Blogs tagged with "art"

2017 is here and many of us have a new reality to face. And by "many of us," I specifically mean "those of us who are passionate about the environment." We have a new president who doesn't believe in climate change. I believe science is telling us we have reached a critical state, and we must do everything we can to protect our planet from further abuse. I believe clean and renewable energy is a good idea - for both the environment, the future of energy, and world power-struggles. And as a swimmer, I also believe we must stop polluting our oceans and waterways and destroying the animals that call them their home.

But I'm only one person, and in the last days of 2016, I found the artist in me powerless to resist a call to use my art to illustrate the very issues I feel most passionate about. I'm not sure how it happened, but images made their way into my consciousness, and at times, these images even kept me up all night.

As a result, the most direct and graphic work I've ever created (and perhaps, most disturbing to some), is the following three diptychs of etched linocuts that I made in December 2016:

"Coral Bleaching"

"Bycatch"
"Shark Finning"

If these images inspire people to "Google" the issues, or even better, be mindful of the oceans or the environment, then I feel I've done something with my talent (or lack thereof), and my presence on the earth is not just a waste of resources (which I used to believe).

2017 is also my second year in a new sport, open-water swimming. I started 2016 by conquering my fear of swimming alone in the ocean - in La Jolla Cove. (You may remember the blog about that.) It's been a long time since then, and I've succumbed to hypothermia in one race, overheated in another race, and finished my longest-ever open-water race - the Swim to the Moon 10K in Michigan.

This year, I must conquer the biggest hurdle I face as an open-water swimmer: acclimating to the cold. I wrote about my experiments in cold Lake Erie in September and October, 2016. But that's only the tip of the "iceberg" - the water temperature in those swims was in the mid-60s F, and the water I must eventually face may be well into the 50s.

I have a plan and I will talk about it as it unfolds. In the meantime, I've re-entered the 9-mile swim in the Ocean Games in Ocean City, MD. I vowed to finish it this year and do it as a fundraiser for brain trauma (the cause it supports). The race is in July, and I would be grateful for your support, which you can do through CrowdRise or through the widget in the right column.

2017 is here and many of us have a new reality to face. And by "many of us," I specifically mean "those of us who are passionate about the environment." We have a new president who doesn't believe in climate change.

I'm back to pool swimming much to my dismay after my last post, but there aren't any open water opportunities in Cleveland in the winter. I've been logging as many days of swimming as possible while still working on my art and doing contract work in programming. I've also been running and biking (indoors) because old habits refuse to die. Frankly, sometimes, my mind just needs to get out and run. Fortunately, during my runs, I've been finding random natural things in the Cuyahoga Valley to use in printmaking. It must look silly to people driving by as I'm running along with handfuls of dry grass and twigs trying not to break them.

My playlist lately centers around one album: Turin Brakes new release called Lost Property. In fact, even when I don't want to run, this album gets me out the door with my headphones. Because it sounds so great with headphones.
As for my printmaking... I've been trying my hand at collagraphs. It started with printing things I found while running in the valley and then I decided to try printing water, or, more precisely, the effects of water. These are all artistic experiments at the moment. I glued my found natural objects to cardboard or matboard plates and made water patterns on plastic or primed cardboard plates using sand and carborundum grit (and water, obviously). I've had a little success - but each one is more of a learning experience than a finished piece. Now there are an infinite number of things I want to try using grit to hold ink and there doesn't seem to be enough time in a day. But, for kicks, here are my favorites of the collagraph prints I've done so far - they're all black and white proofs, but soon will be experimenting with color (I hope):

I'm back to pool swimming much to my dismay after my last post, but there aren't any open water opportunities in Cleveland in the winter. I've been logging as many days of swimming as possible while still working on my art and doing contract work in programming.

