder. I think this is because I’ve been practicing my hand at other techniques, so my “letting go” muscle has been exercised enough in preparation for a moment like this.

Is this piece the best thing I’ve ever made? Nope, but I’m really excited about this breakthrough and can’t wait to see what else I make when exercising my “letting go” muscle in the future.

Better Late Than Never: 2015 Resolutions Update

I intended to have two updates posted by now, but the best laid plans and all that jazz…

OK, so let’s get this part started. In previous resolutions posts, I noticed that I tended to be down on myself when I didn’t do well on a goal (which was often!). So now, I’m taking a cue from Sunflower Paperie and posting both my successes and areas of improvement.

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1. Cook a healthy meal once per week

Successes: Shoprite from Home has helped tremendously in this area! Each week (or nearly), I sit down with the hubs, and we decide what we need for the coming days. We still buy cookies and such, but we buy a bunch more fruit and healthy snacks since we don’t have to putz around the produce aisle anymore. This has also helped us save money in the long run since we have a fairly steady supply of good food options, so we don’t eat out as often. One of my favorite meals we’ve made this year is roasted pork loin with roasted red potatoes. YUM!

 Areas of improvement: I need to plan meals better. While my snack options have improved, meals have not overall. I was using a meal planner at the beginning of the year. I think it’s time to bust it out again!
Not as healthy, but totally yummy!

Not as healthy, but totally yummy!

 

2. Meditate once per day

Successes: This has taken different shapes throughout the past eight months. I downloaded the Headspace app, which helped a lot. I also got a devotional that I like and have been (fairly) consistent with reading it. I’ve also noticed that I meditate better at night. I’m trying to meditate first thing in the morning, but perhaps my rhythm is better later in the day.

Areas of improvement: I fell out of rhythm with the app and am trying to get back on track. I need to make it a priority. Overall, this is probably the habit I need to make a priority the most. My iPhone tends to get in the way. Perhaps instead of opening up Twitter first thing in the AM, I should open up Headspace. If only there was an app for that….

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3. Work on art once per week

Successes: I have tried more types of art so far this year than any other in recent memory, so that’s a huge win! I’ve taken part in a few art challenges and have gotten to know quite a few great people through Instagram and Twitter. Given that my word for the year is “gather,” this area has been a big success in that I’ve “gathered” a lot of practical art tips, art friends, and prompts.
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Areas of improvement: I tend to work in bursts. I’m super prolific for a few days, but then I may not create anything for a few weeks. In the long run, this may just be how I work, but I do want to create the habit of a steady creative practice.

4. Read 60 books

Successes: I’m a little over halfway on my goal! So far, I’ve read 33 books and am 55% done with my goal. I’m pretty happy with where I am. I’ve read fairly broadly. Some titles that stick out to me include The Night Circus, The Fire Next Time, and Raising My Rainbow.

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Photo courtesy of Google Images

Areas of improvement: Goodreads says I’m three books behind, so I suppose I should catch up. I also haven’t read any books I own nor have I finished any ARCS I’ve received. I think I’ll make more of an effort to read at least one book in each of the aforementioned categories in the next 4.5 months.

5. Keep a steady writing practice

Successes: One of the bullet points I listed in this area was to celebrate the publication of my chapbook, which I did to the fullest! I did a bunch of readings all over New Jersey from April through June. The crowds were fabulous, and I saw so many familiar faces. I loved talking about my process and sharing my work with others. I also recently signed up for Sarah Selecky’s daily writing prompts, which arrive every day to my inbox. They’ve provided great inspiration, and I wrote a poem with one of the prompts that I’m pretty sure is a keeper!

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Areas of improvement: Other than celebrating my chapbook, I haven’t done much writing (other than that keeper poem). I have tons of ideas, but I’m not making time to write them down. Much like the meditation habit, I need to be more conscious of making my writing (and art) practice a regular habit. I’m just not quite sure how to do that, but I’ll brainstorm some strategies 🙂

How about you? What is one goal you are working on this year/month/week? What have been your successes and areas of improvement?

Why Are People Staring at Me? Or My Experience as a Portrait Model

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Oh, hey, it’s me!

I recently hung out with a friend who does improv and loves it. On our train ride into the city for a show, we got to talking about our summers. She told me more about her improv shows, and I told her about the activities (paper marbling, sketching, and copy editing, among others) I was making time for.  Her reaction was, “Wow, you do a lot!” But I never think I do. And then later that night I told her how I used to bartend and that I was also an honorary member of my alma mater’s theater department back in the day. OK, maybe I have done a lot…

This past weekend, I got to add one more experience to my ever-growing list: portrait drawing model. I’m a member of the Center for Contemporary Art in Bedminster. I’ve taken a few classes there, but lately, I’ve been taking advantage of the open studio time.

During one of those studio sessions, I was asked if I’d like to be a model for portrait classes. I accepted, and this past weekend was my first gig!

I’ll be honest: I had no idea what to expect. I mean, I knew there’d be pencils and that I’d have to sit still. But otherwise? No clue.

In reality, it was both an exhilarating and surreal experience. In nitty-gritty reality, I sat still for about five hours (minus breaks and lunchtime), and my shoulders hurt somethin’ fierce by the time I drove home. In reminiscent reality, I actually learned so much. Yes, I had to sit perfectly still, but I also got to hear the teacher lecture. I got to walk around and see sketches during my breaks. It was a crash course in seeing myself how others see me, and it was…eye-opening? Thrilling? Scary? Pretty freaking cool? I can’t put one word on it.

The first half of the class was dedicated to getting a sketch of the model (me) that would be refined in the latter half of the five-hour course. The teacher showed the students a method of measuring the spaces between my features using a pencil and his thumb. When it was the students’ turn, I took all my strength not to giggle at all the thumbs and pencils I saw pointed in my direction. From a different perspective, here were eight students of all ages (literally high-school students to elders) who were practicing their craft side by side. It was heartwarming and inspiring.

