16 January 2015

Beacon of Light

“Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.”
~ Pablo Picasso

I think that I have always wanted to be an artist. 

But art was not seen as practical in my home. Something to enjoy the experience of, but not to make it my life's work. My mother was an art history major, who never finished college (thanks to me). I remember one time trying to convince her that she should go back to school for those few missing classes and get that degree. She argued with me that there no future for her to do that. What good would an art history degree do for a late 30-something woman with a job, a family and responsibilities? she reasoned. I just wanted her to finish what she started. 

Aside from the usual high school art classes, I have never really had any formal training in art. I dabbled in calligraphy and photography, but that was about it. The implements that artists use intimidate me. So many brushes! So many paints! So many papers and canvas and medium to explore! I never knew where to begin nor what path to choose.

But over time I have come to find pursuits that are artistic, that allow me to play with color and light, textures and patterns. I seem to have a knack for that. My chosen medium is working in beads, wire, metal, gemstones, pearls, polymer clay and all manner of oddities that I find and re-purpose. So I found a medium I can work with, that can make the inner artist come alive.

There is a local artist that I greatly admire named Ann Singsaas. I love her work. She used to be a regular part of the Gallery Q where I sell my work, and I miss her presence there. I don't have a lot of artwork in my home, but a triptych (similar to this) that she painted just for me greets visitors to my home. She introduces me as an 'assemblage artist,' a term that has always made me cringe. It makes me feel like I am disjointed and that all I do is assembly line work. Of course, that is not a true definition at all. I came across a term at the end of 2014 that has really captured my attention, and is in a similar fashion the same as what Ann has called me, but I think takes it a step further: bricolage.
Origin: mid 20th century: French, from bricoler 'to tinker', ‘do odd jobs, repair.’
1: (in art or literature) construction or creation from a diverse range of available things
2: blending styles with what is on hand
3: the characteristic mode of production of the 'schizophrenic producer'
Bricoleur is a term coined by anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss to describe a type of thinking. This is the opposite of an engineer, who uses specialized tools for specialized purposes (oddly enough, my husband is an engineer and my son is interested in becoming one!). The bricoleur is more of a 'jack of all trades' who uses few, non-specialized tools for a wide variety of purposes. The bricoleur gathers tools, techniques and materials to form a sort of stockpile of skill sets and ideas. Learning all these things, she knows what will come in handy and when. It is not always apparent at the time what that purpose might be, but the bricoleur will be ready when the opportunity manifests itself. Each new work grows from the previous one, drawing on the groundwork laid over time.

I embrace the term bricoleur.

I used to think that my hoarding tendencies were indicative of a problem. Now I see that they were paving the way to where I am now. All those scraps of paper I can't seem to part with? All those markers, inks, paints and brushes that I feel compelled to buy? All the bits and bobs that I store on the off-chance that they might be put to good use? Well, that is just my bricoleur tendencies at work, which are pointing me in a direction that I think I already knew.

"Every day you have to choose to find and cultivate your own happiness."
~ Reese Witherspoon
I follow an artist named Alisa Burke. Do you know her work? She seems to be living this charmed life on the West coast making art and raising a little family in the most idyllic way. I am drawn to her fearlessness to decorate an entire wall in her bedroom with massive outlines of blooms colored with bright paints and markers. I am enthralled by her use of color and the big bold statement she makes with her living.

Back in September she announced that she would be a guest artist in a year long mixed media online class called Life Book 2015, hosted by Tam LaPorte (and you can still register! Join us!). She was giving away a spot in this class for the price of a simple comment telling her one thing (anything) creative that you want to try. My answer was chosen:

What a great gift to myself! (And a good reminder of what direction I would like to go with my chosen medium!). 

"Don't wait until conditions are perfect to begin. Beginning makes conditions perfect."
~ Howard Cohen

Through a bit of a glitch, I wasn't registered for the class on day one, but I am now. And what a class it is!