Recently, I came to the realization that my 50th birthday was less than a few months away, and I've completely stagnated (mostly at work but somewhat in life also). Coinciding with this realization was a series of what seem to be cosmically-related events:

  • My path crossed with several people I greatly admire who are working as artists. They've encouraged me to consider doing the same - that I "have what it takes."
  • I've been welcomed into a group of self-employed creatives - artists, designers, writers, musicians - who share information, tips, help and support on their work and business at  Morning Inspiration 1

    Morning Inspiration 2

Recently, I came to the realization that my 50th birthday was less than a few months away, and I've completely stagnated (mostly at work but somewhat in life also). Coinciding with this realization was a series of what seem to be cosmically-related events:

These days, soaking in ink is my usual state of being.

Just because I've not posted in a while - not posted in this blog space, that is - doesn't mean I don't have something to post. In fact, I'm crazy busy. But I'm desperately trying to be LESS crazy busy. I'm trying to get to a place where I can sleep at night without worrying about how I'm going to get everything done. And strangely, the things that I worry about getting done are things like my art and my training. I worry about work too. But my "work" worries have become things like: "How am I going to make it through the day on four hours of sleep?" and "Is there anything in my programming future that's more exciting than what I'm doing now?"

Thus, my work worries are also worrying me.

It's a vicious cycle that needs to stop.

The print production process

Anyway, I HAVE been posting...

My training is so inconsistent lately that I have very little news to report, but here's a quick overview followed by something else I've been doing lately that I feel like blogging about.

On the injury-front, I've been working hard on healing my hamstring tendon and strengthening other muscle groups with the goal of no more hamstring problems. Ever. There's still a long way to go. My relentless pursuit of squats and bridges and planks is - I think - finally forcing my glutes to take the workload off my hamstrings. My latest revelation is that when I focus on good form while running, I can ward off the hamstring pain for a progressively-longer time. I managed 11 miles two weeks ago and 14 miles on Saturday without serious pain. I might be willing to celebrate when it gets up to 20.

January sent me onto the bike trainer where I've slowly worked my way up to 3:35. Riding long on the trainer is a bigger struggle this year than it has been in the past. One of the reasons may be that I'm trying to ride too hard. Sunday, I focused on keeping my heart rate low which seemed to alleviate some of the struggle. Swimming - although inconsistent - seems to be the one thing I'm NOT struggling with.

When I look at the big picture, the problem has been getting more than one workout a day. There are two main reasons. The first is that my [regular] job has me working late on weekdays and weekends. Not because I'm slow, but there's just a LOT to get done and only one programmer (me). We just hired another so I'm hoping it will help with the workload in the future.

The second reason is that I've recently been hit with inspiration to create new fine art prints. As an artist (or someone who wishes she could be a working artist), I have learned one thing: never f*ck with inspiration. If my art were a source of income, I'd probably suffer from debilitating artist's block 80% of the time. But when uninspired, all I do is flip the switch and running, biking, and swimming become my physical and mental outlet for stress. So, when the rare event of true inspiration happens, I must follow it. It's not like I even have a choice. And I have absolutely no control when and where it happens. All I know is I have to drop everything and "get it out" to avoid becoming agitated, edgy, and losing sleep.

My latest print was inspired by an iPhone photo I took of a bunch of snow-covered trees in University Circle - the "museum-university-hospital" area of Cleveland. I don't know why, but I felt compelled to take this particular photo from the fourth floor window of my workplace (the

The first color (actually the first two colors, the other one being white) was a light pastel orange, here is the linoleum block and the printed color:

The second color was a blue-green. To some, it looked finished at this point (because most of the tree shapes were carved) - I have always been very precise in carving linoleum, but this new Clear Carve stuff was a more difficult to work with because the "carved" pieces don't break away nicely, so I was expecting some major issues ("easy to carve" isn't how I would describe it, as I have several v-shaped scabs on my fingers after stabbing myself several times with linoleum cutters), but was happily surprized with the result after this color:

And the final color was an almost-black with violet added:

I made only ten prints. But I was very happy with the result, and I'm already working on another one with the other piece of Clear Carve that I bought.

My training is so inconsistent lately that I have very little news to report, but here's a quick overview followed by something else I've been doing lately that I feel like blogging about.