During my breaks, I walked around to see half-drawn, rough sketches of myself. But they were distinctly me! This was the surreal part. I walked around, talking to the students and taking pictures, all the while thinking, “Woah, that’s my nose!” or “That’s totally the curve of my lower lip!” I’ve experienced the thrill of getting a feature just right when I draw, but to walk around and see a room full of “me” sketches was unreal.

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After lunch, we all convened again, and the students added more detail to their drawings, trying to make them appear three-dimensional. If I thought the drawings from the first half of the class were great, these were even more spectacular! It was so cool to see each student’s take on how to render my form. One student drew me as a graphic-novel-type heroine. In another, I thought I resembled Joan of Arc, with a very stately pose. Yet another drew me with very undefined lines, making me look almost like a watercolor painting. It was fascinating!

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The teacher and a student

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The teacher’s final rendering

 This experience made me recognize all of the little idiosyncrasies of my face that I don’t normally pay attention to. It also made me realize that I can sit stone still for a pretty long time. Being on the other side of the drawing pad was a great experience, and I met some really great people. One student even took a photo of me beside the drawing he made of me. Even though my face rested while I posed, I left the class smiling!

What experience with art or writing has left you with a smile?

Artist Spotlight Follow-Up: Chris Ernst

My personal fave piece of the exhibit! (Photo courtesy of Beth Colletti)

My personal fave piece of the exhibit! (Photo courtesy of Beth Colletti)

About one month ago, I posted an Artist’s Spotlight on Chris Ernst. This is a follow-up post featuring one of his local NJ exhibits.

On February 5, his exhibit “Urban Pop: 1989-1990” opened at the TrentonWorks Art Gallery in Trenton, NJ. As soon as I walked in the door, I could feel the the good, old-school vibes. Bel Biv Devoe was playing, and among the crowd, I found Chris talking it up with some of the art admirers.

When I walked around to look at the pieces, I found a nice sampling of varied styles. Sure, Chris tends to specialize in pop art, but he also does landscapes, as shown below.IMG_1438

The colors and repetition of the circles were particularly intriguing.

True to the title, the exhibit largely featured work that related to late-80s/early90s pop. Among my favorites were the paintings of Edward Scissorhands, Janet Jackson, and the 8-bit Nintendo controller.IMG_1434 IMG_1433 IMG_1437

I wasn’t the only one taking photos either. Many folks observed the paintings with great interest and took their phones out to snap a few shots.

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All in all, it was a great evening filled with laughter, mingling, and, of course, great art. Congrats to Chris on a spectacular opening!

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All paintings shown are for sale. To get in touch with the artist, Chris Ernst, you may either reach him via Facebook, e-mail (cernstart [at] gmail [dot] com), or Instagram.

What My Grade-School Self Taught Me About Owning My Art

I wasn't quite grade school age here, but those pigtails!

I wasn’t quite grade school age here, but those pigtails!

When I was in first or second grade, my class read a book and then did an art project based on it. I don’t remember what the book was about, but I remember that the main character was a ho-hum-looking man. The assignment was to draw clothes on the paper doll version of the main character in the style of any activity we wished. Some put leather jackets on him, some made him a painter or a fighter.

Keep in mind that this was the early cusp of the 90s, so 80s fashion was still prominent. I decided to do something a bit different and outfit the guy in workout clothes—short shorts, lemon-yellow headband, and all.

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“Funky Doodle” Colored Pencil and Micron Pen in sketchbook

There are two things I’ll never forget about this assignment after seeing the bulletin board with all of my classmates’ paper renditions of this book character. The first is how awesome my friend’s outfit came out. She was known for being a fantastic artist, even at that young age. Her paper doll looked like he was ready for the cover of a J. Crew catalog. He sported a smartly cut-out leather jacket made of brown construction paper, complete with a drawn-on zipper. Her paper doll had swagger.

The second thing is this: I admired the bulletin board behind two of my classmates. They pointed out their own work, then began commenting on the work of others. I’ll never forget what one of them said. He swept his eyes across the bulletin board and exclaimed to his friend, “I like all of them…except that one.” He was pointing to mine.

I don’t think the two boys knew I was behind them. I’m pretty sure they didn’t even know the paper doll outcast one of them had just singled out was mine. All I know is that one sentence rung so deep in me because it pointed out something I already felt: I’m no good at art.

Two-minute sketch of Wonder Woman. Much swagger. Such wow!

Two-minute sketch of Wonder Woman. Much swagger. Such wow!

Writing was a different story. That has always come fairly easily to me. My mom recently told me that around this same time in my school career, the stories I wrote during free time were shown to the principal because my teachers thought they were that good.

Yet I was hung up on that paper man. I knew that, technically speaking, mine wasn’t the best or most attractive of the outfits. But, dammit, I’d spent time on it!

I’ve gone back to this memory a few times throughout my life, convincing myself that perhaps it meant I shouldn’t pursue art in the public eye because people will react like my classmate: love absolutely everything out there except what I make. But I’ve recently come to the conclusion that praise isn’t what truly matters (though it is nice). Community does.

And I now accept that paper man with short shorts and headband that I made all those years ago (though he doesn’t hold a candle to the snow lady I drew around that same time. She had a red bandana and nunchucks, a la Ninja Turtle style).

"Circle Study" Micron Pen in Sketchbook

“Circle Study”
Micron Pen in Sketchbook

In years passed, I’ve set out to make art more regularly and it never quite worked out so well. This year, I’m making it one of my goals to do a bit of art once per week, even if it’s a little doodle and even if I end up doodling a male Jane Fonda like my grade-school self did. And, dammit, I will own every last bit of it.

(Note: all photos in this blog post are part of this project so far. Already on a roll!)