There are something like 2500-3000 people playing along with Tam LaPorte and her cast of merry art-makers from all around the world. Each week there are main lessons, along with a host of bonus lessons, designed to let your inner artist free. I know that the registration is still open for this self-paced journey. Even though I was gifted this experience, I can tell you that after just two weeks I can already see that the price is a bargain for what I have already gained.

There are so many newbies in the class, along with so many people who come back year after year after year. That tells me that this is a welcoming place to begin. 

I am still working my way through a few of the lessons from the first two weeks, but the big one - the Beacon of Light - is the one that I have completed, and the one that I was the most scared about. 

I have never had any formal art training. I always thought that I could only draw stick figures. Faces in particular terrified me. 

"I have looked into your eyes with my eyes. I have put my heart near your heart."
~ Pope John XXIII

So imagine my surprise when I followed along the video lessons with Miss Tam and actually saw a face emerge! With beautiful eyes! Eyes have always been the hardest part, but I get them now, thanks to the instruction Miss Tam supplied.. She made it seem so easy, so fun and free-spririted that I could hardly believe what I was creating!

Our Beacon of Light is a symbolic character meant to carry us through the year with benevolent guidance. She is to shine light in our darkness to help us to embrace the lessons we will learn. She is meant to have a message, your word of the year, and symbols that represent all that we are and hope to be. This is the kind of art that speaks to my soul. And it helped that I happened to have an almost pristine set of the Caran D'Ache watercolor crayons at my disposal, the exact thing that Miss Tam was using! It was liberating to watch them transform my rudimentary drawing into something that came alive.

Of course, watching all the Beacons that were posted in the Facebook group has been a bit daunting. They were all so incredible! Each one completely different! Even those that sought to copy the lesson exactly made the lesson their own, in their own special way. I am the worst kind of student in that I never completely follow the directions and I am usually off in a corner making my own interpretation.

  • So I tweaked the color scheme (Tam did all yellows) to add more teals and blues.
  • I wanted her hands to be uplifted to the Universe, to God, open to whatever comes.
  • In one hand she holds a nest (with two eggs indicative of my two children), with the promise of 'hope within' (one of my most requested Simple Truths pendants).
  • In the other hand, she holds an acorn, hinting at great possibilities inside.
  • She wears a necklace with a skeleton key (also my company logo), proving that I alone have the key to my own happiness. My company name - Tesori Trovati - is Italian for 'treasures found' and if you hold your own key you can unlock them, too.
  • Her dress is torn from a reproduction of a vintage map of the world, a reminder that one day I would love to see more of this world in person, rather than vicariously.
  • The sun and the moon have always held a fascination for me, and her face reminds me of the full moon with her diadem of heavenly rays pointing the way.
  • And she holds a banner with my word for the year - GRATITUDE - to remind me to be ever thankful of every new experience I have and every person that intersects my life. 

“We don't make mistakes, just happy little accidents.
~ Bob Ross

She may not perfect, but she is perfectly mine.

Isn't that the way everyone feels about their own 'babies?' Whether you birthed them, or adopted them, or fashioned them from nothing, all our creations are are sacred and special, and it feels like we have birthed them into being. Every mother has the most beautiful child in the world.

I believe we are called by God and the Universe to be creators. Creators of people, creators of art, creators of ideas, creators of things. It is our duty to bring our creations, no matter what form they take, into being as an homage to the great Creator. These creations are born from the culmination of our experiences, our personalities, our unique world view. Of course, only I can see the flaws that I wish were corrected... does she need hair? is the headband too plain?  is her nose too dirty and not formed well? what about the glitter conglomeration? I went a little 'glitter-happy' with the embossing powder (hard to see, but trust, me, gand tried to scrape some of it off, gouging the paper near the bottom. I could fix it, but I won't. I am perfectly imperfect, and that right there is a good reminder. (Also, to reign myself in on the sparkle next time ;-).