I may be quiet these days but I'm certainly not idle. My training has taken a backseat during the holiday season because of personal commitments and also to try again to heal my injured hamstring tendon with modern medical procedures.

Thus, I had my third PRP shot about a month ago and it was more painful than ever. I was in agony for several hours and then sore for several days afterward. The good thing about the pain is that it probably means my doctor hit the "right spot" with the injection. The bad thing about the pain is that I couldn't use any anti-inflammatory methods to make it go away because the inflammatory response is exactly what we wanted (more blood = healing).

After Thanksgiving, I jumped into my yearly design and printing of Christmas cards. This year, the design dictated the choice of methods -- the colors were very flat and bold, and the design was very hard-edged, so I chose to attempt a hand-cut stencil with screenprinting once again (after 10 years of lino-cuts). Unlike usual, the screenprinting process started out great with color registration working well. Then after printing three colors quickly and without incident, I botched the last color and the whole thing almost ended up in disaster.

Here are some photos of the process.

I started out by putting all the stencils on one screen
which was great until the last one with the largest print area
(stencil in the foreground). By that time, the screen tension
had decreased, causing ink to bleed under the stencil.
The first color (smallest area) was red. It took about an hour to print 106 cards. My husband Jim and I measure the time we spend on each color in terms of number of albums that we listen to while printing. Red was a one-album color. I think we listened to a Counting Crows CD. Red also had a near-disaster as I tried to fix one part of the stencil and accidentally stuck my exacto knife right through the screen itself. Lucky for us (and unusual), it held up until the last card was printed.

The second color was yellow. Yellow was also a one-album deal. I think yellow was printed to OK Go.

Third was blue. The blue was a two-color blend, and surprisingly, NOT a disaster as expected (because any time you mix two colors in real-time during printing, something goes horrifically wrong). Blue was also a one-album color - I think it was Travis's "Where You Stand."
And finally green. It took two tries, and two stencils, and two screens. And several albums. Too many to be sure. Here's the can of green and the wrecked first screen which I just tore off the frame and threw away because it had already become a victim of the exacto-knife faux pas.
And... the finished product. It took an additional cut stencil and a brand new screen to get through the green. We lost about 20 cards and about 20 more were barely salvageable. The design is based on the Tree of Life window/sculpture that is part of the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor.

My other art project of late was a new drypoint print that I wanted to make to give away as part of a Facebook "pay-it-forward" post I made in early 2014. I decided to try out a new very thin plastic plate made by Akua that I bought earlier this year. Here is the plate and the finished print, titled "Scenes from the Towpath: Fitzwater Bridge View."

I may be quiet these days but I'm certainly not idle. My training has taken a backseat during the holiday season because of personal commitments and also to try again to heal my injured hamstring tendon with modern medical procedures.

The clocks went forward a couple weekends ago. It's usually my wake-up call for the upcoming season. We'll get more light in the evening hours and I can now think about getting my bike off the trainers and out to ride after work. With my an almost-two-year injury on the mend, I am once again struggling with something that has weighed heavily on me for the last five years of racing. How can I ever hope to compete with people who have all the time in the world to train when I have a nine-to-five job with no flexibility in my work hours?

Here's a quick update on my injury. A couple months ago, my physical therapist gave me the green light to put more stress on my hamstring tendon (it started out as more and harder miles on the treadmill as February has been mostly sub-15-degree days). I've also been increasing my time on the CompuTrainer and spending more time in the pool. Although there's still pain, my hamstring has responded much better than expected, and I've had several hard running workouts with no pain at all. The pain usually subsides before the next training session, but the tendon is still not at 100%. My orthopedic doctor recommended another PRP injection which I will got a few days ago - right before I left for a four-day vacation in Los Angeles.