IMG_1276Want to join me in owning your art? Include the hashtag #arteveryweek2015 on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook. There are no restrictions on the type of media you use. Just have fun! Let’s collect our creations via this hashtag and create a community of artists that says, “We love all of them!” No exceptions 🙂

The Resolution Game: 2015 Edition

Image courtesy of becuo.com

Image courtesy of becuo.com

We’re almost two weeks into the new year. I figured it was time to not only wrap up my previous year’s resolutions but to also share my goals for 2015.

2014:
I’ll admit it: I didn’t do as well with these goals as I had hoped. It may have been due to the fact that I had so many goals. It may have just been apathy. It may have been because I planned a wedding in 2014. Whatever the reason, I’m glad I finished what I did, and I’m looking ahead…right after this recap.

1. Read 5 classic books
I read The Hobbit. The problem I found with this goal is that I read one or two more classic books in 2014 but couldn’t count them because they weren’t on my list. The particular list I made was pretty limiting, unfortunately.

2. Read 5 books I already own
Yeah, didn’t do to hot on this one either. There must be a phenomenon among readers where we need to have the shiniest books, but once we own them, they get lost in the shuffle and we go on to shinier books.

3. Read 10 books on my Goodreads “To Read” list
OK, I rocked this one and finished out the year having read 20! Really proud of this.

4. Read and review the ARCs (both digital and hard copy) that I’ve received in the past two years
Aaaand right back into resolutions I didn’t do well with. I’m almost done with one ARC, but didn’t quite finish in time for the new year. I’m hoping to keep my Netgalley review average to about 70-80 percent this year. (It’s currently hovering around 1 percent. Dismal, I know.)

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

5. Read the four Gospels
I started this one. I got up to chapter 11 in Matthew, chapter 9 in Luke and John, and didn’t start Mark. This is getting depressing….

6. Send chapbook out to at least five different contests
Yay, a pick-me-up resolution! Not only did I submit to more than five contests, my chapbook, Field Guide to Fire, was picked up for publication by Finishing Line Press. Booyah!

You can pre-order your copy here.

7. Spruce up my full-length poetry manuscript to send out to at least two fall book contests
This didn’t happen. I kept meaning to and wanted to send out to one or two November contests. I forgot how much time putting together a full-length manuscript takes.

8. Acquire a full-time teaching gig
No dice, unfortunately, though I did apply to a few positions. Also, this is largely out of my control because I can only apply, not hire myself (though that would be awesome if I could!).

9. Work on a piece of art every other week
This one went fairly well. I broadened my idea of what “art” is and took off the pressure of having to work on a piece I wanted to sell. I let myself play and got some fun doodles in the process.

10. Blog at least twice a week
*Sigh* This did not happen either…at least not consistently. Many life events derailed me. BUT I made a shiny editorial spreadsheet at the end of 2014. Hopefully it will guide me to a more consistent blogging schedule in 2015.

11. Pay off one of my two major credit cards
Ending on a high note, woot! This one’s done and done.

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2015:
Mmmmkay, I want to keep this year simple. As I worked through last year’s resolutions, many people made the good-natured comment, “I get overwhelmed just looking at your list!” I realized I did too, but tried to plow through anyway. The result was much frustration and a lack of focus.

With that in mind, I picked a word for 2015 (“gather), and I’m focusing more on creating habits in areas that are super important to me. Here is my (more manageable) list of resolutions:

1. Cook a healthy meal once a week
Toward the end of 2014, I got super sick. During that time, my husband and I ate a lot of

Picture courtesy of sexyeatz.com

Picture courtesy of sexyeatz.com

takeout food. I don’t feel great about that decision, though I realize there were circumstances in the way of cooking healthy meals. I want to be more conscious of what I consume in 2015.

I don’t want to put a lot of pressure on myself because I still love chocolate. I want this to be fun. The goal isn’t to lose weight; it’s to take care of my body. I plan on being around for a while! Plus, I love cooking and want to indulge in this practice more.

If you have any recipes you’d like to pass along, feel free to e-mail them to me at michelle.e.greco [at] gmail [dot] com.

2. Meditate once per day
Taking care of one’s spirit is just as important as taking care of one’s body, in my opinion (or IMHO, as the kids are saying these days). My goal here is to be mindful of God each day, whether it be through prayer, yoga, reading the Bible, talking a hike, doodling, etc. I’m of the opinion that you don’t have to sit in silence to be close to God. Sometimes I like to sit still, but sometimes I’m too antsy for that. Keeping the way I meditate open will, I think, help me with succeeding with this goal.

3. Work on art once per week
I’m upping the ante a bit here. I want to work on art once per week, which hopefully won’t be too hard since I’m OK doodling once per week all year.

However, I’d love to work up to arting three times per week and focusing more on selling my art. My vision goes something like this:
Start out: Once per week (work on doodles and sketchbook ideas, visit craft fairs to get ideas, and make artist contacts)
Continue to: Twice per week (work on both sketchbook ideas and starting art I’m willing to display to build body of work)
End the year at: Three times per week (sketchbook ideas, have several finished art pieces in whatever medium or in a theme, begin forming a plan to sell more art seriously/exhibit more of my work)

Photo courtesy of clipartpanda.com

Photo courtesy of clipartpanda.com

I’ve also given myself a hashtag: #arteveryweek2015. If you want to join in with making art every week, tag your work on Instagram!

The goal with the hashtag (and this goal in general) is to have fun and, hopefully, build a bit of a web presence. I just want people to talk to me about art. I’m not fishing for compliments; I’m just looking for an online community.


4. Read 60 books
 I would love for this number to be broken down as such:
20 books on my “To Be Read” list on Goodreads
20 books I already own
20 ARCs I’ve received

Ideal? Yes. Realistic? I’m not sure. I’m going to shoot for it, but as long as I have read at least 60 books in 2015, I’ll count it as a win.

5. Keep a steady writing practice
This one has steps too. Sort of. There are many things I would like to do this year as far as writing. Here are a few items I’ll keep in mind when I think of this resolution:

  • Celebrate my chapbook!
  • Revamp my full-length collection and send it to two fall contests
  • Aim to have one new draft of a poem to read at each reading I go to (which may translate to writing a new draft per month
  • Work on a piece of fiction or nonfiction (gotta spread the wings a bit sometimes)

Your turn to share: What are your goals for the new year?

