Friday, June 29, 2012

Learning to Do it Alone

Photographing work.
Fixing the dryer.
Cutting out the wood.
Repairing the weed eater.
Just a few of the things i did this week.

I do not cringe at the thought of hard work.
I do not believe in "gender specific jobs" around the house.
I do not shy away from power tools.

For the past several years; however -
my husband managed many of those tasks.
Because i have an 8-5 day job -
he managed the business end of the art business.
He also handled the behind the scenes part of each piece -
he cut and prepped and sealed and delivered.

But he is no longer here to do those things.
He has chose to leave and with him leaving -
he also took with him the support for my business that I relied on.

I have not had to regularly do some of the tasks that i need to do now.
I have found myself having to keep many more balls in the air than usual.
This has brought a great sense of accomplishment.
It has also brought up new emotions . . .
fear, frustration, anger, hurt, betrayal and exhaustiion.

Recently -
I had an order that was due to a local store.
I had to do the art work as usual.
But I also had to negotiate getting the wood cut and prepped, sealing the finished art, creating the invoice, completing the delivery . . .
It required reblancing my time.
It required asking for help from family members (who didn't disappoint, by the way).
I had never made a delivery to this place before.
I felt even more emotions - panic being one of them.
Where do I go? Who do I talk to?

It required a new level of expectation and a new normal.
And although I felt all of those emotions . . .many of which I didn't like feeling -
it also brought up an emotion I didn't expect - PRIDE.
I did it!
With the help of awesome family members - i did it.

And it confirmed to me - I can do it.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A walk with my dog.
The rain fell most of the night.
but the morning had been washed clean and the clouds were sharing the the space with bright blue.

The bright blue pickets seemed to line the way for me.
I felt inclined to find a stick and run them along the boards.
 Morning droplets clung to the rose petals.
They looked like beautiful diamonds.

I even reverted to my childhood and couldn't resist a good splash in a puddle or two.

At the end of my walk,
I felt clear and rejuventated.
Ready to approach the many things that needed to be done.
And once again, I felt a greater appreciation for all the beauty that surrounds us .. .

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Laundry Rules

A new commission piece . . .
laundry rules.
This order is for a family who regularly hosts Japanese exchange students.
This 12 x 20 custom piece will hang beautifully on the wall of a laundry room.
I smiled when asked to do this piece.
Knowing it was for a home with exchange students, I understood fully.
For several years, our family hosted over 10 year-long exchange students.
Most of our students were japanese,
but we also had students from Korea and Brazil.

I was humbled to think that the parents of these students had sent them a different country.
Many of the students we hosted were only 16.
They came to stay with us for a whole year.
And we were chosed to take care of them, teach them and love them.
And love them we did.
Our family grew and grew as we hosted students.

Each time a new student joined our family,
we had to teach these 16 year olds how to do many basic household chores.
Laurdry was one of those.
We also taught them
How to do the dishes;
How to clean a bathroom;
We worked with them as they learned to appreciate our food.
We taught them how to use our American showers.
We also learned much from them.
We learned how to be comfortable with silence.
We learned to try new foods.
We learned about different cultures and different traditions.
We learned that buddist and christian beliefs have many similarities.
And in the process, we learned that even though many things were different -
we are all still humans with emotions, and hopes and dreams.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


Collin Davis Miller.
My son.
My second born.
He came into this world on his own terms.
He loves puzzles - has ever since he was 3.
He loves to play games.
He hates television.
He loves to garden.
It took him 4 years before he began talking in a language that we could all understand.
His older sister understood his language and acted as his translator for almost a year.
He often took himself to bed when he was a toddler.
His favorite "toys" were blocks, legos, and anything he could "build" with.
He would spend hours building entire village scenes with these.
If there is a fire - whether camping, in a woodstove or in the backyard fire pit -
he can't resist the urge to poke it.
He loved to read and be read to.
We read all sorts of books together when he was young. . .
He loved to play with rockets.
He loved to help me in the kitchen.
He gave us a unending source of pride . . .and headache!
He was the child that made my heart stop on multiple occasions.
Like when he got knocked over by a neighborhood dog and was unconcious for a short time when he was 4.
Or when I got a call from the school that he broke his finger while wrestling with a friend at recess.
Or when he split his forehead open innertubing on the river with friends and needed to get 14 stitches.
He has always been willing to take on a challenge - especially if money and pride is on the line.
Like shaving his head for $100 when he let his hair grow long and was a giant fluff ball of frizz. (By the way - I didn't pay him the money - but a respected youth leader did.)
Or when he ate a fat earth worm while we were gardening one spring for $5.
He has eaten bugs, and raw fish and all sorts of disgusting things on a dare from friends.
And this last weekend . . .
he graduated from College.
And he got his first job in the "real" world which he will begin in a matter of days.