Increased training time has also brought to light the limitations I now have in pursuing additional goals outside work and racing. It's more difficult than in the past because I've been focusing on my art during the injury recovery, and now I'm torn between wanting to make a go of it (showing/selling my work) and go back to racing Ironman. With a full-time job and trying to get 7-8 hours of sleep nightly, I can only expect about 5-6 hours on weekdays to spend on myself, my family, my social life. When I write it like that, it sounds like a lot of time, but when you add cooking, shopping, housekeeping, etc., and bad rush hours, that time disappears very quickly. Pop culture TV series have been right out - to my dismay.

Until now, most of those hours have been spent stressed out about what I cannot do - or what I didn't get done - and feeling like a failure for it. Recently I found myself being overly honest about it in social media.

Fortunately, I've made goo friendships over the years, and my stressed-out, injured plight turned out to be near and dear to another athlete I've known for many years - his name is Kevin. In his own state of injury, he reached out to me and it turns out that we have quite a bit in common: the same orthopedic doctor, the same physical therapist, the same sport (although he was a triathlete back in the days when it wasn't popular like it is now), and the same worries.

As good as my husband Jim is at helping me through these rough times, having a peer to discuss it with has eased my mind in a way that I never dreamed was possible. Here was someone I had always admired as an athlete - someone I deemed "one of the cool people" because he knew, trained, and raced with all the local heroes of our sport (I mostly trained alone with my self-deprecating thoughts). For the first time ever, I have been able to see myself through another athlete's eyes. I didn't think anyone noticed what I did or how I raced, and Kevin regarded me (ME?) as somewhat of a local hero. He was one of "those people I was always trying to impress" (for lack of a better way to say it). Brain-dumping our thoughts about racing on each other has resulted in an amazing transformation: his outlook on life (somewhat stress-free but not without a lot of work to get there) had begun to affect my own. And now I want to achieve a similar state of ease with who I was and where I was at this point in my life.

It doesn't (and won't) come without sacrifices. I know I have to make big changes in attitude and behavior - changes to be fair to everyone, especially myself. Setting lofty race goals in hopes of being noticed by others was something that only mattered in MY mind. People HAD noticed, but it didn't make me any happier. It was a behavior pattern that began in high school - trying to be a famous athlete and exceptional student so my parents/teachers/coaches/schoolmates would pay attention to me. It was also when the constant stress began.

Thirty years later, I'm still trying to be the best employee, the best web developer, the fastest triathlete, an accomplished artist, and the perfect wife. But all I am is the best at being stressed out and depressed. I've lost any concept of success. And this is what Kevin taught me (because he's been through it): I had to (truly) search my soul for why I couldn't be happy with myself no matter what I did or excelled at.

It came down to something I've known for years.. that I wanted people to notice. That I only judged myself through how I thought others viewed me. My accomplishments only mattered if other people acknowledged them.

So why is this realization different this time? Because this time, unlike the last many times, I have a working model of someone who's been through it and came out the other end with flying colors. Someone I admired, an equally-accomplished athlete. Someone who has the perspective I need. And I've started to let go of trying to impress people and stopped looking at myself through other people's eyes.

One of the first things I did was quit my triathlon team. I used to think being part of a team meant I had "arrived" - that I was "good enough" to be on a team. I wanted to perform well to make my teammates proud of me and thus be worth keeping me on the team. Being injured for a year made me feel I had failed at that too. I maintained the team's website to make up for it. But in the end, no one seemed to care either way and I found it nothing but frustrating. Since it didn't seem to matter if I were on the team or not, or doing the website or not, and knowing I couldn't get to the team's once-a-week rides because my job was on the other side of town, I decided I needed to stop feeling useless and just quit. I still feel sad about it, but I no longer feel stress from it. And I'll always be grateful for three years of support I got from Fleet Feet Sports and Bike Authority.

This  is obviously just the beginning. I still need to get healthy. I still need to learn how to leave work at work. I still need to learn how to say no to extra work and freelance web jobs. And I still need to decide if I want an art career more than racing long. I can't help that I will put my heart and soul into anything I decide, but at least I can be sure it's what I enjoy doing - and not because I need to prove anything.

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