Artist’s Spotlight – Eric Valosin

This installment of Artist’s Spotlight features an artist I’ve known since he was a wee undergraduate. It has been a joy to see his work grow over the years, and I am so happy to share his work with you all! Please enjoy this interview with a great artist and friend—Eric Valosin.

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Roaring Out: How long have you been creating art and in what types of media?
Eric Valosin: I’d give the stock answer of “ever since I was a little kid” and tell you anecdotes about drawing for hours as a toddler at my mom’s office, but I’m starting to believe that I hadn’t really ever made art until a few years ago. I went through school as a painter, developed a lot of conventionally artistic skills, and made a lot of things that masqueraded as art. Conceptually I began searching for the intersection of art and spirituality, but went about it all in a very naive way. In grad school it was like the scales fell from my eyes and I truly saw art for the first time.

I started to see beyond the cults of personality, beyond the push to find your “voice” in some stylized gimmick, beyond the pretenses of rigid, over-aestheticized formalism. I felt duped. I started to discover the real power of art to encapsulate and grow out of a complete worldview. I started to learn not just how a medium is used but why it’s used indeed, how and why a medium is invented in the first place. I learned how to learn from my own work and let it propel me to deeper questions about the world around me. Most of all, I learned to be more genuine, giving up on making what I thought art was supposed to be, and instead simply trying to work through those deeper questions and respond to what materializes. Dynamically immersing oneself into what philosopher/theologian Paul Tillich calls “matters of ultimate concern” – and manifesting that into something others can experience – that’s art. It took me a long time to really grasp that. It also happens that that’s Tillich’s definition of religion as well.

Cosmos on Gray 1-0In terms of media, in grad school I also came to terms with the fact that I painted mostly by default. In order to get closer to the more interesting parts of life, I had to move beyond paint to whatever medium helped me best get at those big questions, which I also began refining. That led me to my current work with light and projection installations, drawing, and interactive new media, exploring the possibilities of mystical experience in a world that has begun transcending traditional transcendence, and whose space in more often cyber than sacred.


RO
: What first inspired you to art?
EV: In the sense above, I was entranced to realized that art had the breadth to contain the wild diversity of my interests. It was more than aesthetic. It gave me an excuse to live a very curious life (both in the sense of being driven by curiosity and in the sense of sheer oddity!). In the name of art I could on one day find myself making shadow puppets, the next reading Heidegger. One day teach myself Greek, the next day JavaScript. One day talk to a monk, the next day to a fire juggler. As a child I was drawn to the idea of creating and exploring a world in which anything was possible. As an adult I realized that art lets you explore the impossible in the world that already exists.

RO: What types of media are your current favorites and why? Is there a different type of medium that you would like to try in the future?
EV: I have a complicated relationship with light. It’s the perfect mystical medium, paradoxically both particle and wave, present only by way of absence/contrast, a rigid, constraining universal constant that somehow also seems to be flexible and constrained by other forces. It inherently tends toward the sublime when used right, and with all the religious metaphors and scriptural allusions, you end up with a medium preloaded with more spiritual content that you can shake a censer at.

ValosinHyalo2Arch1However, it’s also by far the most difficult and finicky medium I work with. I often use it in ways that require a high degree of optical precision, like blending painted color with digitally projected color, or projecting onto glow-in-the-dark paint. In many of my installations I spend hours fighting with ambient lighting, calibrating colors, and negotiating with gallery staff as I try to get the balances just right. In a recent show I spent an entire day fine tuning a projection, only for the gallerist to change the lighting on a photo at the far opposite corner of the gallery, instantly sending me back to the drawing board as I watched my piece suddenly optically fall apart. I try to go out of my way to be pleasant to work with because I know how much patience, trust, and flexibility some of my work can demand of a curator or institution, and I’m grateful for every opportunity to try to prove it’s worth it!

Lately I’ve also gotten more and more into interactive new media. Interactivity and user-definability is increasingly at the forefront of contemporary life. As I pushed my questions about technology’s role in spiritual experience, I found myself getting into creative coding, hacking Xbox Kinect sensors, programming Arduino’s, and crashing Maker Faires to pick people’s brains about LEDs and transistors.

Meanwhile, on the other end of the tech spectrum, I’ve began experimenting with gouache in my drawings. Someday I’d love to get into holography too; talk about a perfect contemporary expression of Plotinus’ mystical notion of “formless form!” Most of all I enjoy tampering with convention and inventing entirely new ways of working when known mediums and techniques seem to fall short.

RO: Could you please talk a little about your creative process?
EV: A lot of my work begins as a response to a site. The 14th-Century mystic Meister Eckhart said that if you love a painting on a wall, you love the wall as well. I’ve found you cannot make paintings if you don’t at least consider walls; In fact, many great artists have made entire careers of exclusively building walls, so to speak. Once I know what space I’m dealing with and set out some goals or a challenge to tackle, there are four criteria I keep in the back of my mind for all of my work.

Firstly I want to engage with what’s known as apophasis, or “negative theology,” which is the branch of mysticism that says that in order to get at the unknowable God, we must negate all that we can know. This leads me to create visual negation or paradox like in UnKnowledge and Triptych, or make marks by way of erasure like in my Cosmos on Gray series. Sometimes the apophasis is more subtle, like how the anamorphic, pixelated imagery in As Above, So Below falls apart when you try to approach it.

Secondly I want to merge the old and new in terms of media, pushing traditional mystical strategies through high levels of contemporary mediation. That might mean hand drawing a scannable QR code like in my Meditations series, digitally projecting onto a painting, or even merging the physical and virtual self, considering the body itself as a medium like in Somatechne or Venae Cavae.