She may not perfect, but she is perfectly mine. 

I am not so sure that I would have found this class if it weren't for Miss Alisa. And I am not so sure that I would have enrolled, faced with an abundance of doubts as to my artistic tendencies. But I am oh-so-grateful to be a part of this worldwide phenomenon now that I have dipped my toe in! I am ready to be fully immersed.

This Beacon of Light will be given an honored spot in my studio, a place to shine her light and lead me through the darkness of my own fears. I am so very proud of her and excited that this year I will be embarking on a journey to discover the artist that I was born to be. 


Beverley Baird said...

Congratulations on winning - the clas sounds perfect. Love, love your sweet beacon of light artpiece.

Divya N said...

I love the term bricolage. I have a habit of putting all kinds of things into my artworks, esp jewelry that I couldnt figure out what genre they belonged to so I simply started calling myself a mixed media artist. I loved reading about your journey and it made a lot of sense to me. I hope you continue to have fun with this new class that you are taking

The Crafty Mama said...

This is BEAUTIFUL on so, so many levels. Your talent for colors, textures and themes are clearly coming through! I'm fascinated by this class, and I'd love to do something like this with my daughter, who has a strong love of drawing (all the time she has a pencil or pen in her hand!) for us as a bonding experience. Thank you for sharing your art and your inspiration with us. This is glorious!
What a journey we are all on. Gratitude for sure!

Stephanie Gentry said...

I always marvel at serendipitous occurrences such as this. Congratulations - what an exciting adventure you have ahead.
She is beautiful, your Beacon of Light; may she light the path to the fulfillment of your dreams.

EB Bead and Metal Works, LLC said...

She is fantastic!!! I love what you have created! You are one brave woman and so talented in so many areas.
I can't wait to see your other creations!

NEDbeads said...

You have said so many of the things that were in my heart when I started this myself... you always amaze me, Erin, but this time I feel so in line with you. I am SO glad for you that you found this course, and so grateful that I did, too. I think it's going to be an important year - because I hoard stuff, too, and I feel like this is the beginning of a new way to use some of my beads and all the bits and pieces and scrapbooking stuff and on and on and on... :D

It's awesome, too, to have someone else beady on board, I don't feel so lost!! You and Caroline and Emma and Chantel are awesome friends. Hugs!!

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful win! This sounds like a fascinating class with so much you can learn and experience.

Shaiha said...

What an awesome class! Even if you stopped right now (though goodness knows why you would) look at the beautiful Goddess that you have brought to life. I can hardly wait to see what you create. Please share some of them with us.

Kim Stevens said...

Oh. My. Heavens! Yes she is perfect in every way and she is so adorable. Right before we moved to the Houston area I had taken (and never painted before besides probably 4th grade) a watercolor class. It was so intimidating and once I got a spot done, I would want to stop while I was ahead and come back later...always in fear I would mess up. But weeks later I had a watercolor that I was really pleased with. I was just about to start an acrylic class when we had to move. I haven't painted since, and picked up my camera. Now I'm wanting to experiment with the paints and mixed media and for Christmas I got some basic brushes and although I only asked for 10 basic colors in small tubes I got an assortment of 48 - oh my, lol! This may just be the class for me, as I have no idea where to start, and like you have no previous knowledge of how to paint people or anything for that matter and I want to mix my photos printed on various papers with paint, and other mediums....

And I'm laughing, because it only took me an hour to go through this entire post as I followed the links and came back! Thanks so much for sharing this, and your "Beacon of Light".

Anonymous said...

I'm so happy for you that you are getting to have your experience. Your Beacon of Light is wonderful!!

erentz said...

What enlightenment you shared.... That term describes my journey also! Thank you for your open and honest sharing, it gives me courage too.

Lana Manis said...

Erin, I think she is beautiful and I love the meaning behind her creation!

Molly Alexander said...

Oh my goodness - I absolutely love her! What a fabulous class! :)


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