I don't think he could have been any happier on this day . . .

With the love of his life . . .

With 2 of his 3 sisters . . .because us Miller's don't believe in stuffy photos.

And now Collin . . .it's time to move on to the next adventure.
I think it is going to be a good one!

The "D" Word

In my last post, I let everyone know that I was "playing baseball" and had caught a pretty unexpected curve ball.
 I was a bit cryptic in my post, and had thought that I wasn't going to share details of what was going on in this blog.
However, an online friend gave me some great advice.
She reminded me that what was happening was part of my life.
And sharing my life was a good reason for having a blog - even if it is an "art" blog.
It is place for sharing my art - and my art is influenced by my life.
and this is part of my life.
So here it goes . . .
The "D" word,; splitting up; marriage ending . . .and all that goes with it.
25 years of marriage.
I just learned of this from my life partner a few weeks ago -
he was leaving and moving on.
I am shocked, surprised, heartbroken, confused, angry,
I have gone through every single emotion that a person can experience -
and many of them in a single day . . .a single hour.
Questions, questions and more questions.
In a matter of minutes, my life as i knew it completely changed.
So there it is.
The "D" word is an experience I will be going through over the next year.
And in the meantime, I will learn to adust to my new normal.

And I will learn to cope with these fluctuating emotions.
And to do that . . .
I walk.
I have been walking like I have never walked before.
Two and three walks a day.
Part of that is because I have a dog - a big dog.
And he needs to get out.
And the other reason . . .it seems to be helping me process and clear my head.
While I walk . . .
I meditate.
I pray.
I listen to music.
I sing.
I cry.
I think.
I watch the simple joy my dog seems to be experiencing while he walks and explores.
And I look -
and I am seeing so much simple beauty.
The beauty lifts my soul . . . and helps me to feel joy in this sorrowful time.

In the front yard of a neighbor . . .beautiful and perfect roses.
There are pink and red and varigated colors.
Ruffled petals in various stages of opening.
and the air surrounding the roses is heavy with their perfume.
Each day as I pass these, I pause and smell their sweet unique scent.
And I breathe deeply.

I walk through a grove of trees.
A unique little greenspace in the middle of the neighborhood.
And growing in patches of grass are sweet little daisies.
Their bright yellow centers surrounded by their tiny white petals.
I remember my mother teaching me how to tie these into chains -
the chains forming beautiful crowns that were more beautiful to me than any tiara.

I pass by a tall tree.
A portion of its root structure above the ground.
In the middle is a small "room".
I am quite certain that fairies live in here.

And by the time I return from my walk,
I feel a bit of a lightness return to my heart.

I will survive through this change.
My new normal will be established.
I will use my art to cope.
And I will find joy in the little things.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Are You There God?

Sometimes - life throws you a curve ball.
Sometimes you are prepared to catch it and sometimes it seems to come out of the blue . . .
Recently, I was thrown a really big curve ball
With a really BIG ball
And not only was I not prepared - but it hit me smack between the eyes and I am reeling.
My life is about to undergo a major change.
I don't believe in airing dirty laundry on my blog
But, with that said -
I also know that this particular event will effect how often I get here
what my life will look like on a daily basis
and every little detail imaginable.
I woke up early yesterday unable to sleep
and decided I might as well not waste the morning.
I went out for a walk . . .
my four-legged companion and I set out on a walk through the quiet neighborhood.
The sun was coming up amidst big clouds,
birds were singing,
and I was spending some time deep in thought, meditation and prayer.
What would all of this mean for mean?
Will I emerge ok?
Will I heal?
Will I thrive?
Will I fail?
I paused and looked through this patch of trees that live blocks away from me.
I thought I would snap a picture hoping to capture the morning light.
And as if in answer to my prayers, this image appeared on my camera.
A beautiful flower in the sunlight.
It was as if God was reminding me that he was there and he was coloring the world for me.
I am going to be all right.
Thanks God! I needed that . . .

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Banners for Downtown Gresham

When I first started this art journey and found my style,
I was talked into attempting to jury into a local art walk.
Our community of Gresham hosts the annual Gresham Art Walk which I had attended as a patron for several years.
This was an event for "real" artists.
That wasn't me. Or at least that was the way I felt.
But my brother, who is a fantastic potter, convinced me that I needed to try.
So I did - and my first jury application looked sooo very amateurish - but I was accepted.
Our first attempt at a booth space was rather humourous. We had no idea what we were doing.
It was held together with tape, wire and hope!
But we made it through and we sold several paintings.
I was shocked. I was thrilled. I was humbled.
And so my journey into the larger art festivals began.
I started calling myself an artist.