Meditation 1.1 (Thusness Elseness Omnipresent) AdjustedThirdly, I try to blend the old and new conceptually as well. Each work reflects the tension (or synergy) between the medieval metaphysics (and far earlier) which underpin most of our religious paradigms, and contemporary philosophy which has largely been regarded as secular and humanistic. It gets hairy once you play out the practical, ethical implications of religion after globalism, the death of Nietzsche’s God, and the mess postmodernism made of Platonic idealism. I don’t want to be naive about the sticking points of declaring God in today’s world. I think its entirely possible and exciting though to find inroads into a complex, new, relational metaphysics.

Fourthly, I want my work to be interactive, to cause the viewer to move, to make them more aware of their own body and the space around them. The body is paramount to our experience of God.

I try to imagine anything is possible and then google later to find out otherwise! When all this comes into alignment and is working well, it amounts to a highly mediated, sublime experience that’s both confounding and enlightening.

I think the last part of my creative process involves looking at what I’ve made and really critically evaluating it. I want to see what worked, what didn’t work, and find all the really good happy accidents that might lead me to a new experiment. There’s a constant back and forth between ideas pushing my work and my work pushing my ideas. Some of my best work has come out of co-opting prior failures.

RO: What is the longest time you’ve spent on a piece of art?
EV: I have a few pieces that I’ve been working on for a couple years, many still in the idea/prototype phase, but I tend to work relatively quickly. A lot of time goes into research, experimentation, and preparation, but with installations most of the elbow grease has to be applied in a limited time frame. In a perfect world I’d plow through one project at a time, mostly because the longer I stew on any one project the more likely I am to intimidate myself out of it. For practical purposes though I always end up with several in progress at any moment and some get shelved for a while. But then there are those projects that really just take a long time.

I very much enjoy process. I’ve done several pieces in which the process becomes the end product like my earlier projection piece It Is, and a few that don’t technically have an completion point at all, like my performance/installation piece Circle. I like the idea that the meditative energy of creating a work can somehow translate into a meditative process of viewing.

RO: What subjects do you like to work with? Any subjects you’d like to see more of in your future work?
EV: As we’ve already been teasing out, each project of mine explores some corner of the unfolding terrain of a sort of postmodern (even posthuman) mysticism. I do tend to come back to a few themes and references: stained glass, circles, mandalas, sacred geometry, shadows, the body. As I move forward I’m always looking for unturned rocks in the conceptual terrain. For example, I’ve been starting to mull over what religion looks like from a non-anthropocentric viewpoint. I’m also very deliberate in letting accidents and experimentation lead me to entirely new places.

Valosin_AsAboveSoBelow1RO: I notice that you work a lot with the subject of faith. How has your faith shaped your work? On that note, do you feel you have a different experience in the art community because of your faith (access/limits to certain venues or connections? Different responses to your work than, say, a more secular artist)?
EV: I grew up Christian and was very active with various faith communities through college. I’m the son of a church secretary, and now the husband of a United Methodist minister. Proud of those roots as I am, I began to be very disillusioned by the politics and dogma of religion, and I’m appalled by the atrocities of hate and exclusivity so often committed in the name of God. I started to poke holes and find logical inconsistencies in the faith of my upbringing, and that’s where this artistic practice began. I want my faith to be alive, relevant, and socially responsible. I want to connect to God as God is, not as I have concocted God to be. I still consider myself a Christian, but I’m probably not quite your typical United Methodist anymore. I also saw a severe lack of quality artistry in the church. I crave a collaboration between art and religion that doesn’t water down either. A lot of my efforts outside the studio go to mending the gap between the church world and the art world.

My dual citizenship in these two worlds (as if they were truly separable) have certainly afforded me some interesting opportunities that would otherwise not be available. This past July I completed a commissioned interactive new media installation for a church and held a special contemplative service revolving around my work, as well as a discussion forum on art and faith. In November I’ll be installing a solo show at Andover Newton Theological School outside Boston, and teaching a continuing education class on art and worship at Drew Theological School in NJ. I actually anticipated more dead ends and glass ceilings because of how stigmatized religion can be, but I think if you’re doing something well enough and being genuine, people respect that. I do have to be very intentional about where I place my work and walk a fine line between being provocative and polemical. But then again all artists do to some extent.

RO: You have taught several workshops revolving around art, worship, and even artist statements. Is there any subject you particularly love speaking about? Is there a past class that was a favorite or the most amusing?
EV: When it comes to teaching I’m most passionate about conceptual development. I find there’s tons of fantastic formalist instruction on how to make art (which shouldn’t be undervalued), but it’s rarer to learn how to think about the art you make. Only the luckiest of BFA students learn anything about parlaying their technique into a meaningful, robust studio practice that’s truly impactful to the world. Most students don’t get that until grad school, even though it’s in some ways primary to even deciding to learn to paint or draw in the first place. It’s about helping people flesh out their world-views and the implicit meanings and relationships their work gathers, and then respond to that in the studio.

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This particular storefront project was a collaboration between Eric and Marc D’Agusto.

One time I taught a 4-session workshop using experimental drawing to discover how the medium itself carries meaning even before subject matter. I agonized over how to accommodate a potentially large audience without sacrificing individual attention. I ended up teaching to one lonely student, who misunderstood the course description in the first place! She was preparing for an upcoming artist talk at the time, so we ended up adapting the class material to help uncover what her work was saying and help her talk about it. I attended her presentation and she did very well, and I started to see how important it was to be able to interpret and speak about one’s own work. That’s what led me to offer an artist statement workshop. That one ended up being a packed house!

RO: Is there anything handmade that you own that is particularly meaningful to you?
EV: I am particularly attached to a painting I have that my grandfather made. To be honest I don’t even like it all that much as a painting, but it’s a reminder to me of why I looked up to him. He was a carpenter who built the house my dad grew up in, as well as a veteran who earned a purple heart. He was always getting into something that piqued his curiosity and painting was one of his many, many hobbies, among bee keeping and coin collecting. I also inherited an old Gibson guitar and electric mandolin of his. When he passed away we found tubes for glass blowing stuffed in the rafters of the basement that he had been meaning to experiment with someday!

I can remember him sitting with me looking at a new drawing of mine when I was young and saying, “Well, that’s really good there. You’ve got your lights and your darks… don’t be afraid to go darker.” The painting I saved of his has particularly good contrast. We used to joke that if you asked him what time it was he’d teach you how to build a watch. But I hung on every word. He was a real renaissance man and in that regard very much a role model for me.

RO: If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?Valosin_UnKnowledge2
EV: Hands down, the power to stop time. 24 hours would be more than enough if every now and then one of those hours could last a couple days. Of course I’d have to be exempt from my own stoppage of time. What a waste that would be, being able to stop time but never knowing it because you’re stopped right along with it! …Come to think of it, maybe I already have that power.

RO: To conclude, what is a lesson you have learned from creating art that you would like to share with others?
EV: I’ve found there’s no wrong way to make art, but there is a way to make the wrong art. Context is hugely overlooked, but it’s what makes a Miró a masterpiece instead of a scribble, or an Allison Knowles more than just a meal. As an artist you have to push deeply into your own “matters of ultimate concern,” but you also have to consider how all those matters fit into relationship with history and the world around you, including the matters of other people’s ultimate concerns.

Life is full of complexity and relational interdependence, and every single person’s worldview is in some way valid, perhaps especially those with which you disagree. After all, we live in a world made of meta-histories and socio-cultural paradigms that have allowed all those worldviews to exist, and for that reason they all represent some real truth about that world. Where they clash and intersect is where life gets intriguing. Art is not just drawing or painting; it’s learning to play at those intersections.

Thank you so much, Eric, for your insight and for giving us a window into you journey!

If you’d like to check out more of Eric’s work, visit his Web site here.

Artist’s Spotlight – Robert Garcia

When I first met Roberto Garcia a few years ago, what stuck out to me was his incredibly easy-going and fun personality. As I got to know him, I realized he had much insight as well. These qualities make their way into his artwork. Enjoy the interview with my good friend, Roberto Garcia!

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Roaring Out: How long have you been creating art and in what types of media?
Roberto Garcia: I’ve been creating art for as long as I can remember. As a kid I’d take my toys apart and combine them. GI Joe’s with Transformer body parts, and stuff like that. Then I tried my hand at comic books and portraits. Recently, I’ve been working with acrylic paints, markers, and newspaper. Let’s see where that goes.

RO: What first inspired you to art?
RG: Hmm. I suppose it’s just something I had to do. Writing, drawing, and music just called to me. It didn’t hurt that my mother had all kinds of books on hand at home. I was just moved to do it all the time.

RO: What types of media are your current favorites and why? Is there a different type of medium that you would like to try in the future?photo1
RG
: Writing is my favorite medium, but I love painting with acrylics. Something about what you can imply with the colors. I’m no expert, I just enjoy it.

RO: Could you please talk a little about your creative process?
RG: I like to explore my world and see what it gives me. It could be an article, a scene, a photograph, or a moment. I try to complicate whatever it is that inspires me, and present it in a thought provoking way.

RO: What is the longest time you’ve spent on a piece of art?
RG: I spent a year on a really terrible piece of art! It was pastel chalks, acrylics, an actual poem glued to the canvas, and it was horrible. I finally let it go, but after that I painted four to five pieces that I really like. So, I guess I had to get that ugly out. Haha.

RO: Your chapbook, “Amores Gitano,” was recently published, which is very exciting! Could you speak a bit about putting together the chapbook as well as the publishing process? How would you describe the feeling of holding the chapbook in your hands for the first time?photo2
RG
: Most of those poems came from an erotica themed reading a friend of mine put together. I worked them and worked them, and sent them to the editor of Cervena Barva Press, and the rest is history. It’s a fun book because it morphed so much as I revised it. They could be read as poems of desire and longing, or the artist’s struggle with art, and the muse. I was fortunate to deal with a professional press, and they made everything smooth and painless. When I finally held the chapbook in my hand I was like, Wow!! The publish date was right before AWP, and the Cervena Barva press had issues for sale at their table, so it was surreal. I was at AWP Boston and copies of my chapbook were on sale. Wild!

RO: Your chapbook has a Spanish title, which means “Gypsy Loves.” Please speak a bit as to why you chose to have a title in a foreign language for an English market. What does that title mean to you?photo4
RG
: Might seem cliché, but everything sounds better in Spanish, and French. The title is a nod to Garcia Lorca. These are passionate poems full of longing, searching, and the mysterious. I had an English title for the book, just in case. Thankfully Gloria Mindock, the Editor/Publisher at Cervena Barva Press, insisted I stay with the Spanish title. I think it captures the feel and passion of the poems. I should also add that the title is in no way a slight to the Romani people.

RO: How does your background as a writer inform your visual art? Conversely, how does your background in visual art inform your writing?
RG: Sometimes a line of poetry will spark an image, and I find myself kicking a painting around in my head until I put it on canvas. However, art greatly inspires my writing! I write a lot of ekphrastic poetry, and flash fiction pieces based on art work I see.

RO: Every artist has subjects that pop up again and again in his or her work. What are those subjects for you? Is there a different subject you’d like to tackle in future work?
RG: Race always pops up in my work. As I study race relations in America I’ve begun to realize why. Everything in America is hypersexualized, and hyperracialized. So in a way it is inevitable for an artist to either write/draw about it, or avoids it. Relationships are also a subject that comes up in my work. I find interpersonal experiences fascinating, and that comes up a lot.

photo3RO: If you could spend an evening with any writer, living or deceased, who would you choose and why? On a similar note, if you could spend an evening with any visual artist, living or deceased, who would you choose and why?
RG: Wow. Can it only be one? That’s impossible. However, I’ll cheat a little. I’d really like to go back, and hang out with the Harlem Renaissance artists, the whole crowd, at one of those big band jazz swing clubs!  I believe that the artists of the Harlem Renaissance are the American version of all those European writers that wrote under communist, and dictatorial regimes. The conditions they endured, (racism, brutality, being marginalized, economically) and they still produced amazing work. Yes, definitely the Harlem Renaissance.