That was about 7 years ago and the Gresham Art Walk remains one of my favorites.
It's a big street party.

This art walk began as a grass routes brain child of a single woman.
The first festival had about 25 vendors and covered a block.
There are now over 140 vendors and it covers several blocks.
There is a committee of dedicated people who believe that this event is an integral part of the the community.
They decorate parts of the street leading up to the event.
Last year, they added hand painted banners to the light poles.
No advertising - just art.
They were such a hit, that this year they are adding a few more.
They asked a few of their favorite art walk artists to produce a banner or two.
I was asked and once again - I am humbled.
I get to paint banners that will be hung in downtown Gresham?
People will be seeing my art as they drive down the main street, go shopping, head to their favorite restaurants, go to buy the produce at the weekly farmers market and to visit their favorite coffee shop?

Two banners - both sides painted with a different image -for a total of four.

I was instructed to do what ever I wanted - but do include positive words.
No problem!

As with the past commission piece - once I agreed the panic set in.
I left the banners in a corner of my studio for a very long time.
I eventually took them out and looked at them - they were stark white - and big.
2 ft wide x 5 ft tall.
I did what any self respecting person would do - I rolled them back up and put them back in the corner.

Finally - about a week and a half ago, I pulled them out and spread them out on the table.
They stayed there for a few more days.
Mocking me with their white color.

Then I said to myself- this is it. I am going to paint these.
And instead - I did the dishes. And then I cleaned the studio.
Sometimes we all have avoidance issues. 

And then I finally started.
I started laying on bright colors in random order.
I didn't know what to paint. What would people think? What colors should I use? Questions, questions, questions. . .

But I just DID it.
I found myself settling into a groove and the creative brain took over and I found my happy place.
Now I was obsessed with completing the project.

One week later . . .

Again - another life lesson.
The hardest part of any new project is to get that awful little gremlin that sits on our shoulder to go away.
You know the gremlin - the one that tells you that you aren't good enough?
And the best way to get him to be quiet is to just jump in and go for it.

So there you go -
starting in mid-June, if you are in downtown Gresham, Oregon -
be sure and look for my banners.
And don't forget to come to the Gresham ARt Walk on July 21st.
I'll be in the brightly colored booth!

It Looks like Summer Sales Season Has Started!!

Would you like a tour of my art studio?
I always read those magazines that feature beautiful art studios.
They have these large tall work surfaces.
Beautiful coordinated baskets and storage cabinets.
Antiques and art work on the walls.
And they are CLEAN!
Picture perfect.
And I get depressed and think . . .why can't i have something like that?

UMMM . . .because it's not reality!
No artists studio looks like that unless it is for a photo shoot or the artist is not creating any art.
If an artist is creating . . .there is chaos.
And chaos is what we are living in right now.

And to add to the chaos, we are coming up on show season when every available surface in my home seems to be covered with pieces in various stages of completion . . .

So how about that tour?

This is our back room. It used to be my son's bedroom.
When he moved out - my husband grabbed it to create a music studio.
It is doing the work of a 1,000+ sq ft. work space - but it is actually crammed into a couple of hundred square feet.
You are NOT going to see the rest of the room.
If you did, you would question if we were hoarders.
But on this table - and some on the desk, and some on the computer table and some on the floor are pieces all waiting to be sealed, to have a business card placed on the back and to get their hardware.
Mini's and photo frames
This is our main living area.
It is a "great room" layout -
kitchen, dining and living area all open.
This is my dining table where I am working on some banners (more on these later).
They are over 5 ft tall - therefore, they don't fit on the my table in my studio.
For the last week,
we have not had a table to eat at because it has been covered with my art supplies and banners.

This is my living room and couch and coffee table.
My coffee table is a repurposed 6 1/2 foot long bench,
which became a great drying space for one of the 5 ft tall banners.
This banner is pretty much finished.

This banner is still a work in progress.

This is my studio -
where I have been working on stools, lazy susans, and whatever else needs attention
while I wait for the paint on the banners to dry.
I did a bit of cleaning on Saturday -
and haven't worked in here a lot since then
(because I have been working in the main living area)
so it's actually "neater" than usual.

See my pristine work table . . .shiny and new?  LOL
This is another view of my studio . . .
See the paint rags on the floor under the table?
That's a pretty common occurence - all over the room!
See how the curtain is pulled back on one side and hanging loose on the other.
That's because I was trying to get something back there, it came undone, and I didn't have time to worry about it.
What you can't see is the paint smears on the curtains.
On the drying rack in the corner are several paintings waiting for frames and finishing details, as well as mini-garden stakes that are primed and ready to be painted to fill an order.
The paintings have been waiting since March.
There is a card table set up next to my work table.
It usually isn't there.
Right now it is giving us an extra surface to store items that are drying.
It makes the space a bit . . .cozy and also blocks access to my storage closet.
So there you go.
A tour of my home/work areas.
I am guessing you aren't going to see any of these in a magazine spread.
But . . . they are real.