RO: Is there anything handmade that you own that is particularly meaningful to you?
RG: I like to collect old stuff, but nothing handmade that I can think of. I have an old Olympia typewriter from the 60’s.

RO: If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?
RG: Easy, a healing factor. Wolverine is one of my favorite characters for that reason. Yep, indestructability, if I could have a second, The Force! I want to be a Jedi slash Mutant!!

RO: To conclude, what is a lesson you have learned from creating art that you would like to share with others?
RG: I’d like artists to know that working at your craft every day strengthens the muse. It’s nice and whatever to think about the muse. However, hard work is the best muse. Or maybe it is the best thing we can do for the muse. Thanks Michelle!!

 

And thank you, Roberto, for sharing your insights! If you’d like to follow Robert’s happenings, visit him on Tumblr and Twitter.

2014 Resolutions Update

Now that we’re a little more than a quarter of the way through the year, I figured it was time for an update on my 2014 resolutions. I’m kicking butt in some areas and lagging in others, but I suppose that’s to be expected. I’m not being as hard on myself as I was last year, which certainly helps. I mean, I’ve got a year…it’s natural for my focus on certain things to ebb and flow.

Anyhoo, here’s the update:

1. Read 5 classic books
Have not started this one yet. I have read Steinbeck’s “The Pearl” this year, but I didn’t put it on my classic book list. Le sigh…

2. Read 5 books I already own
Haven’t started this one either….

3. Read 10 books on my Goodreads “To Read” list
140213_001…because I’m focusing on my Goodreads list! Two down, eight more to go! (In case you are curious, my Goodreads book reading goal this year is 50 books total. As of the time of this post, I’m eight behind but am determined to catch up!)

  1. Damn You, Autocorrect! – Jillian Madison (January 2014)
  2. Cinder – Marissa Meyer (January 2014)

4. Read and review the ARCs (both digital and hard copy) that I’ve received in the past two years
Haven’t started on this one either (wow, I’m really not doing to well with my reading goals. Now I know what to focus on in the next three months).

5. Read the four Gospels
Is it awful I forgot I made this resolution? (Sorry, God!). Once again, another resolution to really focus on in the next few months.

6. Send chapbook out to at least five different contests
I’ve actually been pretty good with this one. I’ve sent my chapbook out to two contests so far. Last weekend, I went to a chapbook workshop to get feedback on my book from professionals. They gave me some really good advice. My hope is to tweak my chapbook in the next week or two and send it to a few more contests. I’ve got a list of about five or six more to send to, so that’s my creative project for the rest of the month.

7. Spruce up my full-length poetry manuscript to send out to at least two fall book contests
Even when I wrote this one down, I knew I wouldn’t get to it until the summer. By the time of my next update (late June/early July), I’m hoping to have at least started the sprucing up process.

8. Acquire a full-time teaching gig
I think this one is turning into the “publish a chapbook” goal from least year. By this I mean that I can’t possibly control whether I get a full-time teaching position or not. I can only apply and interview. I’m OK with this. I have been doing my part. I’ve applied to a few positions and have had one interview so far. I count that as a win.

My attempt at sketching a mug. I'm hoping to sketch a little bit every day.

My attempt at sketching a mug. I’m hoping to sketch a little bit every day for the rest of the year.

9. Work on a piece of art every other week
I’m also happy to say that I’ve been doing really well with this one also. Last year, I felt like I had to paint something on canvas, but I’ve broadened my idea of what “a piece of art” is. I’ve worked on videos, sketches, and poetry as well (I’ve even done some MS Paint drawing). I think broadening my definition of art has really helped me be consistent with this goal because I’m not limited to using one medium.

10. Blog at least twice a week
I’ve tried, I really have. Lately it’s been tough for me to post something that isn’t part of a series on my blog. The semester is almost at an end, so I’m going to try to get better with writing posts that are not parts of a series as well as scheduling posts. (I’m a little ahead of the game on this one. As of the time of this post, I’ve got three posts scheduled. Woot woot!)

11. Pay off one of my two major credit cards
I’ve technically accomplished this. By technically, I mean I took out a low-interest personal loan to pay off my two major credit cards. So, both of my accounts say nothing is owed, but I still owe the money. So…partial win? On the upside, I won’t owe nearly as much interest on the loan, so baying back this debt will be much easier and faster (hopefully!).

If you’d like to keep up with my goal progress apart from my quarterly blog updates, check this page out. I update it when I’m making progress with my goals (particularly the reading ones).

What resolutions are you working on? Which ones are you doing great with and which need a little more attention?

Artist’s Spotlight – Stephanie Levy

I have to say that I’ve loved doing this feature and all of the artists included thus far, but I must say that this particular interview is close to my heart. Today’s Artist’s Spotlight features collage artist and e-course leader extraordinaire, Stephanie Levy. I’ve followed Stephanie’s work and have been a participant in her e-courses for about two years now. I’ve greatly admired her work and her generosity, so I was overjoyed when she agreed to do this interview. Enjoy this fresh and inspiring interview with Stephanie, one of my art heroes 🙂
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Roaring Out: How long have you been creating art and in what types of media?
Stephanie Levy: I began studying Fine Arts at the university when I was 18. I’ve worked in all sorts of media, from painting and watercolor, to collage, jewelry, ceramics, photography, and sculpture.
a+a.berlin400RO: What first inspired you to art?
SL: I was one of those kids who was always drawing and painting and making books. And I guess I just never stopped!

RO
: What types of media are your current favorites and why? Is there a different type of medium that you would like to try in the future?
SL: Now I mostly work in mixed media collage and photography. Actually, I’m pretty happy with this combination, but I would like to create books in the future that combine my collage art, photography, and writing. This is my personal dream!

RO
: Could you please talk a little about your creative process?
SL: I mostly work very intuitively and I’m often inspired by specific materials or colors that catch my eye. I usually work on small series of collages at one time, maybe 3-4 collages at one time, or sometimes larger series of 6 or 9. I like to listen to music when I’m creating visual art, but when I’m writing, I need quiet and a peaceful, cozy atmosphere. To make my photographs, I love walking around Berlin and taking snapshots of the beautiful and absurd things that I notice. That is one of my favorite creative activities at the moment (maybe because it gets me away from the computer and outside 😉 ).
30daysofcollage1RO: Most artists have subjects that pop up again and again in his or her work. What are those subjects for you? Is there a different subject you’d like to tackle in future work?
SL: For years I worked on drawings and collages of interiors. Before that I worked on chairs. I tend to enjoy drawing still lives and objects more than people or animals. That is actually the same when I’m taking photographs too.
I would like to do more abstract collage and painting work in the future 🙂
stephanielevy.journalRO: What is the longest time you’ve spent on a piece of art?
SL: It depends on how you define that. I usually need a few days to a couple of weeks for a collage, but there have also been times when I’ve been frustrated with a painting and I’ve just painted it white and started over. Which obviously delays things…

RO
: You are originally from the United States, but you now reside in Germany. How has that transition informed your artwork?
SL: I’m not sure how my move to Germany has influenced my artwork because it was so long ago, already 18 years. Most likely I’m a different person in Europe than I would be had I stayed in Tennessee. But I do love Berlin, and I truly enjoy taking photographs here. The city is so fascinating and creative and vibrant and changing—I don’t think I could ever get tired of living here and documenting what I see through my photographic walks. Berlin as a place has become a central feature of my artwork and life!

RO
: Your Creative Courageous e-courses have become very popular! Please talk a bit about what inspired you to create these sessions. Also, your sessions involve so many wonderful goodies, like recipes and interviews. How do you go about preparing a session? Lastly, what is your favorite part about running these e-courses?
chickpea.spinach.soup480SL: Thank you, Michelle! I love putting together my Creative Courage e-courses, and the new year long course, Creative Courageous Year, is so much fun because it is so multidisciplinary. I myself enjoy the changing seasonal aspect of the course, and it makes me happy to create new recipes and projects for our wonderful international group.
Preparing involves a lot of brainstorming, some reading and research into beloved books and notes that I’ve gathered through the years, and then actually preparing and documenting the recipes, projects, photos, and other materials for the course. It is a lot of work, certainly not boring, and a true labor of love.My favorite part about the courses is seeing the connections made by the women around the world who are taking the course, and when I get positive feedback from someone who has enjoyed a course, it honestly makes my day!

stephanielevy_raspberry.lemon.tart

RO
: You are a woman who does it all! E-courses, artwork, and family, to name just a few. The audience, particularly the ladies, would like to know: how do you make time for everything? In other words, how do you do it all?
SL: The real truthful answer is: I don’t! I believe in our online world, sometimes other people’s lives look more fulfilled, organized, and/or “perfect” than they really are. I do a lot—but there is always more that could be done 🙂 I have unanswered emails in my inbox, laundry that needs to be folded, drawers and closets that need to be organized, bills that need to be paid—just like everyone else. Some days I’m better at getting these everyday things done, and other days I’m terrible.
berlin.sept2.400I think we’re all just plugging along, doing the best we can, and it is important to take time for our real life contacts—as well as our online ones. It can be a lot to juggle, and it is something I struggle with. I’m also learning that you can never make everyone you know 100% happy all of the time. It is impossible. So it’s important to set your own priorities and then go with that. This year, I’m making plans to begin delegating more responsibilities—with taxes and housework for example. I tend to try and do everything myself, and there are just not enough hours during the day. So I’m trying to learn to be less of a perfectionist, to let go and to let others help me out 🙂 It’s a process!

RO
: If you could spend an evening with any artist, living or deceased, who would you choose and why?
SL: Hmmm, that is an interesting question. I would choose Ernest Hemingway because he was also an American who loved living in Europe—and we share the same birthday, July 21st. I know Hemingway was a big macho and womanizer, but I do love his writing and he had a lot of great artist friends. I imagine hanging out with him for an evening in 1920s Paris would be quite an adventure!berlin.sept2.400

RO
: Is there anything handmade that you own that is particularly meaningful to you?
SL: Yes, I have a few handmade quilts made by my Aunt Pearl in Tennessee that I love dearly, and I now happily have these in Germany with me 🙂

RO
: If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?
SL: Time travel and the ability to beam myself wherever I’d like in an instant—for sure!!
berlin.400.june2RO: To conclude, what is a lesson you have learned from creating art that you would like to share with others?
SL: The main lesson that I’ve learned from life and from creating art is: just do it! Make whatever it is you want to make, do whatever you want to do now—and without hesitation. Two of my favorite quotes are:
“Begin doing what you want to do now. We are not living in eternity. We have only this moment, sparkling like a star in our hand—and melting like a snowflake.” —Marie Beynon Ray

and

Change your life today. Don’t gamble on the future, act now, without delay.” —Simone de BeauvoirStephanie, thank you so much for generously sharing your process and experiences with us today! If you’d like to check out Stephanie’s work, visit her website, blog, e-course website, and Berlin workshop website. If you’d like to keep up with Stephanie’s exciting happenings, sign up for her newsletter.

The Weather’s Warm. Must be Time for Pictures!

Like most, I go into hibernation mode in winter. Now that the weather has decided to be cooperative and warm, I’m so excited to be out and be able to take pictures. Yesterday, I went out to a local park and snapped away.  Here are some of the shots I took. If you’d like to see the full set, check it out on Flickr here.

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Everyone has a favorite spring activity. Mine is photography. What’s yours?