And this is our reality when we are gearing up for show season.
So it's time to fasten my seatbelt, cause we are on our way . . .

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

All in a days work!! I love my paint Job!!

First of all . . .
Thank you!
I received some wonderful comments about my last post both here and on FB.
I truly was speaking from my heart and obviously it was remembering to stay true to ourselves is
something that we all struggle with from time to time.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts and encouragement and journeys.
I know that on a regular basis I feel a great connection to other artists as I jump around and visit different blogs.
What a gift this blogland is!

The last few weeks have been all about finishing up some custom orders.
The first were two saddle stools.
A customer called - she had found 2 black saddle stools on clearance.
Having only paid about $10 each, she decided she wanted them customized.
Could I help with that?

Then I was contacked by a lady in Conneticut.
She was searching the internet for a unique wedding gift.
She found my blog and saw the lazy susans.
A version with sunflowers was created for her and shipped out.

I am constantly humbled and grateful when someone asks me to create a piece for them.
Especially when it is to be a gift.
To think that my work is what they are choosing to give someone special as a gift.
It kind of makes me go all gooey inside.

To all of my customers - and to all of you who visit this blog -
Thank You!!!

It really helps make this journey special.

Friday, June 1, 2012

The Birth of a Bridge

This is the story of the birth of a painting.
A while ago, a great friend of mine approached me about a possible opportunity.
She works for a large business in Portland that is part of the Greater Portland Postal Customer Council.
Now - I do not pretend to understand exactly what that means, but trust me - it is important to this story :)

Her company is one of the largest customers of the US Postal service in our area.
Their company also participates in a campaign every year with this organization called
"Bridging the Future Together".
For this campaign, they pick a local artist to produce a painting depicting one of Portland, OR's bridges.
Afterall - we are not just known as "The City of Roses",
but also as "Bridgetown" and The City of Bridges" because of all of the bridges -
12 major bridges in all!

Fast forward a few months - and I am asked to create this years bridge painting.
I am excited.
I am flattered and I am humbled.

I go downtown and take photos of Portland's steel bridge.
Just like a "real" artist.
I come home and stare at the photos.
And then I panic!
I mean - upset stomach, can't sleep panic.

I am NOT a landscapey-scene painter.
I am whimsical and unrealistic and playful.
I am NOT a realistic painter.
Bridges are structural and gray and black and steel . . .

After a serious bout of "self-talk" and more encouragement from my friend, I get started.

I blow up one of the photos - I use graphite paper and trace the image.
And I start painting.
I take a few liberties but not many.
And this is what I came up with . . .
Version 1 - blurry image (sorry)
Hmmm - it's ok. Barely.
I show it to my husband - hoping for words of encouragement.
But instead of glowing praises, he says - "I thought it was supposed to be of the bridge. It's a painting of a tree with a bridge in the background."

I am hurt and offended -
and then I am honest and admit - "I do not like it and I am not proud."

Round 2
Concept - bring the bridge forward.
More color.
A sun.
More "whimsy" in the water.
Oh - and I went downtown and took more photos from a different view point.
I finish and stare at it.
I show it to the family.
"Hmmm - nice".
Um - not the response I was going for.
But then - I'm not loving it either - WHY?
I call my friend. I need an honest and brutal opinion.

Seriously - what is with the blurry images? Anyway - version 2.
She is honest with me and says . . .
"It's not you. It looks like you are trying to paint in someone elses style. Be YOU. If we wanted a painting like all the others we would not have asked you. We want it in your style."
I thank her for the reality check.

I take a deep breath and decide that I really don't care what anyone else thinks.
This time I AMgoing to do it in MY style.
I throw away the graphite paper.
I decide I really don't care about scale and structure or any of those cold details.
I want my painting to be warm and bright and full of whimsy.

So here it is . . .the final version:
It may not be the most accurate depiction of Portland's Steel bridge -
but it's me.
And I was much happier submitting this.
It will now be framed and hung in Portland's main post office.
It will be scanned and reproduced onto calendars that are sent to businesses in the GPPCC.
It will be reproduced and matted and raffled off to winners.
And it looks NOTHING like previous year's paintings.

And a lesson was learned. . . .again.
As a painter, and in life - I have to be true to me.
When I am not - my journey is full of angst and stress.
And the outcome is less than desirable.

Thanks for sharing this story with me . . .